Pedro Martínez on Talking Trash, Pitching in the Steroid Era, and Becoming the Charles Barkley of Baseball

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But nowadays, social media makes it a lot more difficult for players to open up. Because once you open up, it’s going all over the world, and your words are going to be heard and reheard and reheard all over the world. And your actions are also judged by a lot of individuals; each head is a different world. So you have to really be careful with that. And I understand why some of them instead of saying exactly what they feel, why they’re careful. Why they’d much rather zip it than probably express it like Charles Barkley would do or I would do.

It can be risky, but like you just said, isn’t it the responsibility of a star to help grow the game?

Yeah, I think they should. Every time they can actually open up and let it go, they need to let it go. Because sometimes we do need to let something out.

The energy of the World Baseball Classic—and international baseball as a whole—is so much different than MLB. How can American baseball capture a bit of that spirit of the Japanese, Korean, Venezuelan, Dominican, and even Mexican game?

A lot of people in baseball, when they see me, they go, “Wow, he’s not all that big. He’s not the big monster that he look like on top of the mound.” But I was so determined. I was, like, playing a World Baseball Classic game every single time I took the mound. I think prioritizing the game, prioritizing your career, giving the importance to your career that it deserves, brings the best out of people.

A lot of people asked me: “Pedro, how did you do it in the Steroid Era?” But guess what? I’m so proud of having the opportunity to pitch in the Steroid Era. Because if there was someone that actually had a reason to use steroids, it might have been a guy like me. But I chose not to.

I wanted the biggest challenge. And you saw that. I wanted to beat the best teams. I wanted to beat the best players. I wanted to be in the middle of the battle, where you have swords coming for your neck every second. I wanted to live on the edge and that’s why I enjoyed baseball so much.

In Latin America, it’s a surviving kind of league. Puerto Rico, Dominican, it’s a short winter season, but, man, every game counts. Everything is on the line every single day. Today, you in first place; tomorrow, you in third place. It’s just like that. You live on the edges. There’s nothing to gain and a lot to lose. And that’s why we have the passion for it.

In the World Baseball Classic, just the fact that you’re representing your country and your entire country is eyeballing you—I mean, everybody’s looking at [Juan] Soto, everybody’s looking at Wander Franco, everybody’s looking at [Shohei] Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Mookie Betts—everybody’s eyeballing you directly because of the flag, because of what you represent, because you want to be the best country that represents baseball in the world. And that’s exactly why we have that energy that doesn’t seem to appear unless it’s a World Baseball Classic kind of game.

It felt special. And it was incredible to see Ohtani in that high-leverage moment. You won a Cy Young in Montreal, but it took leaving for Boston for you to become a massive star. If you were advising Ohtani, who plays in Anaheim far from the bright lights, what would you tell him to do next year? Should he leave for a marquee franchise?

No, Ohtani doesn’t need any city and Ohtani doesn’t need any more exposure. Ohtani just needs to stay healthy. It’s the cities that need Ohtani. Baseball needs Ohtani.

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Pedro Martínez on Talking Trash, Pitching in the Steroid Era, and Becoming the Charles Barkley of Baseball

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