By Dan Gelston, AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pedro Martinez had signed his autograph on the sweet spot of the baseball when he grabbed it by the seams and pointed out that his middle and pointer fingers should not have been touching on the ball. The Hall of Fame pitcher used the demonstration to show why he believes the balls are too tight since he last pitched in 2009, and thus easier for batters to hit home runs.
“I’ve seen a lot of homers that shouldn’t be homers,” Martinez said.
Martinez squeezed his name and Hall of Fame year (2015) and uniform number (45) between the seams on the ball and used the tight fit to further prove his case that the ball is juiced.
“For those of you that doubt it, that don’t know it, look how small my signature needs to be,” he said. “Some of the skinniest fingers. If I want to throw a two-seam fastball, there’s no way I can get my two fingers in there and not touch the seams over there.”
Martinez has joined the chorus of former and current pitchers — notably Houston’s Justin Verlander, who complained during the All-Star break that the balls were juiced — who believe baseball has turned into a home run derby. There have been 4,635 homers hit entering Monday’s games and players going deep multiple times in a game has become quite common — Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and San Francisco’s Donovan Solano did it Sunday, marking 21 straight days at least one player has had a two-homer game.
Watching from a suite, Martinez saw three players from the White Sox go deep against Philadelphia on a day the 2009 NL champions were honored. Martinez was a late-season pickup in 2009 and went 5-1 down the stretch to lead the Phillies to their second straight World Series appearance. The Phillies lost to the New York Yankees in six games and Martinez went 0-2 in two starts against the Yankees with a 6.30 ERA — but has long said he was sick during his Game 6 start at Yankee Stadium and always wished he could have that one back.
Martinez, who turned to baseball studio work in retirement, said it was more than an asthma attack in the middle of the game that affected his performance. Martinez, who finished with a 219-100 record and a 2.93 ERA over his 18-year career, said the Phillies battled swine flu during the series.
There was a swine flu pandemic in 2009 in the United States. Swine flu doesn’t usually infect humans, but human infections were reported.
“It wasn’t told, but most of us were sick,” Martinez said. “Some of the guys were under the swine flu. Some of them had to be a little bit away. I caught some it. I didn’t know I caught some of the virus. We would just never say it.”
Martinez struck out 3,154 batters and walked 760 in 2,827 1/3 innings with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Phillies. He twice won 20 games, twice struck out more than 300 batters and twice posted an ERA below 2.00. He was an eight-time All-Star, and five times he led the major leagues in ERA.
A three-time Cy Young Award winner who anchored the staff that helped the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series, Martinez had a famous quote still echoes in baseball to this day. He once said of Boston’s hated rival in the AL East, “Just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”
The chant popped up Sunday night in New York after the Yankees pounded David Price in a 7-4 victory that sent the defending World Series champion Red Sox to their eighth consecutive defeat. The rollicking sellout crowd of 47,267 gave a struggling Price the Martinez treatment, chanting “Who’s your daddy?” during his latest flop at Yankee Stadium.
Martinez chuckled as he said Yankees fans still yell at him on the street, “Who’s your daddy?”
The 47-year-old Martinez never pitched again after 2009, though he said former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had promised to bring him back for a final season.
“I made a mistake by kicking everybody aside to wait for this team and then it didn’t happen,” Martinez said in the dugout. “I was actually told by Ruben that they were going to go after me so I told the other teams, no. Wait. The call never came. I had three teams in mind that I wanted to play for or else I wasn’t going to go. Philadelphia was No. 1.”
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