Go If You Must, Pedro

Jason Campos

I’ll set up the scene: an oppressive evening with lingering Texas sun; a long, dusty tumbleweed-full street; the sounds of a dried boardwalk creaking under the weight of a solitary stroller, spurs jingling in accompaniment; a lone mournful cry of a dog, whose howl is steeped with tones of disaster and forthcoming heartache.

The casual observer will notice two obscured figures on opposite ends of the town, both hid in the mix of dusky tavern lights and long shadows cast by low lying buildings, adding suspense and mystery. It’s obvious, folks: this is a showdown, and one might be on the way in Fenway Park. But it might not be who you think it is.

Last weekend, Pedro Martinez fired the first shot in what will be a series of verbal skirmishes in the coming months between him and the Boston Red Sox management over the issue of a contract extension. Martinez has stated that the Red Sox need to sign him to a new deal before the start of the 2003 season, or he will walk when his current contract is up.

Hey, Pedro. Do what you have to do, because the Red Sox should do what they have to do. It still remains to be seen if the team will play hardball with the diminutive Dominican or acquiesce to his demands.

One thing is for sure: the Red Sox are in the beginning stages of revamping the roster. Gone are the days of free (irresponsible) spending. The new labor deal has set up some parameters that will restrict high revenue teams, like the Red Sox, from operating as they had in the past. Not to be forgotten is the stark fact that the new owners have incredible debt remaining from the purchase of the team. The bottom line is that a new era is here, an era that will see the ownership, while committed to fielding a competitive team, reprioritize and reorganize much within the organization.

Fans should not be angered by Martinez’s demands. All professional athletes want to avoid the distractions that are inherent with contract negotiations. Taking car of business now is always better than later.

However, if you want to take the three-time Cy Young award winner to task, then focus on his maverick attitude within the clubhouse or the difficulty he seems to have in understanding the concerns that have arose due to his injuries.

Martinez is not unassailable and is deserving of criticism like any other player. His comments about his desire to remain in Boston, and yet jump ship is he is not given immediate and satisfactory compensation for his future work is contradictory and smacks of insincerity. Hard to sympathize with someone who does not seem to be imbued with genuine loyalty.

Those fans that want the Red Sox to field a championship team should demonstrate some patience with the new owners in this particular situation. I still think that Martinez could be a significant factor in any postseason run; pitching is still the key. But if Martinez is not healthy and is not able to contribute, then why sign him for the long term and for beaucoup bucks? The Red Sox management should weigh all options and proceed with a deliberate and careful step to do what it feels is best for the team, and not feel like it is at the mercy of any one player, even if it is Pedro Martinez.