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Josh Beckett the Latest of Many Pitchers to Hurt Themselves While Swinging

In MLB, there is one main difference between the American League and the National League. In the AL, designated hitters are allowed but in the NL they’re not. That means pitchers don’t have to bat in the AL so their only job is to pitch. In the NL, more is asked of the pitchers because they have to bat too. Does the AL have it right? Should pitchers only be concerned about throwing the ball and not hitting it?

This idea has been debated for years and has been sparked by the injury to Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett who was placed on the DL because of a back injury. Beckett of course hurt his back while swinging in preparation for interleague play where he’d be forced to hit. Now if this isn’t downright pathetic, I’m not quite sure what is. When you play baseball at a professional level, you should have a certain level of athleticism. Unfortunately Beckett isn’t the only pitcher who’s been hurt swinging a bat (or trying to) over the last few years. Let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who need to stay on the mound and out of the batter’s box:

American League

1. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox – Beckett injured himself before the start of May 10th’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays by taking practice swings. Let’s examine this a little more closely shall we? Beckett was swinging the bat before a game against who? The Blue Jays? Ah, another American League team that he doesn’t have to hit against anyways. This makes my head hurt. The Red Sox said this was because the pitchers are getting ready for interleague play. The Red Sox’s first interleague game is on Sunday at Philadelphia. So, Beckett was practice swinging for a game that was 13 days away at that point? And now he’s on the DL. That is just plain dumb.

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Charlie Manuel Is the New Grady Little with Pedro Martinez

91847725JR074_Philadelphia_Grady Little has been crucified by miserable Red Sox fans for keeping Pedro Martinez in a playoff game too long. Charlie Manuel is now drawing the ire of miserable Phillies fans for pulling Pedro too early in a playoff game. Oddly enough, I’ve been on the opposite side of the 20/20 hindsighters both times. I went down with Grady using his reasoning — Pedro’s the best guy Boston had and there wasn’t another pitcher I’d rather see in there with the game on the line. Sox fans were only so bitter because blowing the lead encapsulated 85 years of losing to New York. Exactly six years later Charlie Manuel pulled Pedro from a two-hit shutout against the Dodgers and went to the bullpen. The Phils blew the 1-0 lead and now people are now criticizing Manuel the same way they did Little, but I support his decision.

Pedro hadn’t pitched since September 30th prior to Friday’s outing against the Dodgers. The Phillies should have just been thanking their lucky Liberty Bells they got such a strong start out of a guy who hadn’t pitched in a game in almost three weeks. Secondly, Pedro was coming up to bat in the 8th and there was a man on in what was only a one-run game. Don’t you want to give your team a good chance at padding the lead with a pinch hitter? Additionally, Pedro hurt himself swinging against the Braves a month ago. Do you really want to see him injure himself again? Lastly, Chase Utley makes a routine throw on a double-play ball and we’re probably not even talking about this issue (we’re probably talking about a blown save in the 9th).

At the same time that we’re crediting Pedro for a stellar start we also have to credit Nicaragua’s own Vicente Padilla for a strong start. He kept the Dodgers in the game by allowing just the one run, making the comeback easier. I back Charlie on this one and Pedro does too.

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Pedro’s Been Worth the Money

Giants Phillies BaseballPedro Martinez pitched six and two-thirds innings of three-run ball Tuesday night against the Nationals, leaving with a 4-3 lead. Since the Phillies hung on, Pedro got the win making him 4-0 in his six starts with Philadelphia — the other two being shortened by rain. He’s already beginning to cash in on a few of his performance bonuses, including the one that stipulates he gets paid $75,000 for each start past his fifth with the team. He’s also proven that despite being 37-years-old and out of MLB to begin the year, he still has it.

Now is Pedro a guy you want starting a playoff game for you? At this point it would be a difficult decision to make. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are the locks for the postseason rotation. It would be hard not to start J.A. Happ with the way he’s been pitching, and even Joe Blanton’s been nails the past three months. It would be hard to move Pedro to the pen but they’ve already done that with Jamie Moyer and it’s worked out, especially because of those rain delay games. The Phillies went from being short on pitching to all of a sudden having a surplus in just a few months. They easily have five good starters, not to mention two more in the pen (Brett Myers was recently activated).

Four walks against 27 strikeouts and a 4-0 record. Maybe I’ve put the curse on him like I did with Cliff Lee, but for now there’s no doubt Pedro proved all the doubters wrong. And I’m not sure what the Phillies will do when it gets to the playoffs but I do know that they’ve addressed their needs well and that their gamble paid off. Makes you wonder where some of these other pitching-strapped teams were during all of this — they could have had Pedro a month earlier.

Pedro Martinez 1999: Best Season Ever

I’ve been meaning to write something about this for quite a while, and thankfully all the Mitchell Report madness has given impetus to this very post. Just last week, Pedro Martinez proclaimed he dominated the Steroids Era cleanly, and added that he’s damn proud of it. I’ll gladly note that he’s the second Hall of Famer to recently say he dominated the Steroid Era cleanly. While I haven’t gone through every outstanding individual season of all-time, I have a pretty solid foundation for the history of the game. That being said, given the context of the era in which Pedro peaked, his 1999 season could very well be the most dominant season in the history of the game. Allow me to make my argument.

In 1999, names like Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, and Ivan Rodriguez dominated the offensive categories, just to give you some context. In 1999, Pedro Martinez went 23-4 in 29 starts. He threw five complete games over 213.3 innings, walking a measly 37 batters the entire season. Oh yeah, he also set a career high with 313 strikeouts — a nice 8:1 ratio for those of you keeping score at home. In those 213.3 innings, a year in which 2,635 home runs were belted (the 2nd most in AL history according to my calculations), Pedro gave up just nine of them. His ERA was only 2.07, almost three full runs lower than the league average of 5.02 (also the 2nd highest in AL history according to my calculations).

The second closest pitcher to Pedro in ERA was David Cone at 3.44, almost a run and a half lower. Pedro had a 2.07. Three players with ERAs in the 4’s made it in the Top 10 of the league that year. Get that? An ERA in the 4’s meant you were having a really good season. Pedro’s WHIP was 0.92 — the next closest wasn’t even sub 1.2 — it was Eric Milton at 1.22. Pedro struck out over 13 batters per nine innings pitched. The next closest was Chuck Finley at not quite eight and a half.

I remember watching Pedro pitch that year and knowing it was special. It was news only when he lost; you always expected him to win that year. Pedro’s pitching prowess was unrivaled during his prime. Some people may say other pitchers had more dominant seasons, or that certain batters had more impressive years. Rather than fawn over the way Barry Bonds cartoonishly made a mockery of the record books in his super-human (steroids-aided) form of 2001 and 2002, I’d rather marvel at the 5’11” 170lb specimen of a man who made all those hulking roiders look foolish like nobody else did.

If you have a suggestion as to what the best individual season was in history, please feel free to add it and defend it in the comments. I’m going with Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Other baseball posts you might enjoy:
The End of the 300 Game Winners
Johan Santana Doesn’t Make the Mets a World Series Winner