This morning’s Providence Journal has an obligatory item about Pedro’s return. “For whatever reason, the Red Sox’ brass just didn’t believe Pedro,” the piece begins. “They didn’t believe him when he told them he had gotten a four-year contract offer from the New York Mets.”
One reason the Sox didn’t believe him could be because Pedro never said that at the now-famous Domincan Republic airport meeting; the four-year offer he was referring to in his press conference yesterday (“I could tell Lucchino like I did before…that I got four years and he goes, ‘No, bullshit.’”) supposedly came from the St. Louis Cardinals, the team the Sox had swept in the World Series two months earlier. The Mets’ offer of four guaranteed years didn’t come until the night he agreed to sign with the team, and that was only in response to a Boston offer of three guaranteed years that trumped what New York had on the table.
Did the Cardinals really offer Pedro four years that December? Perhaps…or perhaps it was like the six-year deal Johnny Damon supposedly had on the table before he left Boston for the Yankees. (I know this refrain is getting old…but there’s lots more details about what really happened in both of these situations in Feeding the Monster.) But before everyone gets all choked up about how much Pedro loves Boston, how he wore his heart on his sleeve when he told John Henry and Larry Lucchino he wanted to stay in the Hub, remember this: On October 24, 2004, several hours before Curt Schilling was scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals, Pedro was not thinking about the game, or his start two nights later in St. Louis, or what it would mean to the city of Boston to have the Sox finally win a World Series. He was thinking about free agency, and he was thinking about the New York Mets. When he saw Mets PR chief Jay Horwitz in the bowels of Fenway Park, he had a message he felt so strongly about imparting he repeated it twice: “Say hello to Omar.” As Minaya later told New York Magazine‘s Chris Smith, “When you’re a free agent, that’s a pretty clear coded message: ‘Hey, keep me in mind.’ The time of it tells me, this isn’t Pedro being polite; this guy’s interested. Especially since Pedro told Jay, ‘Say hello to Omar’ twice.” It is a clear message. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Baseball, despite what many of us would like to believe, is a business, and players and management alike should be looking out for their self interests.
I’ll be on my feet cheering when Pedro walks to the mound tonight (and I’ll be on my feet cheering every time a Red Sox player gets a hit), and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to watch Pedro pitch in Boston. I’m also thankful that this is a Red Sox ownership that doesn’t feel compelled to engage in a pissing match with the best pitcher ever to take the mound as a member of the Red Sox. (Remember, that wasn’t always the case.) But when Pedro says he wanted nothing more than to return to Fenway and finish out his career with the Sox, a little context would be nice. Pedro–one of the proudest men ever to put on a uniform–hated the fact that Schilling had supplanted him as the team’s ace. He hated it so much that he didn’t travel to New York for Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees, when a bloodied Schilling took the mound and did what Pedro hadn’t been able to do since 1999: beat the Yankees in the playoffs. He resented the fact that the Sox had juggled their World Series rotation so it was Schilling who got the Game 2 start at Fenway. (That way, Schilling wouldn’t need to bat and risk running on his ankle.) Pedro had been a savior in Boston, and he wanted a chance to do the same thing in New York. “Fenway Park changed almost 100 percent from the time I got there the first day to the time I left,” he told the New York Times earlier this week. “I’m glad I’m in the middle of it again, changing what seemed to be a dead atmosphere at Shea Stadium.” Pedro loves to be The Man. For almost seven years, he was in Boston, and tonight, he will be again. But let’s not allow the misty-eyed tributes to cloud a clear-eyed view of reality.
Anyone interested in the inside dope on Pedro and his return to Fenway would be well served by keeping up with the Herald‘s Michael Silverman. No reporter was closer to Pedro when he was with the Sox, and if there are any exclusives to come out of the next several days, I bet Silverman’s the guy who’ll have them.