In his new TV role as a commentator for TBS during baseball’s playoffs, Pedro Martinez has shown that he still can colorfully change speeds and bring piercing heat. The future baseball hall of famer sat down with senior writer Tom Verducci for a Q&A in this week’s SI to discuss why he tried TV, his transition away from the game, the return of the Red Sox to the American League Championship Series, beanballs and assorted other topics, including Derek Jeter’s impromptu, face-to-face pitch to become a Yankee.
On television: “I had too much time not doing anything at home,” Martinez says. “It was uncomfortable sitting at home and my wife questioning me, ‘What are you doing?’ It’s also a good opportunity to explore something different, because I really want to expand on what I learned in baseball. Some of the guys, like Kevin Millar, Barry Larkin, Manny Acta, they all know the knowledge in my head about the game and they all thought that as loose as I am, I would be a person that could do this.” (PAGE 47)
On missing the game: “I would get really cranky because I wasn’t going to seven hours to a gym and then to play a game,” Martinez says. “I was just a lazy cat at home.” (PAGE 47)
On moving guys off the plate: “You commit to that pitch,” Martinez says. “You go into that pitch saying, I am making a statement here. If you don’t move back, you’re getting hit.” (PAGE 48)
Martinez tested the free agent market after the 2004 season. The Yankees had him in for a meeting before he signed with the Mets. While talking with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Martinez says, “Jeter walks by. He peeks in and sees me and says, ‘What are you doing here? Oh, Boss, please sign him.’” (PAGE 52)
On who the last person he wants to see in the batter’s box late in a close game: “Jeter,” Martinez says.
Why Jeter? “He doesn’t get rattled. He doesn’t get excited. He’s cold, like an icebox. You make a good pitch, and it seems like he bloops it all the time. You make a great pitch, and somehow he finds some area on the bat. I don’t know if he’s not strong enough to break the bat or the ball does not hit an area to break it. . . . And if you make a mistake, he will take you deep. It’s impossible to make him change his approach or his demeanor. The program that he has to approach you doesn’t change. He knew I would come after him. And I don’t think Jeter ever thought I would hit him in the head or put him in jeopardy. The most I could do was hit him in the ribs or something like that—and only in retaliation because I have a huge amount of respect for Jeter.” (PAGE 52)
Andrew Wiggins, a 6′ 8″, 200-pound versatile forward from outside Toronto was the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2013 and is widely considered the likely No. 1 pick in the ’14 NBA draft. The once-in-a-generation talent has Kansas fans in a frenzy, but it’s not the first time a first-year Jayhawk has had that effect, writes Luke Winn in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—on newsstands now. Winn compares the arrival of Wiggins, who appears on SI’s cover, to the arrival of former Kansas greats Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. “The notion of what Andrew Wiggins could be, if he can cultivate a relentlessness to pair with his talent, is why he is being received differently—even at a school that’s won nine straight regular-season Big 12 titles and has two other potential first-rounders in guard Wayne Selden and center Joel Embiid,” writes Winn. “Even in a college town that’s seen this already, twice.” (PAGE 61)
When Wiggins arrived on campus in June, Kansans coach Bill Self told him, “If you handle this right, you could potentially have everything you ever dreamed of and go down as one of the most loved athletes to ever come through this university.” (PAGE 61)
The chase for Chamberlain was college basketball’s first truly national recruiting battle. Winn writes it had everything in the way of subplots: “Racial overtones. Boosters with fat wallets. NBA teams scheming for his draft rights. Spurned rivals, skeptical journalists and relentless NCAA investigators.” (PAGE 63) Chamberlain’s debut was in the annual series between the Kansans freshmen and varsity teams. Wilt led the freshmen to their first win in the 33-year history of the series.
Manning’s arrival in Lawrence meant more to Kansans than Wiggins’s does now, since many believe Wiggins will be a one-and-done player. While Chamberlain’s Jayhawks could not beat North Carolina in the 1957 national championship game, Kansas coach Larry Brown was able to secure Manning’s commitment over the Tar Heels in 1983. At the time Brown proclaimed, “Danny Manning is the most complete young player I have ever seen. He’ll be the best.” (PAGE 62) Manning wound up graduating as the Big Eight’s career leading scorer, and carried the underdog Jayhawks to the ’88 national title.
Wiggins’s recruitment was kept very quiet. That’s because he not only got his athletic prowess from his parents (his father played in the NBA and his mother was a silver medal winning member of Canadian relay teams in the ’84 Olympics), but he also inherited a quiet and humble nature from them. “I wouldn’t really talk to college coaches,” he says of his recruitment process. For a time it was widely assumed he was going to either Florida State or Kentucky. “I was wide open,” Wiggins says, “but no one else was recruiting me.” (PAGE 64) Wiggins, who says he is used to the attention now, describes himself on this Twitter bio as “Just a average kid trying to make it.” “I used to be an average kid, when I put that up,” he insists. “But that . . . was a while ago.” (PAGE 61)
As Wiggins prepares for his debut on Nov. 8 at Allen Fieldhouse, he tries not to think about the weight on his shoulders or next year’s NBA draft. “You’re just not going to get a reaction out of him, with things like the draft,” fellow freshman Wayne Selden says. (PAGE 66)
As the completions and the victories pile up, low-key star Teddy Bridgewater brings Louisville closer to New Year’s Day and himself closer to New York City, writes Pete Thamel in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Playing in the pros will allow Bridgewater to fulfill a promise he made to his mom, Rose Murphy, when he was in the third grade. “When I make it to the pros,” Teddy Bridgewater said, “I’m going to buy you a pink Escalade with pink rims.” (PAGE 39)
From the age of eight, Bridgewater was tabbed as a can’t-miss quarterback. He excelled in the vaunted Optimist youth leagues in Miami and later at Northwestern High. It was there that he became a top college prospect and did so while his mother was battling breast cancer. Now a junior at Louisville, he’s the nation’s third-most efficient passer on the No. 8 team, a Heisman Trophy candidate and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. “His mother’s situation made him a grown man,” says Northwestern coach Billy Rolle, “and I think that helped him out more than any coach could.” (PAGE 40)
Bridgewater worked hard to avoid the stigma that South Florida produces any athlete but quarterback. He wound up a Cardinal after committing to and decommitting from Miami. “He wanted to be a quarterback,” says Louisville coach Charlie Strong, “not an athlete who’s a quarterback.” (PAGE 40)
After working extremely hard with Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bridgewater led the Cardinals to an 11-2 season and was named Big East Player of the Year last season. He earned a reputation for not only being very accurate but also tough. He played through injuries, and shook off a nasty hit early in Louisville’s Sugar Bowl win over Florida last year. He has become a more willing leader. “This is his football team,” Strong says. “He knows this, his team will only go as far as he takes them.” (PAGE 42)
While Bridgewater has a season of eligibility remaining, he’ll graduate this year. His descision to enter the draft seems like a foregone conclusion. “The reality is that we’re hoping and believing that he has a great season,” says Rose, “and after that he’ll do what he needs to do to prepare to go to the draft.” (PAGE 42)
Thamel finds that Bridgewater is very humble on and off the field. For instance, he asked Louisville not to run a Heisman campaign for him because he doesn’t want special treatment and he still dates his high school sweetheart. “He’s one of those players who wants no credit,” says Strong. “He’d rather sit back and let his work speak for him.” (PAGE 43)
Bridgewater may not get as many Heisman and Twitter mentions as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, the two are “not in the same universe” as NFL prospects, says former Eagles scout John Middlekauff, who adds, “You build a franchise around high-level people as much as high-level players.” (PAGE 50)
While postseason baseball won’t settle the debate of whether the clutch gene exists, SI’s Albert Chen says in this week’s issue that there’s no denying that October has brought out some familiar heroes. Chen writes that “few things in sports are more alluring than the idea of a clutch gene—the notion that some athletes are wired differently, with an innate ability to perform their best when the pressure is the greatest.” (PAGE 32)
This October has already produced a highlight reel of clutch moments, from the Marlon Byrd home run in the NL wild-card game, to David Ortiz’s two homers in the Red Sox’ ALDS Game 2 win, to Stephen Vogt’s walk-off single for the A’s in Game 2 of their ALDS against the Tigers, to the stellar outings by rookie pitchers (the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole and the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha).
In the playoffs David Ortiz has a .538 OBP and 1.282 OPS in 52 career late-and-close plate appearances. And Carlos Beltran’s two home runs in the NLDS have brought his career postseason total to 16. Miguel Cabrera hit .348 with a 1.078 OPS this season, but those numbers jumped to .397 and 1.311 with runners in scoring position. “Miguel is a great hitter all the time, no matter the situation,” says Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski. “But with men in scoring position you just see the intensity. Can you measure this? Maybe not. But if you watch him on a daily basis, you see it.” (PAGE 33)
Sabermetricians largely view clutch hitters as a myth. “Clutch hits exist, clutch hitters do not,” James Click, a former Baseball Prospectus writer and now the head of the Rays’ analytics department, wrote in 2005. “There is no statistical evidence to support the idea that some hitters consistently perform better in situations defined as ‘clutch’ as compared to normal situations. Good hitters are good clutch hitters; bad hitters are bad clutch hitters.” However, in a 2006 study Nate Silver said “clutch hitting ability exists more than previous research would indicate.” (PAGE 33)
Bill James, the godfather of baseball statistics, has even questioned the arguments against clutch hitting. James recently wrote that the discussion in the sabermetric community “has been fouled up for a long time,” and that he no longer had faith in the data that had backed up the arguments against clutch hitting. (PAGE 34) Chen clarifies that this was James saying that clutch hitting could exist.
Chen finds that “much of what think of as clutch hitting could be considered smart situational hitting.” The 2013 Cardinals hit .330 in 1,621 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, good for the highest in baseball history. The team worked on improving their approach at the plate in spring training. “Their approach is impressive,” says Dombrowski. “You’d see them all the time getting the big hit, and where do they get most of their hits? The opposite field.” (PAGE 34)
The debate won’t end this October, but Chen says “little about baseball at this time of year is fair. A hit, you’re a hero. An out, and you’re the goat. That’s the beauty and the cruelty of October.” (PAGE 34)
Two years after being fired as coach of the U.S. national team, Bob Bradley has taken Egypt on a perfect run toward World Cup 2014. In this week’s SI (you can also read the entire article on SI.com here), Grant Wahl says Bradley has done it by going all in with the players, in a country racked by political turmoil. Wahl writes, “And yet in a divided country of 85 million, at least one unifying force has no opposition these days, and this bald 55-year-old coach from Essex Fells, N.J.—the most visible American in Egypt’s daily public life—embodies that hope.” (PAGE 45)
Bradley did not come to Egypt to blow a whistle and stick his head in the desert sand. “Wherever you live, this ability to look around you and be aware of others, this is what you try to do,” Bradley says. “We live here. We’re aware of what’s going on.” (PAGE 46)
Bradley and his wife, Lindsay, now get standing ovations when they walk into restaurants. The couple also donates their time and money to the Children’s Cancer Hospital. There Wahl overhears a beaming father tell Bradley, “You’re the American Sumerman!” he says. “You’re going to take us to the World Cup!” (PAGE 46)
So how did Bradley wind up in Egypt? After being fired by the U.S. following a Gold Cup-final loss to Mexico in 2011, Bradley hoped he would land a job coaching in Europe, but offers never came. Then Egypt came calling. He had impressed its federation by leading the U.S. to win over the Pharaohs in the 2009 Confederations Cup, and he had worked closely with an Egyptian-American, Zak Abdel, his goalkeepers coach with the U.S. and in the MLS. “When opportunities come along, you don’t look back,” Bradley says. “Don’t be afraid to put everything you have into something. If you’re worried about the outcome, you don’t get anywhere.” (PAGE 47)
In August, a month after the Egyptian military overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohamed Morsi, the U.S. State Department advised all Americans living in Egypt to evacuate the country. The Bradley’s stayed and Bob’s team kept winning and advancing toward Egypt’s third World Cup berth—and first since 1990. “Look, as I’ve gotten to know these players, we’re brothers,” says Bradley. “We’re in something together. If this is who you are, you challenge people to be in all the way, and you explain what that means. Then you have to show them that you’re in all the way. That’s just how it is.” (PAGE 46)
Of the more than 200 national teams that chose to participate in qualifying for World Cup 2014, Egypt is the only team that has yet to lose. The Pharaohs are 6-0 heading into the final test: a two-game home-and-away playoff starting Tuesday at powerful Ghana. Only the winner will make it to the World Cup. As Bradley prepares his team for the winner-take-all series against Ghana, he faces the ongoing challenge of keeping his players together. “At a time when the country is divided, you want to make sure the national team stands together in a strong way,” Bradley says. (PAGE 50)
In this week’s SI, Steve Rushin tells the story of Foulproof Taylor, the unsung genius behind on-field armor. The story is excerpted from Rushin’s new book, The 34-Ton Bat (Copyright © 2013 by Steve Rushin. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y.).
On the night of Nov. 16, 1926, James Phillip Leo Taylor was a second tenor in the Metropolitan Opera chorus, when, at the end of the first act of the American debut of Puccini’s Turandot, he was kneed in the groin by accident. The next day Taylor fashioned a protective aluminum cup, which he wore to that night’s performance. “Taylor’s groin, ensconced in this new contraption, proved unassailable,” writes Rushin. “He had no way of knowing, in that moment, that he’d “invented” something that already existed. His cup, he was certain, was about to runneth over.” (PAGE 53)
In 1874, a cyclist and inventor names Charles F. Bennett invented the “bike web” to give comfort and support to male “bicycle jockeys,” for whom the undergarment became known as a “jockey strap.” By 1915, Pittsburgh Rebels catcher Claude Berry was wearing a piece of molded steel in his pants for protection.
Two years after he wore the protective cup, Taylor started to wear it to boxing matches. He asked boxers, promoters and writers to kick him as hard as they could in the testicles. He called the device his Foulproof cup, and he became known as Foulproof Taylor in boxing circles. After a heavyweight championship fight at Yankee Stadium in 1930 saw Max Schmeling take a below the belt hit from Jack Sharkey, New York State Athletic Commission chairman James Farley made cups mandatory but steered boxers to the cast-iron cup of Jacob Golomb, Foulproof’s archnemesis. Golumb’s boxing trunks made with an elasticized waistband appeared on nearly every boxer. His brand name: EVERLAST.
Still, Foulproof was able to sell some boxers on his cup. He would sue EVERLAST unsuccessfully for patent infringement. “I’m the guy who did the whole thing but I don’t seem to get any credit for it,” Taylor wrote in his self-published autobiography. “They kick me around, and it’s a good thing I wear my own invention.” (PAGE 55)
Foulproof set out to create other protective devices. Rushin writes, “Foulproof Taylor set out to save baseball with his greatest invention yet: the Beanproof Cap.” (PAGE 55) Taylor had strangers bang him over the head with a bat to test his helmet. But like in boxing, baseball needed a big moment to prove the need for this gear and it happened when Tigers catcher-manager Mickey Cochrane was struck in the head by a pitch. It fractured his skull and he would never play again. Teams began soliciting submissions for a protective cap, and many other inventors came calling with their products. Players were turned off by wearing a big helmet so some turned to a plastic insert that fit inside regular caps.
Foulproof’s helmet and other inventions, including a protective bra for female wrestlers, never made him a fortune. Rushin writes, “In the end, Foulproof Taylor’s greatest invention was Foulproof Taylor.” (PAGE 56)
The MLB postseason is under way, and in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—on newsstands now—senior writer Tom Verducci says it’s all about which team gets hot, because the playoffs are more random and chaotic than ever. Verducci writes, “With parity across the sport, no dominant team among 10 postseason entrants and four rounds of playoffs, welcome to Anybody’s October, a two-fortnight roll of the dice.” (PAGE 36)
SI’s Ben Reiter wonders if brothers B.J. and Justin Upton can get hot and power the Atlanta Braves to a World Series title. The Upton’s, along with SI Swimsuit model Kate Upton appear on the cover of this week’s issue. Kate Upton makes history as the first swimsuit model on the SI cover for a non-Swimsuit issue and joins celebrities such as Bob Hope, Brad Pitt, Stephen Colbert and Mark Wahlberg who have appeared on the cover.
As for the Bravess World Series chances, Reiter acknowledges that they do strike out a lot and have been devastated by injuries, and their highest paid player (B.J. Upton) had a really bad debut season. However, in October that may not matter, since Atlanta demonstrated for extended stretches this season that the team can get as hot as any club in baseball. “No team has demonstrated the potential to get hotter than the as-whole-as-they’re-going-to-get Braves, their beleaguered centerfielder included,” says Reiter. “It will all come down to the timing.” (PAGE 46)