Last week, I wrote this somewhat silly Metro column about why Red Sox fans should root for the Phillies. I was being glib and slightly facetious. But tonight, I really do think that everyone in their right mind should be rooting for the Phillies — specifically, for Pedro Martinez.
There’s nothing like a good sports redemption story, and Pedro’s tale has all the ingredients. He has crazy hair, says crazy things, has a crazy secret love child. He is winless in his last 5 playoff starts at Yankee Stadium, dating back to 2003. He once admitted that the Yankees were his “daddy.” And he’s also one of the best pitchers of all time. (Remember that time back in 2000 when he posted an ERA+ of 291?!? Well, I do.)
And yet despite his sustained dominance — three Cy Youngs, eight All-Star picks, nine seasons with 200+ strikeouts including two seasons with 300+ strikeouts — he always retains the flavor of the underdog. Maybe it’s his diminutive size. Maybe it’s the arm-hanging-by-a-thread thing that’s made it seem for 10 years like every great game might be his last. Maybe it’s because he’s come thisclose to an MVP (in 1999, denied by voters who didn’t think a pitcher should win), thisclose to a perfect game (in 1995, when, after retiring 27 batters, the game was still scoreless) and now, just maybe, thisclose to being the only pitcher to win a Cy Young and a World Series ring in both leagues. Or maybe it’s because we remember that he was just the younger, smaller brother from a poor town in the Dominican; the one who might, with luck, one day be nearly as good as Ramon.
“I’m someone who wasn’t meant to be,” he said, “And here I am on the big stage.”
Here’s hoping he gets to take a well-deserved curtain call.