I went to Port St. Lucie for spring training for the first time in 2008. It was a different point of view, to say the very least, from a fan who watched her games solely from the sightlines at Shea Stadium (or wherever I happened to catch the Mets on the road), where players seems very inaccessible, and they have a job to do.
At PSL, players seemed more accessible, willing even to commiserate with fans. I got many autographs, photos and even got Moises Alou to acknowledge me when I started chanting his name.
I attended open workouts one morning, and saw the players bonding in their morning drills.
During the offseason leading into 2008, the Mets had a lot of work to do. From 2006 and going within one game of making the World Series to an epic collapse late in the 2007 season, they had some work to do. Omar Minaya orchestrated a trade for Johan Santana, who was arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball. Trading away a bunch of scrubs who haven’t really amounted to much to Minnesota, and negotiating an extension with El Gocho, easily the Mets became a force in 2008.
Yet what led to the Mets dominance in 2006 was the offseason in 2005. Forget signing Carlos Beltran (who has contributed to some of my post-traumatic Mets disorder in more ways than one…and I loved the guy). Some would argue that the Mets signing Pedro Martinez, fresh off his championship with the Boston Red Sox, was the catalyst that allowed the Mets to pursue Beltran, easily the crown jewel of that market of free agents.
When that signing went down, I was like – huh? I do remember emailing Dad and Uncle Gene about the deal. See, we had an inside joke with Pedro Martinez, from the 2003 ALCS, the mythical series where Aaron Boone broke the heart of millions of Bostonites.
During that series, a brawl broke out between the two teams, and Pedro Martinez threw Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground as Zimmer charged Martinez. Some people would argue that Pedro was a “thug,” that it was cheap that he threw down an old man.
Dad and Uncle Gene had a different perspective. I believe the terms “Fuck that fat fuck, Don Zimmer!” and “If I was Pedro Martinez, I’d have thrown Don Zimmer on the ground too” or my personal favorite “I’d not only have thrown him down, I’d have kicked Zimmer in the nuts, and done a victory lap around Fenway, on national TV, in front of all of America.”
To say they were excited about the prospect of Martinez being a starter on the Mets would be a massive understatement.
I was like – Meh. I guess, as Omar Minaya put it, Martinez was certainly better than the other options on the team, which was re-signing Al Leiter. Once the deal with Martinez went through, it was evident that Leiter had no use on the Mets either. In fact, while Leiter was one of my faves on the late-90s teams, he had outgrown his usefulness. Watching games with him starting was almost as bad as Steve Trachsel. At least you knew Trachsel would take long, but he’d give you innings. Five Innings Leiter was no longer useful.
Some people point to 2006 for the Mets as that one special year, and I have to admit that as a Mets fan, it was one of the most fun years in recent memory. I think what was most fun was that it wasn’t expected. That said, 2006 has provided more post-traumatic Mets disorder, when I think about it, either relating directly to that year or post-2006.
But 2005, that was a FUN year. The race for the Wild Card, the emergence of David Wright and Jose Reyes as the future of the team. I found myself going to more Mets games in recent memory.
Mostly, what stood was every fifth day, when Pedro Martinez started. The very first night he pitched, the Mets famously had 10,000 walk up sales at the ticket booth. You never knew what to expect with Martinez. Whether he danced in the dugout, or got sprinkled from the sprinkler systems during a game, it was also entertainment in the highest form.
It’s tough. When I think about Pedro Martinez and his time with the Mets, I can’t help but think about how much he fell short of expectations. I don’t give a shit about how old he was, whether Omar Minaya had to offer that fourth year, whether his arm fell off.
The truth of the matter is, we’d be looking at a totally different Mets history in that time had Pedro Martinez been healthy. Maybe they would have won definitively in 2006. Maybe they had more consistent starting pitching in 2007, and didn’t rely on getting lightning in a bottle as they had in 2006 (a strategy that ultimately worked with the likes of Jose Valentin), and they would have not collapsed they way they did.
But 2008 is when I really started to dislike Pedro Martinez.
He did not prove useful in 2006. It was too little too late in 2007 when he finally returned in September that year. Like many, I felt that his injuries were limitations, that it was just the luck of the draw, etc etc.
When I was visiting Port St. Lucie, I saw Pedro Martinez waltz into camp like he had all the time in the world. I saw his futzing around, being his usual Pedro-self, the one that made the headlines and had entertained millions.
I got pissed off, watching this as a fan. The Mets just came off a historic collapse, after going so far in 2006, and he was injured both times. I could even point back to 2005, when the Mets were in the Wild Card hunt, when I started to notice there was nothing in it for Pedro. Late in 2005, the Mets had a series against the Phillies, and Ramon Castro hit a late game home run to take the lead. Pedro started the next day. Yet, the Pedro who was around that season didn’t show up, and got shellacked.
When it was evident that the Mets weren’t making the playoffs, Pedro Martinez shut himself down. Not the Mets. Not the coaching staff. Not his agent. But HIMSELF. He was scheduled to start the last game of the season, and he didn’t even stay with his team. He was back at home, watching the game on television, as we saw Mike Piazza’s last game ever as a Met, and Victor Zambrano make the last home start.
Talk about your post-traumatic Mets disorder.
Most of this disgust came about though, when Pedro made his first start in 2008 against the Florida Marlins. See, Johan Santana made the opening day start on the road…euphoria led to Pedro. Who barely made it out of the game with his shoulder intact.
I saw Pedro for who he was: a clown with a great pitching career previously, but with an entertainment quotient. He didn’t care whether the Mets were successful. He called the shots, the Mets allowed him to, and again he didn’t factor into another Mets season where one game would have made a huge difference.
Some people accused me of expecting too much. But what was the point of signing Pedro Martinez to a four year contract if they didn’t expect him to contribute on some level. And don’t give me that crap that it was ALL worth it for 2005. No. It would have been worth 2005 HAD he come through when they needed him to during the Wild Card hunt.
To me, Pedro Martinez was yet another Hall of Fame caliber player who lost his mojo by coming to Queens. Pedro Martinez was the king of too little, too late.
The truth is, Pedro Martinez never came through when his team needed him most.
Whether it’s an injury cop out, or whether we’re told that we expected too much from Pedro because of his age or his injury history. Had I never seen Pedro Martinez jerking around during his workout sessions in a year that his conditioning got him into trouble early in the season, maybe I’d be none the wiser, and I’d always just wonder what would have happened if Pedro stayed healthy.
It could be argued that Pedro Martinez didn’t take his time with the Mets seriously. And if that happened, we may be looking at an entirely different history.
Disappointment in Pedro Martinez’s time with the Mets is just part of the post-traumatic Mets disorder. His time overlapped some of the most inefficient and post-traumatic Mets disorder inducing period. To me, he could have helped the team. Instead, he just copped out of his responsibilities, and didn’t believe he needed to improve anything.
So fuck Pedro Martinez.