August 5, 2002
I just got home from scoring 14 runs in the 8th inning of a 1-on-1 baseball game against my uncle. You haven't lived until you have gone to a baseball field with a bag of balls and gone 1-on-1 with someone. My uncle usually kicks my butt (unlike me, he was/is a very good baseball player), but today I had everything working, especially in that 8th inning. I ended up winning by 2 runs, which also tells you a little something about my pitching ability. And, if you are wondering how exactly you play 1-on-1 baseball, you'll just have to use your imagination.
As you can probably tell, I am in a good mood. So, no Bud Selig rants today...
Pedro Martinez went 7 shutout innings against the Rangers yesterday, allowing only 3 hits (all singles) while striking out 10 and walking 1. A vintage Pedro line for sure. Pedro is my favorite pitcher, as I suspect is the case with a lot of you. So, I thought I would praise his performance a little bit, while basking in the glow of my own performance today.
Pedro since the All-Star break: 4-0, 0.74 ERA, 36.1 IP, 17 Hits, 47 SO, 8 BB
Not too shabby. But, it gets better...
Pedro in July/August: 6-0, 0.55 ERA, 49.1 IP, 25 Hits, 69 SO, 10 BB
He actually was pretty great in April (3.38 ERA), May (2.58) and June (3.34) but his July and August starts have got to be one of the best stretches, for anyone, in a long time.
Of course, back in April, I watched Pedro's first start of the season (3 IP, 7 ER against Toronto) and it really made me sad for some reason. I suspect, like a lot of people, that I really love to witness greatness. I don't mean Jason Giambi greatness or Curt Schilling greatness or even Randy Johnson greatness. I mean a special kind of greatness. Barry Bonds in 2001 (and 2002, when he isn't hurt). Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals. Mark McGwire in 1998. Bob Gibson in 1968. Ted Williams in 1941 (and about 10 other years too). Babe Ruth. Pedro Martinez in 1999 and especially 2000.
I wasn't around to see Gibson or Teddy Ballgame, but I was a baseball fan in 1999 and 2000 and Pedro Martinez was as good as it gets. And there is something unbelievably special about that.
I remember watching game 5 of the Red Sox/Indians ALDS in 1999. The Tribe got 8 runs off of Saberhagen and Lowe in the first 3 innings and had a 8-7 lead, in what looked like a 15-14 game in the making. In the bottom of the fourth however, Pedro Martinez came out of the Sox bullpen and all of the scoring stopped (all of the hits too) for the Indians. Pedro pitched 6 no-hit innings and the Sox won 12-8. That was special. That was Pedro. That was greatness. He knew he was great. We knew he was great. The Indians knew he was great. And he didn't disappoint. There are a lot more examples, like the duel with Clemens at Yankee stadium in 2000. And I can only imagine what it would have been like to have been at Fenway for one of Pedro's starts in 1999 or 2000. That was greatness, live, in person, and at Fenway Park.
Last year we saw it, but only in flashes. His 16 Ks in 8 IP against Tampa Bay and then his 13 Ks in 6 IP against them 2 weeks later. 13 Ks in 8 shutout IP against Mussina and the Yankees, at Fenway. It was there last year, but only for a little while. In April (1.80 ERA) he was great. In May (1.17 ERA) he was Pedro. But then he got injured and he struggled (5.16 ERA in June and only 13 IP after the All-Star break). I hoped it would all come back.
Then I watched Pedro's first 2002 start. Toronto got 3 in the first. I still had hope, maybe he was just a little rusty. Toronto scored 4 more in the 2nd, without making an out. I thought it was over, the greatness was gone. Then Pedro struck out the next 3 hitters to end the inning and I could see it coming back. But after a triple, a hit by pitch and another run in the 3rd, and a single and a walk to start the 4th, I knew it was over. I was crushed. I mean, what a horrible way to start off a baseball season. After that 4th inning of Pedro's first game of the season, I stopped looking for the greatness. He got knocked around against the Yankees in his 3rd start and I just started hoping for a 4.00 ERA or an avoidance of a major injury.
Then one day I noticed Pedro's ERA hovering around 3.00. I started to get those thoughts back, just a little bit. Then I saw him pitch against that same Toronto team that had killed him in his first start. Pedro's line: 8 IP, 14 SO, 0 BB, 0 ER. Then a little later he went 8 innings, gave up 2 hits and struck out 11 against Tampa Bay. Then 8 innings, 2 hits and 9 Ks the next start against Anaheim. And last night, 7 IP, 3 hits and 10 Ks.
With all of the things that are wrong with baseball (and other sports too I guess) it is important to remember why we love it so much. For me, a big part of that is the potential to witness something special, someone special. True greatness.
As we have seen, time after time, you never know when that greatness is going to end. It might retire abruptly (Jordan), it might get injured (Pedro), it might just slowly go away (Ruth and Williams) and it might suddenly come back (Jordan and Pedro). When it does come back, like with Pedro, or when it is there right now, like with Barry Bonds, don't take it for granted. Make sure to catch a Pedro start or a few Giants game on MLB Extra Innings. Check the ESPN Sunday night schedule. Check your hometown team's schedule and make a trip to the ballpark to see it live. Heck, take a roadtrip to Fenway. Just witness it somehow, because greatness doesn't come around too often and it can be gone before you realize it.
Pedro, it's good to have you back.