While waiting for the Sunday afternoon Yankee affair to begin in Seattle, I flipped on the first game of the Mets-Phillies day-night doubleheader. As I watched that Phillies’ victory unfold, my thoughts landed on the Mets’ starter, not long for the game, and I thought that I could be watching the end of an era.
Pedro Martinez didn’t make it into the fifth inning on Sunday. He threw just four innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits and a walk. In a very un-Pedro-like fashion, he struck out just one Phillie. That loss would drop Pedro to 5-4 on the season with a 5.44 ERA. In 91 innings, he has allowed 18 home runs while striking out just 68, and he is Pedro in name only.
In two months, Pedro Martinez will be out of a job. His four-year deal with the Mets expires at the end of the season, and after various injuries and surgeries, he will have made around 80 starts for the Mets. For $53 million, they probably expected more.
Now, Pedro will probably get a decent enough contract offer for next year. He’ll be 37 come opening day, and this year’s troubles could be attributed to his rebounding from arm surgery. But no matter what, Pedro is not the Pedro from the days of Who’s Your Daddy? chants. He’s a different pitcher, no longer feared and not nearly as effective as he was while on Boston.
For me, this realization that Pedro is nearing the end is a somber one. In a way, it’s just a part of the changing of the guard in baseball. The kids grow up, they get old and they lose it. Baseball is fleeting; it takes away the skills of the very best after just a few years, and all that’s left are shells of what they once were. Rare are the Jamie Moyer’s, Mike Mussina’s and Mariano Rivera’s, pitchers who have maintained their effectiveness and, in Rivera’s case, dominance well past the usual expiration point.
When Pedro was on the Red Sox, I always wanted the Yankees to face him, and it wasn’t because they somehow managed to find ways to beat him. I wanted to watch Pedro pitch because what he did was an art. Remember September 10, 1999, nine years ago from tomorrow? That was the day the Yanks went 1 for 27 against Pedro, and he struck out 17 hitters. The Yanks scored a run on a Chili Davis home run, and Chuck Knoblauch reached on an HBP only to get caught stealing. It was dominance.
Over the years, Pedro would win some and lose some against the Yankees. But always the games would be fun. He would be cocky on the mound and a joker in the dugout when he wasn’t pitching. Pedro, a member of the hated Red Sox, will always be a part of the years of Yankee dominance. He was the best pitcher in the league during the years when the Yanks were the best in the biz, and he couldn’t do anything about it. But he gave it his all every time out much to my delight.
While Pedro once said that, to the Yankees, he just tips his cap and calls them daddy, I’ll have to tip my cap to Pedro when he finally retires. It was a pleasure watching him do his thing against the Yankees during his heydays on the Red Sox, and I’m sorry to see this era end as Pedro’s flame is seemingly dying in a hurry.