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

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 29

Phillies take early control ….

When you’re only playing seven games at best, every game is important, with tonight’s Game 2 falling into the critical category for the Yankees. I don’t see them climbing out of two-game hole.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tabbed Pedro Martinez over Cole Hamels for tonight, citing the former’s big-game presence and experience in New York and the later’s numbers pitching in Philly. In a duel of aces, Cliff Lee out-dealt CC Sabathia, and with the support of two Chase Utley homers, the Phillies gained early control of the series.

LEE: Accepts congratulations after whipping Yankees.

LEE: Accepts congratulations after whipping Yankees.


The victory put the Phillies, win or lose tonight, in position of not having to return to New York if they run the table at home. That’s doable.

Lee was magnificent last night while Sabathia was good enough to win, but also a bit rusty. Sabathia had his rest. Now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi must decide whether to pitch him in Game 5 on normal rest or Game 4 on short rest. Sabathia pitched well on short rest before, but how long before he’s gassed?

Meanwhile, the Phillies, who have a fourth starter, have the luxury of using Lee any manner they desire, and if they go short it would be for Game 7. Regarding starting pitching, the Phillies are deeper.

The Yankees’ vulnerability in the bullpen surfaced last night to the tune of four runs. Phil Hughes is not the answer. When given the opportunity, the Phillies went for the throat last night. The game could have been an even greater blowout had they taken advantage of several early chances against Sabathia.

The Yankees are dangerous when down, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get to Martinez tonight. However, it also wouldn’t be a shock for Philadelphia to rough up AJ Burnett.

Yes, the Yankees can still win, but it means doing so on the road. They’ve won at Minnesota and Anaheim so far in the playoffs, but the Phillies are a clearly better team.

Oct 28

Annie Savoy and Steinbrenner ….

NOTE: Annie Savoy (not her real name) has been a friend of this blog since I started covering the New York Mets. We have corresponded off-line and I have learned of her fascinating background in the world of horse racing. She emailed me this story this morning with the intent of me sharing it with you.

George Steinbrenner and me -

I think this might be the right time to mention one of the times I spoke with George Steinbrenner. It was at the traditional dinner dance held the evening before the 1980 Belmont Stakes, at Belmont Race Track in New York where I was running a horse in the Belmont stakes for the first time.

The Belmont is the third of thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown Races, the first being the Kentucky Derby and the second being the Preakness. These are the class races open only to three year old horses whose prize money to date has made the top ten list for their class.

Ever traditional, the dinner dance attracts the owners, trainers and jockeys who will be on the program for the Belmont Stakes as well as various other noted horsemen and women. It’s a very nice, formal event.

Right before the dancing started, George Steinbrenner who owned Kinsman Stables in Ocala, came over to our table to see me. Always the gentleman, he gave me a hug and said “my wife told me to be sure and wish you luck tomorrow from both of us – she has the same name as you do, so we follow your horses with special interest”. He then took a seat at our table, and talked with everyone there about horses, not baseball.

I’ve never forgotten that night, nor the George Steinbrenner I knew from the racing business and still saw around the major races and Saratoga in August.
Nowadays, George is finding success with another sport in another venue, and I want to wish him good luck this week, and hopefully a return to good health.

He deserves it all.

Oct 24

Game #6: Will they or won’t they?

Heavy showers forecast for tonight could wipe out Game #6 at Yankee Stadium. If so, it would be played tomorrow night with a possible Game #7 on Monday.

If Game 6 is washed away, Angels manager Mike Scioscia would consider bringing back John Lackey on three days’ rest to pitch a potential Game 7 against CC Sabathia, who already has stymied the Angels twice in the series.

Will rain wash away Game 6?

Will rain wash away Game 6?


“We’ve talked about a lot of different scenarios,” Scioscia said. “We’re going to let this thing unfold a little bit and see how the weekend goes. If there is an opportunity to look at bringing a guy like John back, it’s something we certainly would consider. We’ve talked about a bunch of things.”

Lackey shut down the Yankees for much of Game 5, but was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh. The Yankees scored six runs that inning, but the Angels rallied to force the return trip to New York.

“It doesn’t get any better than this, especially going into that ballpark,” said Angels infielder Chone Figgins. “It’s going to be another crazy game, I can tell you that. You go back and just enjoy it. The pressure is on both teams.”

While the Angels face elimination, they are also playing with house money. They weren’t favored and are lucky to be here. The Yankees, meanwhile, have pressure to wrap things up immediately so they can enter the World Series against well-rested Philadelphia their pitching intact.

If there’s a Game 7, the Yankees won’t be able to use Sabathia until Game 3 of the World Series at the earliest. The Phillies have already said Cliff Lee would start Game 1. If the ALCS lasts seven games and the Yankees prevail, they’d have AJ Burnett going in Game 1.

Andy Pettitte will start tonight, or tomorrow depending on the weather, for the Yankees. Pettitte has 15 career playoff wins, including four series clinchers.

“However many starts I’ve had in the postseason or how many innings, it’s not going to help me when I go out there,” Pettitte said. “It’s a matter of getting out there and my cutter cutting, my location being good, and this is a game of just inches.”