One thing god definitely wants is for him to cash that $52 million check

November 4th, 2006 → 10:24 am @

“Pedro Martínez says that if his right shoulder doesn’t return to full strength, he would consider retiring. Martínez had surgery Oct. 5 to repair a torn rotator cuff. ‘To go back I have to recover. I have to be healthy,’ said Martínez. ‘But if God doesn’t want that, then I would have to think about giving it all up.'”

— The Boston Globe‘s “Baseball Notebook,” November 4, 2006.

Coming tomorrow: hours of callers on ‘EEI lauding the Sox’s decision not to offer Pedro Martinez a guaranteed, four-year, $50 million-plus contract after the 2004 season.

Post Categories: Pedro Martinez & Red Sox front office & Sports Reporters

Year-end wrap-ups: Dodging a bullet with Pedro

October 3rd, 2006 → 6:04 pm @

Two thousand and six was — by far — the worst year of Pedro Martinez’s bejeweled career. His year-end line: 9-8, 132.2 innings pitched, a 4.48 ERA, 137 K’s. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s Pedro’s worst ERA ever. The only season in which he’s had less strikeouts was 1993…his rookie year. His two-year totals with the Mets are 24-16, 345 Ks, and a 3.55 ERA. That would have put him eighth in NL ERA this year.

Pedro did, to be sure, display flashes of the brilliance that has made him one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. Even with his miserable performances of the last several weeks, his .220 BAA would have placed him third in the league (behind Chris Young and Carlos Zambrano) had he pitched enough innings to qualify. And during the season’s first months, he showed, perhaps more than ever before, that he’s a brilliant pitcher and not just a fireballer.

But the Pedro Martinez who finished the year looked a lot different from the one that sauntered into Boston on June 28 for his first start at Fenway since he left the Sox after 2004. At that point, he was 7-3 with a 3.02 ERA, and there was lots of moaning about how the Sox should have done more to re-sign Pedro when he hit free agency. There were stories in the press about how Pedro wanted to come back, but the Sox just wouldn’t pony up.

That, to but it bluntly, is a pile of crap. I pointed that out at the time and got no small amount of grief. There might have been circumstances in which Pedro would have come back to Boston, but he gave every indication that it was not his first choice.

And as painful as this season was, it would have been more painful if Pedro had been another one of the walking wounded populating Yawkey Way. Pedro never was quite able to accept Curt Schilling taking over the mantle as the best pitcher on the Sox’s staff. He griped about it before the ’04 season, he griped about it during the ’04 season, and he griped about it after he signed with the Mets. As Peter Gammons said two years ago, it was “preposterous” that Pedro didn’t bother to show up in New York for Game 6 of the ’04 ALCS…a game Schilling happened to be pitching. With all of the drama and all of the soap operas swirling around Fenway this year, can you imagine what it would have been like to add a hurt, jealous Pedro Martinez to the mix?

Finally, after two years in which Pedro cost the Mets a million bucks a win (which is, granted, slightly less than what Matt Clement has cost the Sox thus far), there’s a decent chance that the $26 million he’s costing the team for ’07 and ’08 will be pretty much sunk costs. If the Red Sox want to continue trying to compete with the Yankees, there’s two things they can’t do: make poor decisions (more on that later) and spend tens of millions of dollars on players in, ahem, the twilight of their careers.

I’ve said many, many times that Pedro is one of my all-time favorite players. I got chills when he returned to Fenway. Watching him strike out 17 Yankees in 1999 is one of the highlights of my baseball-watching life. But it should be clearer than ever that the Red Sox — whether that be Theo, Larry, or whomever — made the right move in not ponying up more than 50 million for a 33-year-old pitcher who is generously listed as being 5-11 and has had a history of shoulder problems.

(More year-end wrap-ups and report cards — as well as a look back at the free-agent pitching class of 2004 — in the days to come.)

Post Categories: 2006 Wrap-ups and report cards & Pedro Martinez

Cutting off your nose to spite your blogger

September 28th, 2006 → 9:04 am @

Look, Josh, I know it’s embarrassing to be outed as taking your pitching cues from me…but allowing the Devil Rays to blow open the game just to prove me wrong? That’s just childish. And now you’re going to need to live with your 5.01 ERA for the whole offseason.

That’s right: the $30 million dollar man finished his first year in Boston going 16-11 and an ERA that would get him bounced out of the starting rotations in a lot of teams. He topped 200 innings, sure…but man, some of those were brutal innings.

It wasn’t a good day around the rest of the league, either. At least for Sox fans. The Marlins, that other team from Florida, beat the Reds on the strength of 5 innings of two-run ball from former Sox pitching prospect Anibal Sanchez (bringing him to 10-3 on the season) and two home runs by former Sox shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez (one of which was an inside-the-park shot). In LA, former Red Sox playoff hero Derek Lowe won his seventh straight decision, bringing him into the league lead for wins (16); Lowe hasn’t lost since August 9. Oh, and former Sox All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra also rapped out three hits in the game, brining his average (.306) above every member of the Sox save for the MIA Manny Ramirez (.318). (Nomar also left the game because of lingering soreness from his strained oblique.) Finally, Pedro Martinez, the only former Sox player that virtually everyone in Boston wants to succeed, was rocked for the third straight time. Last night, Pedro didn’t make it out of the third inning, the second time this season he failed to record at least nine outs; previous to 2006, he’d gone 289 straight starts in which he lasted three innings or more, going back to 1996. That was the longest streak of 3-innings plus in eighty-seven years, since the Big Train did it for 313 starts from 1911 through 1919. Sure, this validates Boston’s decision not to give Pedro a four-year deal — right now it seems possible the Mets will end up paying him $52 million for a season and a half of regular season starts and 0 playoff games — but it hurts to see Pedro struggle so.

The good news — and yes, I’m reaching here — is that the Orioles are coming to town, and Baltimore’s one of the few teams that make the Sox look like they deserve that $120 million-plus payroll. And there’re three more games for Papi to add to his Red Sox-record 54 home runs.

Post Categories: David Ortiz & Josh Beckett & Pedro Martinez

Back to the future, alternate universe edition (I know I’m supposed to come up with a wrestling headline here)

August 17th, 2006 → 10:26 am @

The Red Sox have lost 12 out of 20 games. David Wells — who not long ago said he wanted to blow up Fenway — has become the team’s ace. The combined salaries of Keith Foulke and Matt Clement are higher than the Florida Marlins’ payroll. Mike Timlin discovered there are not one, but two i’s in his last name. And it’s beginning to feel like any time David Ortiz doesn’t hit a ball out of the park, the Sox lose. (For anyone wondering, that’s not technically true.) It’s been a grim stretch, and one that would depress any team — the Royals, the Devil Rays, even the Cardinals. Last night’s win over the Tigers didn’t alter the fact that the Sox have the feel of a team with the wheels coming off. Remember interleague play, when it seemed as if the Sox were incapable of beating themselves? For the last month, it’s been the opposite: time and time and time again, the Sox have handed away wins because of mental lapses or stupid moves or plain old bad execution. It hasn’t been fun, and it hasn’t been pretty.

I understand that people get testy when their team loses. I also understand that reality is starting to settle in; for the first time in four years, the Red Sox don’t particularly feel like they’re a team that deserves to make the playoffs. Could it happen? Sure: if Beckett morphs into the pitcher he’s shown glimpses of being; if the middle relief stops coughing up runs as if they were party favors; if Manny and Ortiz once again carry the team on their backs for the last month of the season. But last year, and especially the two years before that, not making the playoffs would have been a slap in the face: those were teams that were too good not to be playing ball in October. The 2006 Red Sox feel like a good team with some flaws and a lot of bad luck. Unless you’re in the National League, that’s usually not good enough.

What I don’t get is people insisting the Sox would be running away with the division if they’d only kept Pedro/Damon/OCab/Dave Roberts/Nelson de la Rosa. By this point, I know all too well that there’s no sense arguing facts when emotion is involved. (See: the Red Sox really are like world politics!) But there are a few things I want to remind people of:

1. This year Pedro was 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA versus AL teams; the Mets were 1-3 in his three AL starts. (Last year he was 1-1 (the Mets were 1-3) with a 3.21 ERA.*) He started the season with a toe injury. He was out for all of July with a strained hip. He’s back on the DL with a strained calf. Pedro Martinez would not be an all-purpose savior. If the Red Sox had Pedro Martinez circa 1999, they’d be running away with the division. They’d also be running away with the division if they had Nomar circa 1999, Yaz circa 1967, or Williams circa 1941. Those players are gone. (Not to beat a dead horse, but Pedro did not have a four-year offer from any team in baseball until the night he signed with the Mets. Fernando Cuza told the Sox what Pedro needed to return to Boston; the Sox gave it to him. Pedro used the Sox’s offer as leverage with Omar Minaya. If you want to read more about this, it’s in pps. 318 – 325 of my book. If you want to go to your grave thinking this was a Carlton Fisk-like screw up, there’s nothing I can say that’ll make you feel any differently.)

2. Ten million dollars a year for a 32-year old center fielder with a lifetime .290 average (.784 OPS) and a throwing arm that requires a daisy chain of cutoff men is not an insulting offer. Regardless, Scott Boras told the Red Sox not to bother making Damon any other offer if they couldn’t match his imaginary six-year, $72 million contract. Instead, the Sox ended up with a player with very similar career numbers who happens to be six years younger and $10 million cheaper. (If you want to read more about this, it’s in pps. 389 – 392 of my book.)

3. Over the past half-decade, the Sox have had a half-dozen superstar-type players, (and Johnny Damon makes this list more because of his cult status than anything else). If they’d held on to all of these players, this is how between half and three-quarters of the team’s 2008 payroll would be spent (players’ ages are in parentheses):

Pedro Martinez, $13 million (37)
Johnny Damon, $13 million (35) (also owed $13 mil for 2009)
Manny Ramirez, $20 million (36)
Nomar Garciaparra, $17 million (35)
Jason Varitek: $10 million, (36)
David Ortiz: $13 million, (32)
Curt Schilling (not under contract for 2008)

That’s six players with an average age of 35 and an average salary of $14 million, for a total of $86 million. The only one of those players who has a chance to be worth that kind of money that far down the line is Papi. I’d say it’s even money as to whether Nomar and Pedro will still be in the game. (And for those who want to exclude Nomar from this list, you can’t pick and choose which one-time greats you want to keep in town after you see how it all works out.)


Yesterday, Bill Simmons took an odd, passive-aggressive swipe at me in his ESPN column. To wit: “I could spend the next 3,000 words ranting and raving about the unacceptable performance of the Henry/Theo regime since they won the World Series…but I don’t want to ruin my chances of getting a key to the office next season. So let’s just say that everyone did a swell job and I fully support every moronic decision that was made. Now where’s my key?” I say odd and passive-aggressive because instead of just calling me out he threw in a coded reference that’d make sense only to people who not only knew about my book but knew a lot of the details about its writing. I have no idea what my access in 2005 has to do with what I write on a blog in 2006. I hadn’t written a word about the Sox when the team and I agreed that I’d write a book. And nothing I do (or don’t) write now is going to get me a key (or any access) in the future; that ship has sailed. (Another side note: Apparently, people only like complaining about the so-called negative Boston media until they get upset…and then they want to complain about the lack of negativity.) For the record, there’s plenty about the last few years I disagreed with, at the time and in retrospect. I didn’t like the Renteria signing when it happened, and when members of the front office told me last year that their scouting on Renteria indicated that he was a better defensive player than he ended up being, I felt like asking them what their eyes had told them: in 2004, Renteria looked like a good defensive shortstop the way Derek Jeter looks like a good defensive shortstop. A lot of the front office, and Theo in particular, thought a more mild-mannered team would make it easier for the players to deal with the media frenzy and fan adulation that comes with playing in Boston. I thought differently, although to be fair I’m not totally sure if that’s because it’s fun to cover — and watch — a bunch of Johnny Damons than a bunch of Mark Lorettas. And I’m at a loss to explain how a front office that is so smart and so hard-working have a seeming inability to put together a reliable bullpen.

But like I said, the personal swipe isn’t what really bothers me. (It’s hard not to take some perverse pride in being the only writer in America who’s disliked by both Bill Simmons and Dan Shaughnessy.) What does bother me is complaining about today while ignoring both yesterday and tomorrow. It’s that attitude that results in shortsighted moves. The Red Sox are not the Yankees. (Thank god for that — if the Yankees had made good decisions, like, say, signing Carlos Beltran instead of Randy Johnson, it’d be a hell of a lot harder to compete with a $200 million payroll. And maybe it’s just me, but I have more fun rooting for a team when it’s not so painfully apparent its m.o. is to just go out and try to buy championships; I’m into the smarts and nerve stuff, too. I love baseball because of the way it mirrors life, and sometimes life is unfair. Sometimes Matt Clement gets hit flush in the side of the head with a line drive after being named an All-Star; sometimes David Wells takes a ball off his balky knee the day he comes off a trip to the DL necessitated by his balky knee. And sometimes you break a leg just before you’re supposed to go skiing in the Alps. When that happens, you need to deal with it; you don’t get to go buy a new leg.) I wish August 2006 were more like August 2004, too. But I’m glad the Sox have made some unpopular decisions over the past few years — letting Cliff Floyd walk, signing David Ortiz, trading Nomar. I’m also glad that, come 2008, I won’t be watching a team hamstrung by a bunch of bloated contracts. Could the Sox have made a trade deadline move? Sure. Do I wish they had? Yup. When I think of Timlin, Delcarmen, and Hansen do I say to myself, as Simmons does, “ALL OF THEM SUCK!” Nope. Do I think the plan is to “go to war with a one-man bullpen for the next 10 weeks?” Nope.

Then again, when Hansen and Delcarmen are helping to nail down the playoffs in a year or two, I’ll be watching the games instead of ordering my second venti latte of the day. (How’s that for passive aggresive?)

* Edited after correction by aro13 in comment #42.

Post Categories: Bill Simmons & Dan Shaughnessy & David Ortiz & Feeding the Monster reactions & Nomar Garciaparra & Pedro Martinez & Theo Epstein

Remind me why we had to take this guy as a throw-in in the Lowell trade?

August 15th, 2006 → 10:33 am @

I know — or I hope I know, anyway — that the Josh Beckett we’ve seen over the last few weeks isn’t the Josh Beckett we’re going to see for the next few years. As I said about a week ago, it looks to me like Beckett needs to work on his maturity (and his need to prove he’s more of a man than the hitters he’s facing) more than anything else. This is a guy with too much talent to implode. And we’d do well to remember how young he is, almost exactly the same age as rookie Jonathan Papelbon. (As a quick aside, please, please don’t start posting comments about how Papelbon would be as good a starter as he is a closer. History is littered with failed starters who became dominant closers. Papelbon might become a very effective starter; his performance this year doesn’t guarantee it.) But as Gordon Edes wrote in today’s Globe, Beckett’s thrown up some really awful numbers: a 5.74 ERA post All-Star break, a 12.00 ERA in his seven losses. That looks like the numbers of someone who isn’t good at getting out of jams.

Some other quick notes from last night: Demarlo Hale made a mistake when he sent Manny home in the eighth. But it wasn’t a flat-out stupid move: the Sox were four runs behind in the eighth, facing a pitcher regularly breaking 100 mph (Wily Mo said the pitch he struck out on was the fastest fastball he’s ever seen), and Tigers center fielder was throwing to third when Hale waved Manny home. It was only an Alex Gonzalez-like play by shortstop Carlos Guillen that got the out. Was it disappointing? Sure. Was it a move worthy of complaints about Hale’s ability or articles dissecting all the criticism? Nope. Hale’s done a great job. He took a risk and it didn’t work out. Let’s move on.

Finally — and I know this is risking a flurry of hate mail — let’s look at what happened last night to the Mets ace. After starting the year with an inflamed big toe and spending two weeks on the DL with an inflamed right hip, Pedro Martinez left last night’s game after a disastrous first inning with a strained right calf. Once again, I’ll remind people that the Red Sox had offered Pedro a three-year contract worth $40 million. Once again, I’ll remind people that the reason the Sox didn’t offer Pedro four years (besides the fact that Pedro never gave the team the chance to match the 11th hour offer by the Mets) was concerns about his durability. And once again, I’ll remind people that Pedro’s track record against NL teams has been markedly different from his performance versus the AL East. I’ve gotten tons of hate mail — more repulsive, hair-tingling, inane vitriol — about the fact that the Sox didn’t keep Pedro and I’ve dared point out why that might have made sense. I’ve gotten more nasty letters directed at Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, and the team’s baseball operations crew about this issue than any other. Those letters are confusing emotion with reality. We all miss Pedro. On some level, all baseball fans have a deeply romantic streak; on some level, we all wish our heroes would always stay young and would always retire with the team. And in reality, especially during this era of exploding free-agent salaries, it doesn’t always make sense to do this.

Post Categories: Josh Beckett & Pedro Martinez

Sneak Peeks: October 16, 2003

June 28th, 2006 → 11:54 pm @

This is the third in an occasional series of Sneak Peeks from Feeding the Monster. The section below takes place on Thursday, October 16, 2003, in the seventh game of the 2003 American League Championship Series.

When Pedro Martinez returned to the mound in the eighth inning of Game 7, John Henry felt as if he were watching a horror movie. He knew Martinez was spent; hell, Henry thought, any sentient being watching the game knew the pitcher was cooked. He looked over at [Theo] Epstein, sitting a couple of sections away, and the two men caught each other’s eye. Epstein gave a little shrug, as if to say, “I don’t know what he’s doing out there, either.” Martinez got the first batter to pop up to shortstop, putting Boston five outs away from victory, and a trip to the World Series. Then, in an instant, the Yankees bats began lashing at Martinez’s pitches. Derek Jeter sized up a shoulder-high 0-2 fastball and smacked it into right field, where Trot Nixon misplayed a catchable ball into a double. With Bernie Williams at the plate, even the TV announcers were saying that, regardless of what happened here, Alan Embree would likely come in to face the left-handed Hideki Matsui, who was on deck. Williams hit a sharp single to center, scoring Jeter. 5-3.

Now, finally, Grady Little shuffled out of the dugout and over to the mound, where he conferred with Martinez. In his seat, Henry was beside himself. At least, he reassured himself, there’s still a two-run lead and Martinez was finally coming out of the game. The, inexplicably, Little walked back to the dugout alone, leaving Martinez on the mound to face the dangerous Matsui. Henry turned to Larry Lucchino. “Can we fire [Little] right now?” Henry asked.

What was John Henry’s reaction when the Red Sox lost the game? How did the collapse in Game 7 effect the team’s offseason? Find out the answers to these questions, along with details about Pedro Martinez’s contract negotiations and the fallout after his departure, in Feeding the Monster, out July 11 from Simon & Schuster.

Post Categories: 2003 Playoffs & Baseball & Feeding the Monster Sneak Peeks & Grady Little & John Henry & Larry Lucchino & Pedro Martinez & Red Sox & Theo Epstein

Now that you mention it, that’s another reason it made sense to sign with the Mets

June 28th, 2006 → 11:32 pm @

Pedro Martinez, 2006

NL East
3.02 ERA
10.00 K/9
.86 WHIP

AL East
4.76 ERA
7.94 K/9
1.29 WHIP

Post Categories: Mets & Pedro Martinez & Red Sox