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This is not what I wanted to talk about.
I'm a basketball fan. I love the NBA. Baseball is fun, but if you really want to see America's past time, check out the streets of New York and Chicago and see what game the kids are playing. It won't involve a bat and glove.
Just this past week I was in Los Angeles watching the Clippers -- that's right the Clippers -- and thinking to myself how great it is to see such a young, up-and-coming basketball team come together. I didn't even think about baseball, even with the annual winter meetings taking place just a few hours away.
Then it happened.
Pedro Martinez signed with the Mets.
I'm not going to tell you that I'm one of those hard core, Cask N' Flagon type Red Sox fans who live and die with every pitch. It just wouldn't be true. But my first real baseball memory came when that ball trickled through Buckner's legs and perhaps my greatest joy came when Keith Foulke fielded that come backer to close out game four of the World Series. The 2004 Red Sox were special. They were not the 25 guys-25 cabs squad of years past, but a merry (or motley) crew of misfits who blatantly enjoyed each other and enjoyed playing the game even more. While we are never going to see another dynasty like the Yankees of the late '90's, this years Red Sox team deserved the chance to stay together and try and see if they can squeeze at least one more ring out of Johnny Damon's beard and Curt Schilling's ankle.
Then Pedro had to go and ruin the whole thing.
Far be it from me to criticize a man for accepting an extra $14 million. But in my mind Pedro's actions and the way he treated the Red Sox management goes a long way towards erasing the euphoric wave Sox fans are riding in the wake of their World Series title. Pedro wanted more than two years -- understandable. His brother Ramon, a quality pitcher in his own right, suffered through the same arm problems Pedro has been dealing with over the last few seasons. Many of those problems began to surface when Ramon reached his mid-30's, somewhere Pedro is inching closer and closer to. So he shopped himself, fielded some offers, and made the Sox nervous enough that they finally agreed to guarantee the third and final year of his contract.
That should have been it.
Boston made Pedro an offer that was more than fair. Faced with the possibility of taking a huge pay cut this offseason, Pedro worked the market so that his drop in salary only amounted to about $3 million per season (I promise, that's the last time I use the words "only " and "million" in the same sentence). A far cry from the predicted $7-10 million many expected him to lose during free agency. But Pedro wasn't happy with that. He went Mets GM Omar Minaya, and asked if he would guarantee a fourth year. I'm Pedro Martinez, he said. I'm the intimidator. You saw what I did against the Cardinals. Don't you want me to do that for you?
And Minaya bought it. Forget the track record. Forget the four stints Martinez spent on the DL while he was in Boston with injuries that ran up and down his million dollar right arm. Forget the fact that power pitchers that aren't built like Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson rarely succeed in their late 30's. Forget all that. Minaya wanted Pedro and Pedro wanted him.
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But Pedro didn't want him. He didn't care that Minaya flew down to the Dominican to meet him -- he would have signed if Dan Duquette was running the show. He didn't care about playing in New York; Kansas City would have looked good to him at that price. What he cared about was the money, which was one year and $14 million more than Boston was offering. It's laughable to suggest that there is loyalty in sports, any sport, but what Pedro did is no different than what A-Rod did to the Mariners or what Clemens did to the Red Sox only seven years earlier. With some help from his agent, Fernando Cuza, Pedro sold out. He left a team, to play for a club that even with his addition has absolutely no chance of making the playoffs in 2005. He'll get to play on the wrong side of New York, a place where winning is treasured, just as long as Mike Piazza doesn't have to play first base. Maybe Pedro will regret it. Maybe there will come a time around mid-August, when the Mets are 17 games behind the Braves in the NL East and 37 behind the Astros and Cubs for the wild card, when Pedro can kick back in the bullpen with Billerica native Tom Glavine and the two of them can reminisce about the Red Sox glory days, where winning a championship was valued above all else.
Maybe that will happen. Maybe Pedro can use that extra $14 million and buy himself some happiness.
Because it sure can't buy him an ounce of my respect.
The NHL (that stands for National Hockey League for those of you who forgot) rejected this week the players proposal for a 24 percent pay cut across the board, citing concerns with certain loopholes that would allow player contracts to continue to become exorbitant. Here's what I don't get. How many people out there can honestly say they can name the starting six for an NHL team, their own excluded. Fifteen? Twenty? In a discussion with Sports Illustrated hockey guru Stephen Cannella, I wondered when the NHL would experiment with using scabs, much like the NFL did in 1987 and baseball started to do in 1995. While he didn't think it would happen this season, he made a very interesting point. When is the NHL at its watchable best? During a frenetic, mistake-filled game, in which breakaways are commonplace and the neutral zone trap is something you only see on Star Trek. Would you pay $20 to see a bunch of 20-somethings wearing a Boston "B" or a Montreal "C" on their chest play a fast paced, 8-6 type of game? Or would you rather shell out $80 to watch some older, albeit more skilled, foreign stars slug it out in a 2-1 snoozefest. Think about it.
Amid all the drama surrounding the results of the physicals of Martinez and Jaret Wright, David Wells announced that he had passed his physical with flying colors. Does anyone want to bet that exam consisted of nothing more than a blood alcohol test and a jumping jack?
Arbitrator Roger Kaplan is scheduled to rule this week on whether he has the authority to overrule the NBA suspensions of Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson. Aside from the unintentional comedy in someone making a ruling on whether he has the authority to rule, I applaud the NBA for refusing to take part in these proceedings. The collective bargaining agreement (which the players signed) is clear: David Stern has sole discretion on disciplinary matters (I still love watching clips of the press conference when Stern declares the decision on the suspensions to be a unanimous, 1-0 verdict). Even if Kaplan rules in favor of the players, the NBA will tie this thing up in federal court until well after Artest has dropped his next album.
I like Chris Ballard's idea on people nominating their favorite sports bars, but let me ask a different question. What's the best gimmick, the most interesting specialty people have seen in a sports bar. If you have any thoughts, please let me know.
Finally, a heartfelt congratulations to my best friend in the world, Jon Mahoney, who last Sunday got engaged to the lovely Rachel Konfala. An editor for schoolsports.com, John is one of the most decent, honest guys I have ever known and I wish him nothing but the best. I'm also happy he didn't propose on a Jumbotron. See you in Vegas buddy.