Let’s see: in the months since the ’06 season ended, the Sox were seconds away from trading Manny, until they weren’t. They were about to lose the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka, until they didn’t. They signed J.D. Drew to a five-year deal, until they didn’t, and then they did. And in just the last week, the Red Sox were thisclose to a deal to bring Todd Helton to Boston, and then they weren’t. In the midst of all this, the New York Times has been waging a bizarre jihad against Theo Epstein, who, oh, by the way, happened to get married. (Don’t worry: he nuptials did not really feature Coney Island’s Nathan’s hot dogs.)
It’s been a hectic offseason. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for a calm couple of weeks until spring training starts.
It shouldn’t be too much to ask, but it is. With Curt Schilling in danger of being supplanted as the team’s top pitcher by Dice-K, Schill pulled a Pedro and picked up the gun #45 had pointed at the Sox’s front office before the ’04 season. Less than a year after saying ’07 would be his last season in the bigs, Schilling announced — on WEEI, naturally — that he would pitch in 2008. Oh, and he sure as shit better get a deal before April 1. “There won’t be any distractions in questioning because if I don’t have a contract before the season starts, then I’ll get a contract after the 2007 season, as a free agent,” Schilling said last night. What if the Red Sox want to, you know, see how a 40-year old whose last two years could generously be described as up and down was doing once the rigors of the season started? “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “I think I’ve earned the right to do one or the other. If they don’t think the risk is worth the reward, or vice versa, I get that.”
That language might sound familiar to readings of Feeding the Monster. Here’s how I described the situation as it stood in spring training 2004…a couple of months after the Sox signed Schilling:
“Pedro Martinez, meanwhile, who was paid $14 million in 2002 and was signed for $15.5 million in 2003, said he felt disrespected by the fact that the club hadnâ€šÃ„Ã´t picked up his $17.5 million club option for 2004. If the Red Sox didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t act by the time the 2003 season started, Martinez said, heâ€šÃ„Ã´d assume his career with the club was over. ‘Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s bye-bye once the year starts,’ he told reporters. ‘Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m gone. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m just going to pitch. I wonâ€šÃ„Ã´t wait until the All-Star break to talk to them.’ …
With Schilling on board, Martinez wondered if the Red Sox were planning on keeping him around beyond the 2004 season, and without a contract, he was both hesitant to risk further injury and worried about giving the impression he was less than totally healthy. Martinezâ€šÃ„Ã´s anxiety about pitching during one season before he knew if heâ€šÃ„Ã´d get paid for the next had been apparent since 2003, when, during spring training, he began agitating for the Red Sox to pick up his 2004 option. Now, when he spoke of Grady Littleâ€šÃ„Ã´s decision to leave him in Game 7 of the previous fallâ€šÃ„Ã´s American League Championship Series against the Yankees, he talked not of the fact that the game was on the line but of the risk to his arm. â€šÃ„ÃºI was actually shocked I stayed out there that long,â€šÃ„Ã¹ he told Sports Illustrated. ‘But Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m paid to do that. I belong to Boston. If they want me to blow my arm out, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s their responsibility.’ …
The same fragility that made Martinez anxious about securing a long-term deal made the Red Sox concerned about giving him one. ‘The arm angle Pedro had in spring training was very worrisome,’ says John Henry. When Henry asked one of the teamâ€šÃ„Ã´s top baseball operations executives what kind of season Martinez would likely produce, the answer stunned him: ‘I was told, â€šÃ„Ã²Heâ€šÃ„Ã´ll win 12 or 15 games, have a 4.00 ERA or a 3.50 ERA.â€šÃ„Ã´ And I was like, â€šÃ„Ã²Fuck.â€šÃ„Ã´’ Despite this prediction, the team wanted to re-sign its star. ‘I thought he should finish his career in Boston,’ says Henry. …
On April 30th, as the Red Sox sat in the visiting clubhouse in Arlington, Texas, waiting for a thunderstorm to pass, Martinez decided to chat with the Heraldâ€šÃ„Ã´s Michael Silverman, his favorite reporter on the beat. Martinez told Silverman he was cutting off all negotiations with the Red Sox until seasonâ€šÃ„Ã´s end. ‘Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m just really sad for the fans in New England who had high hopes thatâ€šÃ„Â¶I was going to stay in Boston,’ Martinez said. ‘[The fans] donâ€šÃ„Ã´t understand whatâ€šÃ„Ã´s going on, but I really mean it from my heartâ€šÃ„Ã®I gave them every opportunity, every discount I could give them to actually stay in Boston and they never took advantage of it. Didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t even give me an offer.’ His contract status, he said, wouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t be a distraction for him or the team ‘because Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not going to allow it.’”
It’s no secret that Pedro and Schilling were not the best of friends, and it’s no secret that Pedro was wounded that Schilling overtook him as the Sox’s best pitcher. It turns out the two pitchers might not be that different after all. Negotiating in the media? Check. Playing on fans’ emotions and Boston’s tendency towards soap operas? Check. Needing the attention focused on himself? Check.
On the upside, 2004 — another season with its fair share of drama — ended up okay when all was said and done.
(Obligatory FTM plug: The reviewers love it, it was a New York Times bestseller, and it’s available for only $17.16 on Amazon. Oh, and, of course, signed, personalized bookplates are still available free of cost. And How can you resist?)