Signing Pedro? Five cautionary tales to consider

Amidst the All Star break came news that Pedro Martinez may have at last finally found a home. After an idle half season, ESPN is reporting that the former Cy Young pitcher is in talks for a one-year, $1 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.  It’s a far cry from the millions upon millions he earned in his heyday as the hard-throwing, top pitcher in baseball for the Boston Red Sox, and there had been reports in Sports Illustrated earlier this year that Martinez wanted $5 million this season.  Still, at this point, I’ll bet the 37-year-old Martinez is glad for the work.

If I were the Phillies, though, I would exercise some caution, some “You’re Allen Iverson, we’re the Clippers and you’re coming off the bench”-style caution. For every flamethrower like Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson who’s pitched into their mid-40s, a litany of starting pitchers have burnt out in their 30s.  Martinez’s chances of having a resurgence at this point, following a 5-6 2008 campaign are slim.

Take a look at some who have come before him:

Juan Marichal: The Dominican Dandy, Marichal epitomizes someone who fell off in a hurry.  After compiling an 18-11 record in 1971, he went 22-33 over his final four seasons before retiring at 37.

Don Drysdale: The Los Angeles Dodgers hurler had a 2.15 ERA with 12 complete games and eight shutouts in 1968.  The following season, Major League Baseball lowered the pitchers mound, Drysdale went 5-4 and reached the end of the line at 32.

David Cone: If any player on this list should make the Phillies especially leery of Martinez, it’s Cone.  Perhaps no aging pitcher ever had as dramatic of a season-to-season decline as Cone, as he followed a 12-9 year, at 36, by going 4-14.  More bafflingly, his ERA doubled.  His career was effectively done from that point.

Dizzy Dean and Dwight Gooden: Two hard-throwers who flamed out around their respective 30th birthdays, Dean fell apart for being injured, Gooden for being a cocaine-addled train wreck.

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