Pedro Martinez had a season for the ages in 1999. That season, he led the American League in strikeouts, earned run average, and wins, which is no small feat. He was widely considered a top candidate for the American League MVP award, but Martinez claimed that he was snubbed of that honor due to racist baseball writers.
“You don’t wanna say, ‘(You’re) racist,’ but sometimes you have to think – there are people that are racist,” Martinez, who is black, said in in an interview with Barstool reporter Jared Carrabis and former Red Sox legend David Ortiz. “Because how can you give votes to people that didn’t belong in the MVP contention just to harm someone individually. And I had nothing against those two guys. I’ve always been a professional.”
The two writers who did not give Martinez MVP votes – one of which would have given him more than eventual winner Ivan Rodriguez – were George King of the New York Post and La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Both writers were members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, a group of qualified reporters who votes on award winners and Hall of Fame candidates.
Granted, their decision was a little odd considering Martinez’s dominance that year, along with the fact that King gave MVP votes to two separate pitchers the year before. So, is Martinez right? Were the writers racist people who had nothing better to do than oppress black people in the world of sports?
Likely not, for several reasons.
First off, Neal III is black. If he were racist, why would he slight a fellow black man from getting a prestigious award? Maybe Neal was trying to make a name for himself by being the hotshot newcomer journalist who didn’t vote for Martinez (1999 was only his second year on the job at the Tribune after all).
Second, King was a New York Yankees beat reporter from 1997-2020. That alone should speak volumes. As classless as it might be, it would make sense that a writer for the Yankees would want to use their power to snub a player from their arch-rival franchise an award he deserved.
Now can, we outright prove this about the writers who weren’t somewhat racially motivated in their decisions? No, but there are far more plausible explanations than the writers being good-for-nothing racists.
Third, the top five vote-getters for the American League MVP award that year were Rodriguez, Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, and Rafael Palmeiro (in that order). All were from minority communities. Now, it’s especially hard to say that those writers – who also would have voted for these other four ballplayers – were racist.
Lastly, the writers in the BBWAA often make ridiculous decisions. For example, just six days ago, one anonymous writer didn’t vote for former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter – one of the greatest baseball icons of our generation – as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, putting Jeter one vote shy of becoming just the second unanimous first-ballot selection ever. This is one of the most preposterous events in recent sports memory, as Jeter more than anyone deserved that honor.
So Pedro, were you snubbed because those writers had it out for you because of your skin color? In all likelihood no, so don’t spin this story to make people feel sorry for you.