The True Dodger
This week Dodger fans learned Gary Sheffield, the team’s best hitter, and Devon White want to be traded. They also learned an irregular heart beat caused by drinking too much Coca-Cola will slow Kevin Brown, and Eric Karros had an MRI on his back diagnosing a lumbar sprain. Dodger fans see the hopes of the Los Angeles Dodgers to make the playoffs are almost smashed. The Dodgers do have a feel-good story in Ramon Martinez, “the true Dodger.”
Though the Dodgers treated Ramon Martinez badly in 1998, he returned to them for the upcoming season. His younger brother, Pedro who pitched for the Dodgers in 1993, has said he would rather pitch for the Montreal Expos for ten cents than the Dodgers for multimillions. However, Ramon does not share his brother’s view. Though much of the personnel have changed since Martinez left in 1998, Martinez feels as if he has come home.
In his first tour of duty with the Dodgers Ramon Martinez was valuable. In 1988 as a skinny twenty-year-old Martinez helped the Dodgers to win their world championship. After spending the 1989 season learning his craft, Martinez became a dominating starter. During the 1990 season when he won twenty, lost six, and had a 2.92 ERA, he had eighteen strikeouts in a game. In July, 1995, he pitched a no-hitter against the Florida Marlins. He continued his domination in a Dodger uniform until he tore his rotator cuff in 1998. As a Dodger, he won 123, lost 77, and had an ERA of about 3.50.
The new Dodger management victimized Martinez because they did not understand his importance to the Dodgers. He injured his shoulder and had surgery to repair the injury during the 1998 season. His contract ended after 1998, but the Dodgers had an option for 1999. Because the option was worth much money, the Dodgers chose not to exercise the option. Martinez wanted to negotiate another contract with the Dodgers, but Kevin Malone, the new Dodger general manager, was too busy reshaping the team to negotiate with him.
Ramon Martinez chose to sign with the Boston Red Sox to join his brother Pedro, who has won multiple Cy Young awards. In 1999 he could not pitch until August because he was still recovering from shoulder surgery. He appeared in four games in 1999 and had two wins, one loss, and a 3.05 ERA. Though he had ten wins and eight losses in 2000, he struggled and had a 6.13 ERA. The Red Sox chose not to exercise their option on Martinez for 2001.
This January after passing a physical examination, the Dodgers signed Martinez to a one-year incentive-laced contract.
Many people have asked Martinez what convinced him to go back to Los Angeles. Martinez is excited to be reunited with Dave Wallace and Pat Screnar. While in the Dodger minor league system, Martinez developed a father-and-son-like relationship with Wallace continuing in the major leagues. Although Wallace is a special assistant to general manager Kevin Malone, Wallace will work with major league pitchers during spring training. Martinez feels he needs the guidance of physical therapist Pat Screnar to help him with his conditioning. He also wants to return where he created good memories.
Now the Dodgers need a guy with class as Ramon Martinez is. Martinez does not have a guaranteed spot in the highly-talented Dodger rotation. However, many think if Martinez pitches decently this spring, he will beat out Eric Gagne and Luke Prokopec for the fifth spot in the rotation. If he makes the team, hopefully he will become a team leader. Because he was a fan favorite, many Dodger fans will want to welcome Martinez back to Dodger Stadium.