Pedro 2006: Revisionist history, reunions, and reality

June 28th, 2006 → 10:23 am @

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.

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & John Henry & Larry Lucchino & Mets & Michael Silverman & New York Magazine & Pedro Martinez & Providence Journal

Notes from Fenway, June 27, 2006: The return of Pedro and a new attitude on Yawkey Way

June 28th, 2006 → 1:47 am @

This year will be the third straight in which Fenway Park will sell out all of the Red Sox’s home games; still, there are a handful of games in which the park buzzes with a special kind of electricity. The first time the Sox played the Yankees in 2004 was one of those days as, obviously, was last year’s home opener.

Last night was another one of those games. For the first time since he declined the Red Sox’s three-year offer and signed with the Mets, Pedro Martinez—whose 1999 and 2000 seasons were the best years a pitcher has ever had in a Red Sox uniform, and arguably the best two-year performance in the history of the game—was back at Fenway.

Pedro is unquestionably one of the smartest and best-spoken players in baseball, and he rarely speaks without knowing exactly what he wants to say. During a pre-game press conference (you can see the video on NESN), Martinez said he likely hurt his negotiating position with the Sox by telling them how much he wanted to return to Boston after the ’04 season. He then sent a roomful of reporters into paroxysms of laughter. “I wish Lucchino was here,” he said. Speaking of an airport meeting he had in the Dominican Republic with Lucchino and John Henry, he went on: “I could tell Lucchino like I did before when I tilted my glasses down and tell him that I got four years and he goes, ‘No, bullshit.’ I told him I got four years, after that they were leaving for the Winter Meetings, so now you know how much time they had to work it out.”

Lucchino is an easy target, and Pedro knows it: he’s the person who takes most of the heat when there’s a controversy in Red Sox Nation, and he’s likely the least beloved member of an ownership group that has been all but sainted in New England. But Pedro’s recounting of his negotiations with the Sox isn’t fair. (For details about Martinez’s meeting with Sox ownership on that tarmac, the extent to which he wanted to stay in Boston, and specifics about the minute-by-minute negotiations that ended with Martinez signing with the Mets, check out Feeding the Monster.) In fact, Lucchino was the member of the front office most sentimental about keeping Martinez in a Red Sox uniform.

In years past, this kind of quip would have been all that was needed to drive a spike between a former player and team management. Indeed, the Sox during the Dan Duquette-John Harrington era didn’t expend a lot of energy offering olive branches. (Remember Roger Clemens’ return to Fenway?) The Boston papers had already been speculating about what the reaction to Pedro would be—with many predicting a resounding chorus of boos. Surely the pre-game press conference didn’t help his case.

But one of the many things the current ownership has done so well is make Fenway, and the Red Sox, a happier, more welcoming place. After the first inning tonight, the Fenway JumboTron aired a video tribute to Martinez. It was a wonderful montage: of Pedro dumping water on fans’ heads during a humid summer day; of Pedro bounding onto Busch Stadium’s field like an exuberant child after the Sox’s World Series win; of Pedro glaring in at Derek Jeter after striking him out with a nasty curve; of Pedro pointing to the sky. (I might not have chosen Billy Joel’s “This Is The Time” as the soundtrack, but then I wouldn’t play “Sweet Caroline” every game, either. I’d also kick out any fan who tried to start the wave…but I digress.) And the fans at Fenway cheered. The sound in the stadium grew louder until it became a full-throated roar. Martinez, sitting on the top step of the Mets dugout, watched the video with a huge grin on his face. When it ended, a message flashed across the screen: “Pedro Martinez: Welcome back and welcome always.” With that, Martinez came out of the dugout, tipped his cap, waved to the crowd, and then wrapped his arms around himself as if he wanted to hug the crowd. Fenway was as loud as its been all year. The Red Sox–these Red Sox–are too smart to drive a wedge between the team and one of the most transcendent players ever to play the game.

The Martinez tribute was just one of the emotional, bridge-building moments of the night. Before the game, the Sox had a ceremony honoring the 1986 American League Championship team. Bruce Hurst was there, as were Oil Can Boyd, Spike Owen, and Glenn Hoffman. Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans were there. Even Calvin Schiraldi, the losing pitcher in Games 6 and 7 of the ’86 Series, was there. But Bill Buckner was not. He was, as MC (and Sox radio announcer) Joe Castiglione explained, taking his daughter on a tour of colleges in Washington State. Last time I checked, most colleges aren’t in session in late June, but Buckner can be excused for not wanting to risk the wrath of the Fenway faithful. He shouldn’t have worried. As Castiglione said Buckner would always be welcomed in Boston, the crowd stood and cheered.


On Thursday, there’ll be an on-field ceremony honoring Pedro, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz. Ortiz had an off night–at least by his standards–but it was a good showing by Ramirez. He picked up a pair of RBIs on a gift-wrapped double misplayed by Mets left fielder Lastings Milledge, gunned down Jose Reyes at the plate in the fifth, and joked with Pedro throughout. But one of the most telling play occuring during in the bottom of the sixth. With one out and nobody on, Manny hit a routine grounder to shortstop. And he sprinted down the line.

Post Categories: Pedro Martinez & Red Sox ownership

So it’s no Pedro-Roger in the ’99 playoffs…

June 21st, 2006 → 9:34 am @

June 28, Fenway Park: Josh Beckett versus Pedro Martinez. I’m taking odds on how many times they show the two pitchers’ respective records versus the Yankees in the playoffs.

Martinez: 1-2, 4.72 ERA
Beckett: 1-1, 1.10 ERA, plus a complete game shutout on three days rest to clinch the ’03 Series.

Post Categories: Josh Beckett & Mets & Pedro Martinez & Red Sox & Yankees