Oct 29

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #2; Martinez no fool.

GAME 2: Martinez vs. Burnett

GAME 2: Martinez vs. Burnett

Don’t think for a minute Pedro Martinez didn’t know what he was saying the other day at his Yankee Stadium press conference. If the topic of his brawl with former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS at Fenway Park wouldn’t have been asked, Martinez, no doubt, would have raised the issue. VIDEO

It has nothing to do with dissing the Yankees, but getting himself motivated. Martinez is one of those athletes who seeks the outside motivator. To be taunted tonight in Game 2 – “who’s your daddy?” – is what he lives for. Martinez relishes being booed. He has a me-against-the-world mentality.

THE BRAWL: One of Pedro's Greatest Hits.

THE BRAWL: One of Pedro's Greatest Hits.

Yesterday was for show, for fueling his competitive juices. Martinez is no longer the dominating figure who could back up the bravado with performance. Martinez is no longer the Cy Young Award winner who, when asked about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, said: “I’m starting to hate talking about the Yankees. The questions are so stupid. They’re wasting my time. It’s getting kind of old … I don’t believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass, pardon me the word.”

Just as he gets by more on guile than his fastball on the mound, Martinez isn’t in position to boast anymore, so he played the misunderstood, scorned role. It’s how he built his competitive fire for Game 2 tonight when he starts against A.J. Burnett with the objective of giving the Phillies a 2-0 games lead and a grip on the World Series when it heads to Philadelphia Saturday.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tabbed the mercenary Martinez because of his ability to handle the pressure of Yankee Stadium. Martinez played his relationship with Yankees fans for all it was worth.

“I don’t know if you realize this, but because of you guys in some ways, I might be at times the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium. I can honestly say that,” Martinez said. “I have all the respect in the world for the way they enjoy being fans. Sometimes they might be giving you the middle finger, just like they will be cursing you and telling you what color underwear you’re wearing.”

Martinez also used the Zimmer brawl to his advantage. He said regrets the brawl and deflected blame by saying it wasn’t his fault, conveniently forgetting the fastball that hit Karim Garcia. That game also featured the snapshot of Martinez jawing with Jorge Posada while pointing his finger to his head. Martinez’s version was he was telling Posada to think, that he wasn’t throwing intentionally at the Yankees.

The Yankees’ version is different, saying he was warning Posada of what might happen next.

“It was an ugly scene,” Martinez said. “Zim charged me and I think he’s going to say something, but his reaction was totally the opposite, (he) was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom. I just had to react and defend myself.

“It was something that we have to let go kind of, and forget about it, because it was a disgrace for baseball. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I was involved in it, and it’s one of the moments that I don’t like to see. I don’t like to see it because I’m not a violent man.”

Zimmer told reporters “Pedro is full of crap.”

MARTINEZ: Renewing acquaintances

MARTINEZ: Renewing acquaintances


To get the crowd fired up against Martinez, as if motivation was needed, it would have been interesting if Zimmer was on hand to throw out the first pitch. That’s my theatric side, but I know it wouldn’t happen.

Then, in an orchestrated gesture to avoid bad mouthing the Yankees, Martinez laid it all on the media, saying the New York press used and abused him. He spoke of how none of the media ever broke bread with him and got to know him a man, as if that were ever a possibility.

Scorned in the Bronx, Queens loved Martinez during his four-year, injury-plagued tenure with the Mets. Martinez was disappointed in not being offered the kind of contract he wanted with the Mets, but in the end walked away with $53 million. Martinez went 15-8 in 31 starts his first year with the Mets in 2005, but won only 17 games and made just 48 starts over the next three seasons.

Of course, beating the Yankees tonight also acts as a reminder to the Mets they made a mistake – in Martinez’s mind – for letting him go. The Yankees, the Mets, the press, Zimmer, the crowd, yes, Martinez will use them all to prepare himself psychologically and emotionally for tonight.

“I’m excited,” Martinez said. “I’m going to prepare, yeah, maybe, as another game, but deep down I know what it’s about. I know how real it is, and I don’t want to change it.”

Oct 29

Keeping up with the Mets ….

Catching up with the Mets:

* Minor league outfielder Fernando Martinez, who had season-ending surgery on his right knee in July, is expected to begin playing for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League in November.

F-MART: Not ready, yet.

F-MART: Not ready, yet.


Martinez played in 29 games for the Mets this summer and hit .176 with only seven extra base hits. Clearly, that’s not a big enough sampling to say he won’t make it, but it is fair to say he’s not ready.

Martinez showed glimpses of his talent, but it was apparent his on-field judgment in terms of base-running and defensive fundamentals need improving. To say he’ll be a star if just given the at-bats is premature.

* The Mets would like a veteran presence behind the plate to replace Brian Schneider and complement Omir Santos. Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas are on GM Omar Minaya’s short list. But, wouldn’t it be just like the Mets to made another run at Yorvit Torrealba?

* VP of scouting, Sandy Johnson, who considered retirement, will be back for another year.

* The Mets are still interested in adding former major league general managers Kevin Towers (San Diego) and J.P. Ricciardi (Toronto) to their staff.

* Reportedly, Chip Hale, former Arizona third base coach at Arizona, will be offered that position by the Mets to replace Razor Shines. It’s not a done deal Shines will be named bench coach as there are reports the team is considering former Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin for that role.

Oct 29

Where should the Mets throw money?

As many of you would like to see the Mets throw money at all their issues – starting pitching, left field, first base and catcher – veteran watchers of the team know they aren’t the Yankees and can’t address them all.

Some reports have the Mets focusing on left field – read Matt Holliday – but I still see the team needing to focus on its starting pitching. There’s no lamenting watching Pedro Martinez pitch Game 2 of the World Series tonight as his tenure in New York ran its course.

Mets on their butts again next year without pitching.

Mets on their butts again next year without pitching.


However, there are no definitive reports on John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey. Maine finished the season strong, which is encouraging, but there’s no guarantees; Perez is coming off surgery, but they haven’t been able to give him a heart or head, not to mention control; and Pelfrey is an enigma. Plus, there are a handful of candidates as the fifth starter.

Go ahead, sign Holliday. Go ahead, add a catcher. But, if the Mets don’t fix their pitching they’ll be watching the Phillies again next October.

I’m still saying the greatest need is on the mound.

Oct 27

Pedro gets the ball in Game #2

There wasn’t much surprise to the announcement when you consider some of the variables. Pedro Martinez will start Game 2 in New York because, 1) he’s pitched better than Cole Hamels recently, 2) he used to pitching in hostile Yankee Stadium, and 3) Hamels pitches better at home than on the road.

Martinez pitched seven shutout innings in a no-decision to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS. He is 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 16 regular-season starts and 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two postseason starts at Yankee Stadium while with Boston. The most memorable of those games was Game 7 in 2003 when Grady Little stuck with him in the eighth inning with a three-run lead. The Yankees tied it and eventually won on Aaron Boone’s homer.

MARTINEZ: Money pitcher gets the ball in Game 2.

MARTINEZ: Money pitcher gets the ball in Game 2.


Undoubtedly, there will be the “who’s your daddy chants,” in reference to a statement Martinez made about the Yankees being his daddy.

Martinez vs. the Yankees is one of the more intriguing storylines of this World Series, made so because the veteran pitcher is a grinder and the expectations are of a close game. And, in the Series, you’ll always take close because you never know what might happen. Back then, the Red Sox were snake bit by the Yankees with the Curse and all, but there’s none of that with the Phillies.

“He’s been in the big moment, and I think that his performance the other day in Dodger Stadium, how good he pitched, he deserves another chance to go back out there,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Martinez. “I think he’s still got quite a bit left. I was watching those playoff games that he pitched in [for the Red Sox]. I noticed his velocity on his fastball was sitting at like 87 to 91 mph.

“He was even better than that over there at Dodger Stadium. He knows how to pitch. He uses all of his pitches. His command is absolutely outstanding. He doesn’t rely on throwing the ball by people anymore. He’s a pitcher.”

While it is true Martinez has pitched well for Philadelphia, it must not be overlooked he’s worked a minimum of innings and is fresher than he normally would be this late in the season. To look at Martinez’s success it is easy to say the Mets made a mistake, but it must be remembered, 1) he did have an injury history with the Mets, 2) Martinez did not want to come back in the secondary role he eventually settled with in Philly, and 3) the Mets had expectations from their rotation that never materialized.

I thought the Mets did the right thing with Martinez in not bringing him back. It was time to move younger, but who knew Maine, Pelfrey and Perez would all hit the skids for one reason or another?

As well as he pitched for the Phillies, the full season work load will still be a question when he goes on the free-agent market this winter. Martinez has given indications he wants to continue, but should he pitch well in the playoffs and the Phillies win, he might find it a good time to call it quits when he’s on top.

Oct 26

Mets’ nightmare comes true ….

The worst case scenario for Mets’ fans of a World Series between their two greatest rivals – the Yankees and Phillies – has reached fruition.

The Mets were left eating the dust of both, and they don’t appear to be in position to challenge either any time soon.

New York City, which some have argued is a National League town, belongs totally to the Yankees, who are in their 40th World Series seeking their 27th championship. Four World Series; two titles for the Mets.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.


The National League, for the second straight season, is owned by Philadelphia, seeking to become the first repeat champion since the Yankees, 1998-2000.

Many fans I speak to say they won’t watch, saying they don’t know whom to hate more. Selfishly, that’s not good news for me and the blog. Hopefully, the “baseball fan” in them will tune in.

However, the Mets and their fans, instead of lamenting their closed window, which slammed shut after a second straight September collapse in 2008, should step back and learn from their two tormentors.

The Mets, and probably nobody else, will match the October success the Yankees built over the last century. So what? What’s important is now.

Both teams opened new stadiums this summer, but the Yankees brought with them a revamped and retooled team. The Yankees took care of multiple needs last winter and added power in Mark Teixeira and pitching in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. The Mets, also having multiple needs, but addressed only the bullpen with the belief things will get better with a veteran closer.

Rarely does it work that way, as building one area of a team doesn’t address the other voids. Watch, win or lose over the next week, the Yankees will address their team aggressively in the offseason. They know they don’t have enough starting pitching; they know there are bullpen questions; the outfield is an issue with the possible departures of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.

The difference between the Yankees and Mets is that the team in the Bronx has a mission statement every season of WINNING the World Series. Getting there is not enough. And, please, let’s not hear about the Yankees’ unlimited resources. The Mets’ payroll is also formidable, but their approach is not nearly as aggressive.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.


As for the Phillies, they’ve also been more aggressive in filling holes than the Mets. The Phillies have a home grown core (Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins) as do the Mets (David Wright and Jose Reyes), but Philadelphia has been superior in filling its holes (Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Cliff Lee).

The Phillies will not stand still, even should they repeat. Unlike the Mets, the Phillies have the minor league resources to package should they decide to pursue Roy Halladay. The Yankees, of course, have always been known to be willing to part with minor league talent to win immediately.

Compounding the Mets’ dilemma with the Phillies, is that they aren’t their only competition in the National League East. Both Florida and Atlanta improved this season to overtake the Mets.

Both the Phillies and Mets, from the front office to the dugout, have a mindset beyond that of the Mets’ thinking, which gives the appearance of settling to become competitive.

The Mets had a good year at the gate, drawing 3.1 million (averaging 38,000), which was seventh in the majors (the Yankees and Phillies finished 2-3). However, rave reviews for Citi Field aren’t what’s important in the big picture. To keep drawing, and even increasing attendance is dependent on the quality of the product on the field.

Eventually, Citi Field will stop becoming a fan magnet, which is what happened in Baltimore and Cleveland when the Orioles and Indians hit the skids. Citi Field is too expensive, and New York City offers so many other diversions, for fans to keep coming out of curiosity.

Right now, Mets’ fans should only be curious about one thing: What is their team going to do to close the gap on the Phillies and Yankees?