Pedro Martinez on the unlikely trade that took him to the Red Sox


“I absolutely learned to love Boston from day one to the last day I played there. And up to today, I love Boston.”

Pedro Martinez on the unlikely trade that took him to the Red Sox
Pedro Martinez introduced by the Red Sox in Dec. 1997 alongside team general manager Dan Duquette. Via Michael Robinson-Chavez

Pedro Martinez looked back on the improbable trade to the Red Sox: One of the best decisions in recent Red Sox history arrived in late 1997 when, in need a of an ace to top the team’s Roger Clemens-less pitching staff, Boston general manager Dan Duquette pulled off a deal for newly-crowned National League Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez.

Martinez, a pitcher as talented as he was charismatic, proceeded to win two more Cy Young Awards while in Boston in one of the most dominant stretches by any pitcher over the last 50 years (done at the height of the steroid era). He was also a member of the 2004 team that won the first Red Sox World Series title in 86 years.

The trade, which sent young pitchers Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. to the Montreal Expos in exchange for the then-26-year-old Martinez, takes its rightful place among the best in team history.

And yet, it completely shocked Martinez when it was first announced. Now a studio analyst for MLB Network, the Hall of Fame right-hander offered some colorful retrospective commentary about the deal, and what it ended up meaning to his career and life.

For starters, Martinez — as he has discussed before — initially wanted to go to Boston’s fiercest rival, the Yankees.

“Guess what? When they asked me at the end of ’97, when I won the Cy Young, where would you most likely go if you have a choice? New York,” Martinez explained. “Oh, if it’s not New York, Baltimore. If it’s not Baltimore, I said I would’ve loved to go to Atlanta, but they don’t need me. They had great pitchers.

“Out of the National League, I chose San Francisco,” he added.

Yet Duquette and the Red Sox got there first, scooping up the extremely talented Martinez right at the beginning of his prime years.

“And then, all of a sudden, I’m walking around and everybody’s like, ‘Oh, Pedro got traded to Boston,’” he recalled. “I’m like, what? Boston? No Cleveland, no Baltimore. Because I was thinking of a team that would give me a legit chance to win.”

Aware that they could not keep him, Expos manager Felipe Alou was conscious to try to send his young star to a place that could contend.

“Felipe told me you deserve to be in a team that would give you a chance to win. And Boston had finished last that same year, and I was like, oh man,” Martinez said. “All of a sudden I packed my bags and here I am in Boston.”

Martinez’s memory isn’t completely correct: The 1997 Red Sox finished with a 78-84 record in fourth place, two games above the Blue Jays. Still, the team appeared rudderless in its first season following Clemens’ contentious decision to leave for Toronto in free agency.

The addition of Martinez helped to turn things around.

“We went right back to the postseason [in 1998],” Martinez satisfyingly remembered.

Told by fellow co-host Harold Reynolds that he couldn’t picture Martinez in the Hall of Fame as anything other than a member of the Red Sox, the longtime Boston ace agreed.

“Me neither,” concurred Martinez. “I absolutely learned to love Boston from day one to the last day I played there. And up to today, I love Boston. I’m so proud and so glad that destiny took me to Boston.

Trivia: Since Pedro Martinez struck out 313 batters in 1999 on his way to winning the pitching triple crown (leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts), only three American League pitchers have crossed the elusive 300-strikeout plateau. Can you name them?

(Answer at the bottom.)

Hint: One did so for the Red Sox, the other two for the Astros.

Scores and schedules:

The Celtics are in Dallas to face the Mavericks at 8:30 p.m. in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Up 3-0 in the series, Boston can clinch Banner 18 tonight with a win.

The Red Sox defeated the Phillies 9-3 on Thursday, with Tanner Houck allowing three runs in six innings. Tonight, the Red Sox begin a three-game series at Fenway Park against their old rivals, the Yankees. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.

Tomorrow, the Revolution play the Vancouver Whitecaps at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

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Jaylen Brown’s anecdote: The Celtics forward recalled when former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called to ask him about Jayson Tatum prior to the 2017 NBA Draft.

On this day: In 1998, Michael Jordan drilled the iconic game-winning shot to defeat the Jazz 87-86 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, clinching Chicago’s sixth (and final) championship of the Jordan era.

Daily highlight: Arike Ogunbowale of the Dallas Wings showed off incredible range in what was ultimately a 92-84 loss to the Seattle Storm.

Trivia answer: Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole

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