Martinez, who at his prime was arguably the most dominant starting pitcher the game has ever seen, said Saturday that he intends to make his retirement official, two years after his last big league start.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner, now 40, had never fully closed the door on a potential return after his last Major League outing, in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series with the Phillies. Even Saturday, after staging a holiday toy drive in Bedford, Mass., Martinez said he still has a desire to play, but he made clear that the draw of home life in Miami and his native Dominican Republic -- his family, his charity, his boat -- supersedes everything else.
"I'm going to [officially announce it], I'm going to do it," Martinez said. "But I want to throw a party too. I want to make it part of every place that I'm going to be remembered and loved by the fans. I'm going to start by doing something in the Dominican, officially signing the papers, probably coming back to Boston and getting something going with you guys."
The announcement would have come in November, but his wife was ill at the time.
"Now we're going to start thinking about when is going to be a good time again," he said.
Although Martinez had been assumed by many to be finished, if just by virtue of his age, his choice to wait on an official announcement left his career without appropriate punctuation. Martinez's final numbers with five teams include a 219-100 record, a 2.93 ERA, 3,154 strikeouts, eight All-Star selections and a .687 winning percentage -- second among pitchers with at least 300 games since 1919.
"It was after I didn't play for one year and I was able to garden again with my mom and be with my boys and go to baseball games," Martinez said. "I got attached, I got attached to that kind of life. Being at home, being able to sit on my boat and not worry about tomorrow. It was really what made me lean towards not coming back.
"I still feel the little itch to go and compete. Actually seeing the Red Sox this winter, before they were disqualified, I saw so many holes that I could probably fill while watching those games. It makes me want to go, but the other part of me says, 'No.'"
Seven of Martinez's 18 big league seasons came with the Red Sox, and it was with Boston in the late 1990s and through the turn of the century that he established himself as a shoo-in Hall of Famer.
Doubted as a farmhand with the Dodgers early in his career because of his 5-foot-11 height and slim frame, Martinez took his first Cy Young in 1997 with the Expos, posting a 17-8 record, 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts. He was again outstanding the next year, his first with the Sox, but it was in 1999 and 2000 that he reached a plateau that arguably leaves only him and Koufax in the debate for greatest peak.
In the middle of the greatest offensive era the game has ever seen, Martinez took the Cy Young in '99 and 2000, with a 23-4 record and 2.07 ERA in the former and an 18-6 record and 1.74 ERA in the latter. In those two seasons, Martinez's ERA+ finishes -- a statistic that measures earned run average relative to the rest of the league -- rank him first (2000) and fifth ('99) of all starters from 1919 on. That means that in 2000, Martinez out-performed his opponents more thoroughly than anyone else had before or has in a single season since.
From '99 through 2002, Martinez's ERA was 2.07, .41 runs better than Randy Johnson. Martinez said he was surprsied that he never won the Most Valuable Player Award, like Justin Verlander did in the American League this season.
"I think I should've, I should've had one in my house, but it wasn't meant to be, I guess," Martinez said. "I can only ask why, why not? Why not? Why was it that they didn't want to give it to me? Because my numbers were equally probably as good or maybe a little bit above [Verlander's]."
Martinez's most dominant game might have been a 17-strikeout, one-hitter at Yankee Stadium against New York in '99, or the nine perfect innings he threw with the Expos in a 1-0, 10-inning win over the Padres in 1995. He allowed a hit in the 10th.
Martinez will also always be remembered for his performance in Game 5 of the 1999 AL Division Series against the Indians, when he overcame back problems to throw six hitless innings in relief and take the Sox to the Championship Series. Earlier that season, in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park, Martinez started and struck out the first four hitters and five of the six he faced en route to the game's MVP award.
Always charismatic and at times divisive, Martinez left the Sox after their 2004 title and curse-breaking season for the Mets. He contributed to a brief revival in New York, before joining the Phillies mid-season in 2009 and helping them back to the World Series for a second straight season.
At the height of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, Martinez took heat for throwing Yankees coach Don Zimmer to the ground, and for threatening to rouse Babe Ruth from the grave and plunk him in the rear. Though he was at times ostentatious, Martinez has long been deeply committed to helping folks both in the Dominican Republic and in the United States, and he embodied one truism in particular: He always remembered his roots.
"It actually made me feel really, really good," Martinez once said of the reception he received at Yankee Stadium. "I actually realized that I felt like somebody important, because I caught the attention of 60,000, plus you guys, plus the whole world, watching a guy that is, you reverse the time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to pay for a bus. And I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York. I thank God for that, and you know what? I don't regret one bit what they do out there."