Welcome to another edition of Ruben Tuesdays: A weekly look back at the greatest moves made by the Phillies’ former general manager Ruben Amaro. This week, I’ll discuss the time the Phillies needed help for their rotation and they brought in one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
That Old Pedro Magic
In July 2009, the Phillies were leading the National League East, but all was not well. The offense was largely carrying the team, and there were some prominent holes in the starting rotation. Cole Hamels was having trouble following up his success from the year before, and Brett Myers was injured. Meanwhile, mid-rotation starters Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton were giving the team barely passable outings.
The Phillies clearly needed pitching help, and Amaro was on the case. He was reportedly deep into negotiations to trade for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, but those talks stalled. Undaunted by his failed pursuit of Halladay, Amaro decided to see if a different Cy Young Award winner would be interested in joining the Phillies’ rotation.
After a Hall of Fame caliber career, Pedro Martinez was in a state of semi-retirement. His 2008 season had gone poorly, and at age 36, it appeared as if his stellar career might be over.
Amaro checked in with Martinez to see if he had any interest in pitching in meaningful baseball games again. Martinez was indeed open to the idea, and on August 12, he made his debut in red pinstripes. His first start was passable: Three runs in five innings, and a win earned thanks to the offense scoring 12 runs. (Remember what I said about the offense carrying that team?)
His next three starts were uneven, but in early September, he pulled off an improbable three-game stretch which rekindled memories of past dominance. Over those three starts, he went 21.2 innings, and gave up only four runs, earning three wins along the way.
The magic continued in the NLCS. On a beautiful night in Los Angeles, he shut the Dodgers out for seven innings, giving up only two hits.
Unfortunately, the World Series didn’t go quite as well. He may have been able to excel in the Southern California warmth, but when he took the mound in New York for game two, the environment was not quite as pleasant. The weather was cold, and the crowd was hostile. The Yankees fans - well familiar with Martinez from his days with the Red Sox - gleefully taunted him the whole time.
He suffered a loss in game two, but the start wasn’t a complete disaster. But in the pivotal game six, Martinez struggled from the beginning. Watching the game, I wondered how it had come to this: The Phillies’ chances at back-to-back titles were resting upon a 37 year old who looked like he would rather be anywhere than on that mound.
While it didn’t result in a World Series title, the Phillies did get what they needed out of Martinez in 2009. He helped stabilize a shaky rotation and allowed the Phillies to maintain their lead in the National League East.