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

On the mound, Pedro Martínez was a master. His tools: a power fastball, a generational changeup, pinpoint control, oh so many arm angles, and a nastiness to let every hitter know the inner half of the plate was his. In a post-game presser, he was nearly as memorable. (Who can forget, “What can I say? Just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy”?) So it’s no surprise that since retiring, he’s found his way behind a mic. He’s nine years into a broadcasting career, appearing on MLB TV and as one of the hosts of Tuesday’s MLB on TBS pre- and post-game show. The format is familiar, borrowing from the unmatched Inside the NBA (another Turner property): the straight-man host with a panel of former jocks.

Martínez plays the role of Charles Barkley, though without the penchant to feud with current players. He says what he thinks, unfiltered, and is as likely to go long on the mechanics of a tipped pitch as he is to take a trot around the studio when Aaron Judge hits 62. For a pitching savant with a Hall of Fame resume, it’s refreshing to see him exist behind the mic without a touch of back-in-my-day-ism. But then again, why would he? He’s a World Series champ and from 1997 to 2003, he was unhittable. No one has ever pitched better, and they might not ever pitch better again.

Martínez is 51 now. And for a man who’s always been radically transparent—and who loves the odd tangent—he’s surprised he’s made it almost a decade in the media. “I never thought I’d be on television,” he says, grinning, “and I never thought I would last this long.”

When you were a player, did you ever imagine this second career on television?

As a player, you have a different point of view about working on television and in the media. I used to be really transparent, but not the nicest man in front of the cameras. I thought this side would be totally different. I never thought I would like it. But this platform in television allows me to let everybody else understand what we have in the back of our minds, behind the uniform, inside of us. And I’m taking advantage of it. Because I was misread for a long, long time. But at the same time, I now have a lot more respect for what the members of the media—you guys—do for a living.

I love it so much because now I am able to express on behalf of the players and on behalf of the situation a lot of the things that I couldn’t express to the media at the moment. I can express what they might be thinking, how their confidence might be shaken up, and how their bodies don’t respond one day. Back in those days, I needed to hide it, because the Yankees were too powerful. If they knew that I had something lingering, or a little sore shoulder, they were gonna do whatever it took to beat me. So I had to be careful. But now, being a member of the media allows me to express what the players would probably love to express publicly, but they cannot let the opposition know.