TORONTO – When Lloyd Moseby debuted with the 1980 Toronto Blue Jays, he joined a team that had never in its history lost fewer than 100 games. When the Montreal Expos traded for a slight 22-year-old right-hander in November of 1993, Pedro Martinez was better known as Ramon’s little brother.
Yet Moseby would patrol centre field for one contending Blue Jays team after another, and Martinez would star for a short but memorable time in Montreal. Their respective contributions were recognized Thursday, when the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced plans to induct both players, along with baseball historian William Humber, in St. Marys, Ont., this June.
Soon after being traded from the Dodgers to the Expos, Martinez connected with the city of Montreal. He found himself walking around and exploring, tested on a personal level now that he no longer played on the same team as Ramon.
“I was on my own, but I was doing it in a place where I felt really safe and loved by the people,” Martinez said. “Embraced by the people—people who did not care what colour you were, what you were wearing, how much money you were making. Montreal means the world to me because it’s where I feel I became a man.”
On the field, Martinez developed just as quickly. Early in spring training of 1994, manager Felipe Alou sat him down to let him know he’d be the Expos’ fourth starter. After a year in the Dodgers’ bullpen it was a meaningful but unexpected vote of confidence.
“Felipe, you know I relieved all year?” Martinez said. “It’s going to take me a while.”
The transition took less time than expected. From 1994-96 Martinez posted a 3.56 ERA while averaging 185 innings and 179 strikeouts per season. Then, in 1997, he had a season for the ages, posting a 1.90 ERA while striking out 305 hitters on his way to the NL Cy Young.
Still, in some ways it’s that first year in Montreal that stands out most. A strike ended the season prematurely, and a promising Expos roster was dismantled shortly thereafter. Looking back, Martinez believes that team could have competed with anyone.
“Believe me, we were going to be the Yankees,” he said. “If we were left to be together for at least three more years, we were going to be what the Yankees became.”
Eventually, reality set in and Martinez realized he was likely to be traded given the Expos’ small payroll. He suggested to Alou and the front office that he’d welcome a trade to Baltimore, San Francisco, Cleveland or the New York Yankees.
Instead he ended up in Boston, where he’d win two more Cy Young Awards and a World Series. But even as he celebrated Boston’s 2004 title, Martinez acknowledged long-suffering Expos fans. “My heart and my ring is with them, too,” he said amidst the celebrations.
While Martinez won a ring and enjoyed some historically dominant seasons in Boston, he missed the chance to witness one of his best friends in his prime. Vladimir Guerrero, a 2017 inductee into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, will join Martinez in Cooperstown this summer. When Guerrero first reached the big leagues as a 21-year-old rookie in 1996, Martinez tried to help his fellow Dominican on and off the field.
“I’m extremely proud of Vladdy to have influenced his life, his career,” Martinez said. “I took pride in helping him with the baby steps that he needed.”
Decades later, Martinez sees similarities between his former teammate and his godson. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a chance to be “just as special” as his father, though “maybe a little bit more disciplined at the plate.”
Just as Martinez was a key contributor to the 1994 Expos, Moseby was integral to the success of the 1980s Blue Jays. The second overall pick of the 1978 draft, Moseby joined a team coming off a 109-loss season as a rookie. When the Blue Jays lost 95 games in 1980, it represented a 14-game improvement.
“We were awful,” Moseby said. “There’s no other way to say it.”
By 1983 they were contenders. By 1985 they won the AL East.
“To see the growth, for me, was unbelievable,” Moseby recalls. “If you had been there in 1980, you would have sworn there was no way that we were going to get better that quick.”
All told, Moseby played 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, won a Silver Slugger and made the 1986 all-star team. With George Bell and Jesse Barfield playing on either side of Moseby, the Blue Jays had one of the best outfields in baseball. Bell’s a 2013 inductee to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and Moseby expressed confidence that Barfield would soon join his former teammates.
“He was a tremendous player,” Moseby said. “I know he’s going to make it.”
Martinez did some lobbying of his own Thursday, making the case that Larry Walker should join him in Cooperstown. In his eighth season on the ballot, Walker got 34.1 per cent of the vote—more than ever before but still far from the 75 per cent threshold required for induction.
“He’s definitely a Hall of Famer in my eyes, in my heart,” Martinez said. “And in everybody’s eyes, pretty soon, they’re going to realize that Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer.
“A special player that could do it all. Talk about having an instinct for the game. Larry Walker was that player—and a lot of fun. Jesus Christ, would I love to be with him again.”
Until then, Martinez will at least be reunited with Guerrero in not one but two Halls of Fame.
“He’s my teammate now forever,” Martinez said.