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Boston Red Sox
Duquette, in the final season of his own five-year deal, is hurrying. Boston, which has been rebuilding since their last Series win, in 1918, raided the threadbare Expos for Pedro Martinez, the National League Cy Young Award winner, and then signed him to a six-year, $75 million deal. The dollars staggered the sensibilities of the Milwaukee- and Montreal-trained Duquette. But Boston saw no other way to get in the game against teams with vast resources and excellent farm systems like New York and Baltimore, fellow members of the robust American League East. Seventy-five million was simply the ante.
"We'd like to have a chance to win every year," Duquette says, "and the best way to do that and show our fans our intentions was with Martinez. He is a key piece to our having a good team. In a seven-game series, he could conceivably win three games, and there aren't many pitchers anywhere who can do that." A team that finished six games below .500 is now contemplating a Game 7 in late October, a leap of faith that defies every Calvinist instinct in the six-state region.
Martinez was a curious choice to be the shaman for a fan base that even third baseman John Valentin refers to, without irony, as Red Sox Nation. For one thing, the teams with the 1997 Cy Young winners, Montreal and Toronto, finished a combined 16 games below .500. For another, Martinez is a slight, lithe righthander who seems to defy physics: There is no apparent reason a will-o'-the-wisp can hump a mid-90s fastball to the plate and then throw a petrifying changeup off it. A six-year deal is an extraordinary investment in any pitcher, but especially in a power guy who is built like your newspaper carrier.
The changes should please the most discriminating Boston fan, who, after four generations of heartbreak, is no longer all that discriminating. The Red Sox sold 2.2 million tickets last season80% of all Fenway seatsfor a team that dropped out of contention before summer. The unflagging loyalty delights but also worries Valentin. He signed a four-year, $25 million deal in January but grouses that first baseman Mo Vaughn, surely one of the five scariest hitters in baseball, does not have a contract extension beyond 1998.
"Pedro's deal set off a chain reaction, with management telling everybody we're trying to put a winning team on the field," Valentin says. "But Fenway is sold out whether we're good or bad. Am I ready to say the Red Sox don't care about winning because the fans are there? Sometimes. Other times I feel like they want to win. I guarantee you this: If they don't sign Mo Vaughn, then they're saying they don't really want to win."
On the subject of Vaughn, Duquette should open his mail. And his checkbook.
by Michael Farber
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