Talking Baseball

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Posted by Mike on Thursday, February 10, 2005

First Impressions Mean Everything

Pedro Martinez has had little trouble making headlines this obsession and once again he's made the news by surprising us all. He showed up, get this, early for Spring Training. Red Sox fans, management, and players have spent the last few years collectively going insane because Pedro supplied a seemingly limitless supply of excuses as to why he couldn't show up early enough to get ready for each new season. He's now in New York though and apparently in his time in Boston did learn something about public relations. What better way to set the tone for the new season than to show he's willing to sacrifice for them?

None of this really matters because bedrock a competitor and will bring his best to the mound every time he pitches. Are a few meaningless days of preparation in February really going to make a difference in performance for a pitcher who is one of the all-time best? No, the real difference is that in attitude. Pedro showed up early because he doesn't want his entrance into New York to turn into a media fiasco as it would if he arrived at his traditional time. That's fine, I've got no problem with that because it's the smart thing to do, but it looks like some Red Sox fans are starting to view Pedro as the next Roger Clemens.

I'm not going to defend Roger right now because that's a more difficult task but I think Pedro is in need of defense. Pedro gave the Red Sox seven years of phenomenal performance that included a pair of Cy Young Awards, the pitching Triple Crown, and culminated in a World Series victory. He seemed to enjoy his years with the team and only left because he received a much more lucrative contract offer than what the Red Sox were willing to give him. After he left he went out of his way to say that he enjoyed his time with Boston and loved the fans. He also said that he didn't feel the Red Sox did everything that they could have to bring him back to the team. It would have been better if he had kept his mouth shut about respect and his treatment by the front office but he didn't because that has never been the kind of guy that Pedro is. All of a sudden he had given some fans all the ammunition that they needed to throw him under the bus. They started to focus on all the things he had said or done wrong in his Boston tenure and seemed to forget about all that he did right. Showing up late to Spring Training, mini-vacations in July, brooding because he was second fiddle to Curt Schilling, feuds with Jimmy Williams, and acting like a loose cannon to name a few of his shortcomings. He was characterized as classless and petty when he was probably alluding to closely to the truth for some fans to tolerate.

He seemed to have really enjoyed his time in Boston, that much is easy to believe, but it also seems like he hasn't gotten along with the new front office. There are always two sides to every story and right now there has been little questioning of the practices of the current Red Sox ownership and management. I just can't believe that they are innocent in all of this. People like John Henry and Larry Luccino don't get where they are in the world by being nice businessmen. They get there by being ruthless and always acting in their best interests. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a bad thing for them to be ruthless because it will result in success, but Pedro was burned by their practices and he called them on it. That's going to happen sometimes and it can hurt some fans more than they'd like to admit but turning on the player who speaks out isn't the right way to acknowledge the situation.

Bash Brother

I guess I just don't understand what the fuss is all about. Baseball has been having its share of troubles with steroid rumors, accusations, and revelations the last couples years and all of a sudden Jose Canseco is back in the news. His new book is supposedly going to reveal a number of players who Canseco knows were using steroids during his playing days. Do we really need Jose Canseco to tell us anything? He's a player who threw away all the talent in the world, abused steroids, is arguably as dumb as a rock, and has had trouble with the law since finishing his baseball career. He just isn't a credible source.

Okay, let me put it another way. What do we trust more? Do we trust our own eyes and intuition more than we trust Jose Canseco? I certainly do. Since that is the case then do we really need Jose Canseco to tell us that Mark McGuire's numbers and HR record were aided by steroid use? It's not like spotting steroid users is really such a difficult task for the casual fan. Huge ballplayers like McGuire seem to have become more common in recent years and it only seems logical that they're aided by some sort of unnatural means. We see players come up all the time who are small and quick and then transform into muscular monsters by the end of their careers. That is if they manage to stay healthy long enough. So do we really need Jose Canseco to tell us what we already know?

But he's back in the news because the sports media can't let baseball get away from its past. The strike in the early 90s nearly killed the sport but it managed to survive because when it returned it was exciting. There was more scoring in general and there was the home run race between McGuire and Sosa. The fans finally returned in force but it seems like baseball is now paying for the means necessary to save itself. Between Balco, Bonds, Giambi, Canseco, and the new drug testing policy that the government essentially forced on the sport there hasn't been a week in which baseball and steroids haven't been a headline.

The players seem to want steroid testing, the fans want it, and baseball needs it. A newer and tougher version is finally here but only time will tell its true effectiveness. This whole steroid controversy is starting to get very old and tired so can we just let the past stay where it is focus on the present and the future of baseball?

Uh, what were they thinking?

I'm kicking back and watching a rebroadcast of game 7 of the 2004 ALCS and I can't help to wonder what Terry Francona and Pedro Martinez were thinking in the 7th inning. I know this particular inning was rehashed over and over months ago but I still can't understand what logic was behind what occurred.

On the one hand is Terry Francona who decided to end Derek Lowe's night after 6 innings and bring in Pedro Martinez. Lowe pitched a fantastic game but he seemed to be cooked and there wasn't any good reason to send him out there for another 3 outs. Fine, that seems logical to me, so there's little to wonder about that move. The man who replaces Derek Lowe? A certain Pedro Martinez. All of a sudden the crowd comes back to life and there is a terrifying feeling for Red Sox fans that the Yankees aren't quite done scoring runs. After the game I remember Francona, Pedro, and even Schilling wondering aloud why the Yankees fans came back to life when they saw Pedro take the mound? A chorus of "Who's your daddy?" and an echoing "Paaaaay-Droooooe" were fueled by the whipping boy status that Pedro had achieved with his late season comments about just not being able to beat the Yankees. Apparently some of the members of the Red Sox were unaware as to how much the Yankees fans had really latched onto Pedro's words?

This all would have been fine if Pedro had come out of the bullpen throwing bullets and quickly quieted the fans. Instead he decided to go with his high-80s fluff fastballs and promptly gave up a few runs. Whoops. It wasn't like Pedro didn't have his "A" stuff in reserve when he took the mound. After he gave up those two runs he seemed to sense the moment, the 7th inning of game 7 of the ALCS, and all of a sudden his velocity jumped almost 10 mph. Instead of throwing 87-89 mph he finished the inning with 95-97 mph heat. In all seriousness, what the heck was he saving his arm for in the 7th inning of game 7 of the ALCS?

~ Mike


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