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Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’


When you say the name “Pedro” many people think of Napoleon Dynamite and “Vote for Pedro”. For me there is really only one Pedro: Pedro Martinez.

Pedro Martinez tells his story, along with Boston Herald writer Michael Silverman, in the simply titled Pedro. This is a generally interesting book. As the Boston Globe noted on the cover, “Pedro the book is as smart, funny, and diva-esque as Pedro the pitcher.” This captures Pedro’s personality well.

A few years ago I read Mariano Rivera’s autobiography. That also captured his personality well. These two men, from similar backgrounds and similar dominance at their position at the same time had very different personalities.

Pedro contains more of his views and fewer of the details of his career. Mariano was a bit more factual in regard to the game, and didn’t focus as much on his views. Perhaps Pedro figured most of us had seen his career and wanted to know a bit more about what drove him. Pedro found ways to motivate himself. Every slight, real or imagined, was the catalyst to drive him harder and farther. He speaks much of how the Dodgers didn’t believe in him. Lesser accomplished pitchers with less talent were called up ahead of him. This was added to the chip that was growing on his shoulder. Contract negotiations would water that chip and help if grow. He’d imagine someone had kidnapped and threatened his mother to pitch better (this is a reality many Hispanic players have had to deal with).

This book is more earthy than Mariano’s. There are more cuss words (I don’t recall any in Mariano’s book), and colorful language as well as his greeting for new managers. Liking to be naked in the club house, he’s jump on a bench and “wiggle (his) johnson”. Yes, don’t believe what you heard, locker rooms are sometimes places with behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere.

Pedro speaks a little about his faith but it is very vague. Mariano is more specific about his faith. I’m not exactly sure what to make of that, and I’m just making an observation. Mariano comes across more like you’d expect a professing Christian to sound. Pedro less so. Yet, as I preached this past Sunday, Christianity is about the heart and not man-made rules or traditions. I’d put the language in the file under man-made rules. But not knowing what he believes makes it harder to know. You know?

Pedro focuses on his family of origin, particularly his parents and his older brother Ramon. Pedro loved playing baseball but never thought of making a profession of it until Ramon got his signing bonus and bought the family their first refrigerator. Think about that. Pedro, like the big brother he idolized, wanted to provide for his family. We see glimpses of his providing for others, particularly under-privileged kids in the Dominican Republic and the US. This, I imagine, is part of how his faith influenced his life. We read very little about his romantic life aside from his first romance as a minor league player in Montana until he mentions his relationship with Carolina until they won the 2004 World Series. She and his kids figure far more prominently in the epilogue and afterward.

Riveria also talks about his life in poverty and his family of origin. His wife and child factor in his book more frequently, however. They factored, it seemed, into more of his decisions.

They are very different men. But what made them famous was their ability to throw a baseball. Pedro mentions the people along the way that helped him to pitch better. He didn’t learn to toe the rubber until spring training. During his first All-Star appearance while with the Expos he sat and talked with Maddox and Glavine and learned how to pitch, which helped when he lost his velocity. Unlike Schilling, who wrote it all down, Martinez kept hitters strengths & weakness, tendencies all in his head.

There are some unflattering stories about others. Most of them have to do with the racism he experienced. Or at least cultural insensitivity. Anglo coaches often didn’t realize what life had been like for many of these  young Hispanic men from other countries. In one case, while in the minors his first year, the players were told to hurry up and get on the bus. He and another player went straight to the bus, not wanting to disappoint the coach. They didn’t realize they were expected to shower first (the coach didn’t say that). The coach lit into them and called them dirty as in lacking good hygiene.

Pedro really didn’t like Joe Kerrigan. He was Martinez’ pitching coach in Montreal, then Boston and eventually his manager in Boston. From a distance Kerrigan seemed like a good pitching coach. When he took over for Jimy Williams it all went south from the outside. But Pedro’s relationship with him was burned in Montreal when Kerrigan tried to fit Pedro into his box instead of figuring out what worked well for Martinez. He wanted no stars, and his own way. From Pedro’s perspective Kerrigan tried to take credit for other people’s success. If you are the start pitcher and you watch the coach who really had nothing to do with your greatness get accolades, you understand. There were also rumors of how Kerrigan stabbed Williams in the back. Needless to say, Martinez was not disappointed with the new ownership group fired Joe and hired Grady Little which earned a wiggle of the johnson that Grady probably could have done without.

Pedro mentions a number of players, but very little about what happened behind the scenes. He criticized Mike Piazza at times for his play, but he avoids naming names when it came to steroids. He is no Jason Giambi.

I wish there was more about the 2003 & 2004 Red Sox. Every Sox fan wants to know more about the Idiots who broke the curse.

A few events stood out to me. Martinez talks about a series in NY against the Yankees in 2001. The first game was rained out and rescheduled in June. As a result, Pedro’s next 3 starts were against the Yankees. I had tickets to that rained out game with one of my best friends who lived in the area at the time, and the woman who would become CavWife. She and I ended up at the Cheesecake Factory after we’d driven all the way to the Bronx and parked in a garage before hearing the game was canceled.

My friend, Eddie, and I went into the city on Thursday for the travel day game that afternoon. We didn’t have tickets and the box office said they were sold out (lots of season ticket holders who didn’t show up). We finally found someone selling tickets on the street (remember, this is when there was not Stub Hub). We were in the nosebleeds but I think this was the only time I saw Pedro pitch live. He pitched well, but lost that day. Certainly better than when I went to Fenway (I haven’t been back since) and saw the wrong Martinez, Ramon, get rocked in another day game while I baked by the Pesky Pole.

The other memorable event was his final negotiations with the Red Sox. I read this as another Boston legend, Tom Brady, hit free agency. John Henry, Tom Warner and Larry Lucchiano all wanted to sign Pedro. Theo had his computer with all his graphs and projections that indicated that Pedro had about two good seasons left in him. Pedro wanted at least 3 years (he got 4 from the Mets which the Sox refused to match). I just thought of Bill doing the “math” in his head indicating Brady was declining and having to deal with an owner who likely would do anything to keep Tom. Like Theo, Belichick made the unpopular but hard call. Theo was right. Time will tell if Bill was. Brady may be the next Roger who really wasn’t in the twilight of his career after all.

You get a picture of a man whose greatest strength was also his weakness. This is true for most of us. The anger that drove him to get better caught the attention of the Dodgers and a reason for some of them to question his character. But it was a book that left me wanting more. You can certainly say worse things about a book. And a great player always leaves you wanting to see more. He left us memories of 3 Cy Young award reflecting incredible dominance in the steroid era, his incredible 1999 All-Star game performance, and that gutsy relief performance against Cleveland while hurt in the playoffs. Such greatness and glory is fleeting, so watch it while you can.

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You can’t visit my blog very often without realizing that I am a Boston Red Sox fan. A rabid Red Sox fan who grew up watching the “close but no cigar” in 1975, the horrible collapse of ’78 culminating in Bucky Bleepin’ Dent’s home run that broke the hearts of millions of us in New England. I watched all those heartbreaks and more. And I wept with rare joy when they defeated Leviathan, I mean the Yankees, in the improbable comeback in ’04 and then the Cards to win the World Series.

But I am also a baseball fan. When I lived in central Florida I watched the Rays. I would cheer for them unless they played the Red Sox. But having gone to games in the Trop, I find many Rays fans to be …. really obnoxious. And this before Joe Madden’s “smartest guy in baseball” act that has really worn thin. He is a very good manager but so stinkin’ condescending. Living in AZ now, I cheer for the D’Backs except for the rare occasions they play the Red Sox. I like the D’Backs (and Goldy) a whole lot more than the Rays.

I will confess that I actually cheered for the Yankees to win the first year of their run with Jeter & company. It was about friendship, plain and simple. I’ve read books on Yankees stars: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle. So, I’m not a complete homer.

There is no denying Mariano Rivera’s place in baseball. He was the best closer in baseball for nearly 20 years. He was a one pitch wonder who still got guys out. He was nearly automatic in his prime. Additionally, for me, Mariano is a professing Christian who is using some of what baseball has afforded him to talk about Jesus. My curiosity arose and I wanted to read his autobiography, The Closer (written with Wayne Coffey).

Part of what is interesting is that they left some of Mariano’s imperfect English in the book. As he notes, in the book he didn’t know word one of English when he boarded the flight to Miami as a young man. He credits Tim Cooper for teaching him English on those long rides on the bus in the minors. The book, therefore, feels authentic with talk about eating iguanas and other things. There is a sense of humor to the book because Mariano doesn’t take himself to seriously. His humility shows throughout the book. There was one place where I was a bit surprised, when he mentioned Whitey Bulger. He may keep up on current affairs, but I thought only people in Boston really cared or thought about Bulger.

This book is mostly about baseball. He does devote a few chapters to life before baseball. He is the son of a Panamanian fisherman who was out to sea 6 days a week. It was not an easy life for his family and Mariano seemed destined for a similar life. After dropping out of school he was working on his father’s boat to save money to go to mechanic’s school. He wasn’t a 16 year-old free agent signing who lived in a baseball camp. At this stage in his life he barely played baseball because he was only on dry land one day a week.

Then the improbable happened. A bad pump with a full load of fish meant the boat sank. He now had some time to play baseball. He was an outfielder. One day the starter struggled and the manager inextricably pointed to Riveria in the outfield. He hadn’t pitched in years. He was confused but jogged in and threw strikes allowing his team to get back into the game and win. Destiny isn’t really the issue. Providence is: God working out His purposes and plans in creation. All of these improbable things need to happen for Mariano to go from guy on a fishing boat to signing a contract with the Yankees. Two teammates, wanting the $200 if he was signed, recommend him to a scout who’d previously seen Riveria as an outfielder to no avail. His control, since he still didn’t throw in the 90’s, encouraged the Yankees to take a chance on the skinny fisherman’s kid.

Riveria sees God’s hand at work in his life. This is one theme that runs through the book. There are also plenty of lessons about baseball and the choices that change a life forever. He provides the cautionary tale of Brien Taylor who was a #1 draft pick on his first minor league team. He admired Taylor’s smooth delivery and amazing results. He looked like he was going to deliver. But one night in the off season he came to his brother’s aid in a fight. His injured shoulder needed surgery and he was never the same. The player with tons of talent and expectations was out of baseball and eventually in prison but the guy no one expected to matter would become the greatest closer in history.

At times he shares this thoughts on guys like Jeter, Cano and Alex. You can see his fondness for Jeter (which is well deserved on the field) and frustration with Cano and Rodriguez. Both of them have amazing amounts of talent. But, in Rivera’s opinion, Cano isn’t driven like Jeter to harness it all. He makes the controversial statement that if he had one game to win he’d want Dustin Pedroia as his second baseman. Pedrioa, like Jeter, is driven and engaged on every play. Alex, well, as he says a few times Alex just makes life harder on himself with decisions that don’t make sense.

When he talks about his faith, a few pages at a time, I’m not sure how the ordinary fan will feel. It doesn’t put me off, and it seems to fit what he’s talking about, but I’m in the same boat as him. He doesn’t get bogged down in the distinctive beliefs of his particular church, but sticks to the common beliefs of Christians. That shifts in the epilogue a bit as he talks about the church that he and his wife, Clara who was his high school sweetheart, founded. But I don’t turn to athletes for theology or exegesis, and neither should you.

So you see a portrait of a man who is humble and loves His God. You see a man who enjoyed a life he never envisioned who did not get greedy but shares from the abundance with others. It is not a book to discover dirt but to learn something about his life and circumstances as well as his perspective. He has some life lessons drawn out from those things. It was a good read, particularly when you think of all the different players mentioned. One fact he related is interesting in light of the rash of Tommy John surgeries was that in the 5th game of a series against Seattle, David Cone threw 147 pitches. Not close to Tiant’s 225 in the ’75 World Series, but still amazing in light of the strict pitch counts which would soon enter baseball.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.]

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Slappa my face!

It ain’t over until it is over! It is hard to evaluate a team’s offseason until it is over.

There was a lot of whining in Red Sox Nation about the fact that the Red Sox didn’t sign any high profile players. People fail to see that a few key players got significant raises (like Crawford and A-Gon) and they will probably have the 2nd or 3rd highest payroll in MLB. Even the Yankees were relatively quiet.

Things were busy, and crazy, around Yawkey Way this winter. Theo left a huge mess for Ben Cherington.  He’s a thoughtful NH guy who sounds an awful lot like Theo. But he’s acting like the Theo before the 2003 season. That is the Theo I liked. He played Money Ball, finding undervalued guys like David Ortiz and Kevin Millar that ended up being the foundation of a World Series championship.

(more…)

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The allegation over the winter was that the Red Sox had become the Yankees.  They are perceived as in the Yankees’ league.  But I think that despite the fact that the Red Sox are in the upper tier, yet again, no one is in the Yankees’ league.  Here is the Top 5:

1. Yankees $202,689,028
2. Phillies $172,976,379
3. Red Sox $161,762,475
4. Angels $138,543,166
5. White Sox $127,789,000

The Red Sox are not 2nd in salary.  The Phillies have that distinction.  And they are the only team from the AL in the top 5.  Don’t worry, it balances itself out.  3 of the 5 teams with the lowest payrolls are AL teams.

The Yankees are spending about $41 million more than the Red Sox.  That is great than the payroll of 2 teams, the Rays and the Royals.  The Mets, ranking 7th, are spending $43 million less than the Red Sox.  So, in context, the Sox aren’t in the Yankees’ league regarding payroll.  The Yankees spend far and away more than anyone else.

Note some specifics as well.  Among the top 20 players in salary (Crawford would be there if you include his signing bonus), the Yankees have A-Rod, CC, Tex (in the top 5) and Burnett.  The Red Sox only have 1, Beckett who comes in at 19th.  This means the Red Sox spread out their salary a bit more than the Yankees.  The Yankees will pay A-Rod, CC & Tex just over $79 million dollars.  That is more money than the payrolls of 12 teams.  Yes, 12 teams have lower payrolls.  Toss in Burnett and it is $96 million.  This more than the payroll of 18 teams, 18!

Yes, the Red Sox are one of the teams that spend the most.  But no one spends like the Yankees.

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It has been a strange season.  And it is less than 2 months old.

We have yet to see the 2010 Red Sox.  In the next few days we’ll see something close to the 2010 Red Sox.  If you were to remove 2 starting outfielders from any MLB team, they would struggle.  When they are players like Ellsbury and Cameron, you can understand why the Red Sox have struggled this year.

The players roaming LF and CF in their stead, while driving in some runs, have given up quite a few runs with abysmal defense.  The game against the Yankees earlier this week was marred by missed plays that Ellsbury and Cameron would have made.

Scutaro has done reasonably well as the leadoff man, but Ellsbury adds a whole different dimension.  With the threat of the stolen base, he messes with a pitcher’s head.  The loss of Ellsbury for most of this season has been tremendous.  You take Crawford and Upton out of the Rays’ line up for over and month and they are tanking it.  The only significant injury, if you want to call it that, the Rays have endured is to the bullpen.  Not quite the same as 2 everyday guys.

Their loss put a big strain on the pitching staff.  Here’s hoping that the pitchers not named Lester, Clay and Bard benefit from that increased defensive presence.

So, I think the Red Sox will look very different from this point on.  They will look far more like we expected them to look (except the offense has been better than some people thought it would be).  They are in the running for the Wild Card as the Yankees start to deal with multiple injuries as well.

While we can’t push the reset button, I think we’ll see a much improved team in the weeks and months ahead.  Maybe joy will return to some of the unrealistic fans of Fenway.

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Over on Pats Pulpit (a New England Patriots blog I read most days), they also have links for other news that may interest Patriots fans.  One today has to do with the reality that winning makes working out contracts far more difficult.  Everyone wants their piece of the pie.

I saw this after the Red Sox won in 2004.  It is not particular to Boston, but is a problem for most organizations after a successful run.  The article notes how this problem is already in play down in NY.  That the Patriots (and, gulp, Colts and , double gulp, Yankees) have remained successful for extended periods of time in this climate is amazing.

Pats Pulpit defines it: the disease of me = the defeat of us.

The player (though this can take place in ANY kind of organization, including churches) puts self above team.  Here are some symptoms:

SIX DANGER SIGNALS OF THE DISEASE OF ME:

1. Chronic feelings of under appreciation – Focus on oneself.

2. Paranoia over being cheated out of one’s rightful share.

3. Leadership vacuum resulting from formation of cliques and rivalries.

4. Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully.

5. Personal effort mustered solely to outshine one’s teammate.

6. Resentment of the competence of another – Refuse to admit his contribution.

Photo by John Wilcox, Boston Herald file photo

The Patriots actually suffered from a minor case of the disease last season, if you read between the lines in recent interviews.  The Celtics suffered a bout around mid-season.  It becomes far clearer in contract negotiations.  I wonder if this is the problem with the Logan Mankins negotiations.  The team and player are very far apart.  Is it that Logan has forgotten it is a team sport?  I don’t know him, nor am I privy to the negotiations.  But offensive linemen usually don’t make a boatload of dough compared to QBs, RBs & wide receivers.  Fair?  Maybe not, but that is the reality.  It really isn’t fair that pro football players make far more than really important members of society like policemen, firemen etc.

The disease of me is the sometimes silent killer of successful organizations.  Sometimes it is not so quiet.

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One of my good friends was IMing me on Facebook the other day.  We talked about ministry and moved into a common passion- baseball.  He asked if my Sox had bought up the good players yet.  He kiddingly expressed a common sentitment- that we are the Yankees Jr.

Since the new owners took over the Red Sox have signed precisely 2 big bucks free agents: Dice-K and J.D. Drew.  They inherited Manny (Pedro came in a trade).  They have built this team on trades (only Schilling was a big dollar, big name guy at the time), prospects and under-valued free agents (Big Papi for instance).  Yes, they have re-signed a few guys.  But they have done nothing like the Yankees.  Admittedly, they may break from their pattern with Teixeira (he fits the citeria for them to break the pattern).

The Yankees are trying to out-Yankee themselves this off season.  They want to return to the playoffs and World Series dominance.  Can’t blame them for that!  And they realize that pitching is how you get there.  On this level, the offers to Sabathia and Burnett make lots of sense.  They are trying to rebuild a championship quality team- which last year’s team was NOT.  They didn’t re-sign lots of high-end contracts and they have a big revenue stream working for them.

Here’s what I don’t understand:

  • They basically pled poor by asking for more public funding for their new stadium.  Quite the mixed message.  That’s like saying you need help paying the mortgage while you continue to buy expensive toys or status symbol cars.  Are they next in line for a Federal Bailout?
  • They overpaid, grossly, for Sabathia.  The highest competing offer was about $100 million.  They went to $161 million.  I cries either desperation or Sabathia not wanting to play there except for such an outrageous deal.  He’s very good, but he’s not the best left-handed starter out there. 
  • His great girth is reason for caution for a long-term deal too.  Will he become the next Sidney Ponson, or will he be able to pitch well like David Wells?
  • More curious is his weak record in the playoffs, and particularly against the arch-rival Red Sox.  In other words, CC does great against fair-middling teams but struggles against top-tier teams.
  • They are also over-paying to keep Burnett from signing with the Braves.  He’s got great stuff, but is in his 30’s and hasn’t been healthy except in contract years (hmmmmm). 

So, the Yankees are spending money they inadvertantly claim they don’t have, at a premium when they don’t have to, for long-term deals on guys who are risky (see Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito).  The Yankees continue to make a big splash, but the waves overwhelm the other people in the pool.  They aren’t just accumulating talent (which is fine) but doing it in a reckless, gawdy fashion that disrupts the economics of baseball in a dangerous way.

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