Talking Baseball

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Posted by Mike on Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Mercenary

It's Opening Day (Part ...3?) and I'm swamped with work. I know, life isn't fair. More than anything though I'm worried about Pedro's wing. Ben mentioned that Sox fans aren't worried about Pedro because spring training performance doesn't really mean anything. I for one am absolutely terrified.

There is a widespread belief that Pedro at 88 mph can be almost as effective as Pedro at 93 mph because he has excellent command and movement. I don't doubt that he can be successful throwing a little softer but this line of thought seems to avoid the real problem at hand, Pedro's health. During his prime Pedro was able to throw in the 93-94 mph range regularly (not just when he needed it with men on base) and could reach 97-98 mph when he really needed a little extra pop. Early in the 2003 season Pedro was still throwing 91-92 mph and maxing out in the 95 mph range. During the playoffs he could barely break 90, although he was able to dial it up on just a few pitches. His average fastball seemed to be about 85-86 mph. In fact, during the ALCS he was barely breaking 80 mph. Much of this decline was attributed to fatigue caused by the extra stress on his shoulders over the last month of the regular season.

Unfortunately, I can't accept that as being the soul reason for his decline. We all know that Pedro has yet to be resigned by the Red Sox and will likely be testing the free agent waters this coming winter. He views himself as one the premier pitchers in baseball (which he was... er, is) and wants big money. He's not looking for Curt Schilling money ($12-13 million). No, he wants Pedro Martinez money. Part of the problem that premier players are currently facing is that the free agent market has adjusted dramatically since they last signed a contract. There are no more Kevin Brown or Mike Hampton deals out there anymore. This isn't to say that there isn't a $60 million paycheck out there with Pedro's name on it.

If you've heard Pedro speak (he's been quiet since Baltimore last year), then you know he is a very intelligent man. He knows that there's a market out there for his arm even if the Sox seem to feel he isn't worth the risk. The problem is that he has to get to that market in one piece. Missing a chunk of the season to the DL will only reinforce the perception that he is fragile and a high risk acquisition. He may be the most dominant pitcher in the game, but what good is he if he's going to miss a season recovering from surgery?

I think he's pitching through some pain because he does not want to miss any more time than he has to this year. He's hurt and won't admit it. I don't know if other Sox fans are in denial but this seems to be a path destined to blow up in his face and ours. At least we have Curt Schilling to carry the staff if Pedro finally succumbs to his injury.

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