New Met grabs for 'respect'
And to think if we'd just shown him a little more "respect," Pedro Martinez would be back pitching with the Red Sox for the next three years.
Maybe if we'd put his statue on top of the golden dome of the State House. Maybe if Peterborough, N.H., had changed its name to Pedroborough. Maybe if we'd built a Pedro Library on Columbia Point, something equal to the JFK Library. Maybe that would have been enough respect to keep him here.
Actually, no. Upon further review, it now can be said that Pedro knows only one measure of respect. And that is money. All the love and sellouts and Dominican flags and "Keep the Faith" billboards, and championship rings . . . they don't offer any kind of peace or happiness for Pedro. And they certainly don't guarantee respect. No. In the mind of Pedro, respect is measured in one thing -- "how much are you paying me compared with how much you are paying Curt Schilling?" Oh, and guaranteed years, of course.
He doesn't need the money. He has more money than anyone ever could spend. The Sox have paid him $92 million over the last seven years and were set to pay him another $40.5 million for the next three years. But in Pedro's mind, the Mets respect him more because they are willing to guarantee a fourth year at those rates.
Four years guaranteed, $54 million. This is what makes him happy. This is what makes him feel wanted. Now he gets to compare his salary next to Schilling's and be happy about it. He gets the same years and more money than Carl Pavano. With Pedro, it's not about winning championships, or lifestyle, or fan appreciation. It's about wallet-measuring. Whose is bigger?
Pedro's decision to join the Mets is rooted in either greed or insecurity. I know some of you think it's easy for me to casually dismiss a fourth-year guarantee of so many millions, but what difference does that last year make? If you already had more money than you ever could spend, why would you leave for more money?
If you were happy in your job, and had enough money to take care of the next seven generations of your family, would you uproot your life because another employer offered a fourth-year guarantee when your present employer offered only three at the same money? Just for ego? Just to say you trumped the guy in the cubicle next to you? Could you be that insecure about your own place in the world?
That is Pedro.
With Cy Young and Roger Clemens, he goes down as one of the three best pitchers in the history of the Red Sox. In seven seasons here he went 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA. In 1999-2000 he put together two Koufaxian seasons. He should have won the American League MVP in 1999. That was the year he came out of the bullpen in Cleveland, stopped the bleeding with six innings of no-hit relief, and put the Sox into the ALCS. He was dazzling in his one World Series start in '04.
He was smart, fun, and entertaining. He introduced us to a new culture. He made Boston a better place in which to live and he made Fenway a better place in which to play baseball. His talent was infinite. He was a delight. Pedro game days became Fenway festivals.
But the dark side emerged as the years went by. He saw enemies that weren't there. He was rankled when a manager asked him to abide by rules. He figured no rules applied to him. He was Pedro. He needed love and he needed special treatment. He needed periodic vacations -- during the season. He was special and he wanted to make sure everybody knew it.
He looks great in all the photos, goofing with Manny Ramirez, hoisting the trophy, smiling and hugging with his teammates when the World Series was won. But this is the same man who elected to stay in Boston after the Red Sox won Game 5 against the Yankees in the ALCS. He stayed home while his teammates went to New York for Game 6. If the Sox had lost Game 6, Pedro would not have been with his teammates for the dramatic end of the playoff run.
He will be hard to replace. No rotation is improved when it loses a talent like Martinez. But the Sox did the right thing not giving him a fourth year guaranteed. The Mets have a wonderful new pitcher. But it says here Pedro will not last the length of this contract (I said the same thing about Roger Clemens when he went to the Blue Jays in 1997).
It's going to be fascinating to watch him in New York. He gets to pitch in a pitcher's ballpark and he gets to strike out the opposing pitcher once every three innings. But he's not going to have Manny and David Ortiz hitting monstrous homers and watching his back. He's not going to have fans who'll ignore his diva routines. He might even encounter management that wants him to follow the rules like the rest of his teammates. Oh, and he'll have to walk to the plate after buzzing the other team's No. 3 batter in the top of the first. No more diplomatic immunity supplied by the designated hitter. Another weapon lost. Pedro's head-hunting days are endangered.
It's lose, lose, lose all around. The Sox lose. The Mets lose again when the contract becomes an albatross. And Pedro loses everything that worked for him in Boston.
But he's got the four years. He's got the $54 million. And you know what that is? That's respect. And that's the only thing that matters to Pedro Martinez.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.