Three years ago, Pedro Martinez had the gall to say, "Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I'll drill him in the ass."
Don't mess with the Babe. If you're a pitcher, don't dare have the hubris to say that you'd throw a ball at George Herman Ruth even if he's been dead for decades. Maybe that's the lesson Martinez should have learned long ago. When it comes to curses, it certainly appears that the Bambino now has a special place for Pedro -- as well as his Red Sox.
On Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium, formerly the House that Ruth Built but now The Stadium That Owns Pedro, the normally superb Martinez was beaten yet again by New York. To chorus after chorus of "Who's your daddy?" Martinez pitched decently but not nearly well enough, allowing three runs in six innings in a 3-1 loss to little-known Jon Lieber.
Perhaps it's the Bambino who's really Pedro's daddy.
That makes Boston's record 11-20 in games started by Martinez against the Yankees. And most of that awful mark has been made after Pedro made his infamous "Drill the Babe" quip. In his first two years with the Red Sox, Boston actually won five of seven games started by Martinez against the Yankees. Since then he's gone 6-18, including this defeat that leaves the Red Sox in a two-games-to-none deficit in this American League Championship Series.
Well, that didn't take long, did it?
Baseball held its breath for almost a year waiting for the Red Sox' glamorous rematch with the Yankees and now, after just two games, the whole sport is looking down the barrel of a New York blowout.
"These two games were huge," said Yankees Manager Joe Torre. "Curt Schilling didn't have his good stuff [in Game 1]. But Pedro was Pedro tonight. He was tough. To beat them both really gives us a lot of confidence."
This was one of those purely Red Sox days, one in which Boston fans had to be muttering "should have stayed in bed." It would have been an excellent idea. First, the Red Sox reported, in excruciating medical detail, that 21-game winner Schilling has an ankle injury so bad that he may be out for the rest of the postseason. It's conceivable that he could still start Game 5, but the more his injury was described by a Red Sox doctor the less likely his chances seemed to be.
Then, a few hours later, Martinez lost to his Yankee daddies one more inexplicable time despite excellent stuff, including 96-mph fastballs worthy of his prime. This time, a two-run sixth-inning homer by John Olerud, one of the least-feared hitters in the New York lineup, struck the most damaging blow. Naturally, he hit it into the first rows of the short right-field pavilion that was constructed to accommodate Ruth's lesser swats.
So, here we are: Good luck, Bronson Arroyo, whoever you are, in Game 3 on Friday in Fenway Park. It's all up to you.
Best wishes as well to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and Mr. Undecided in Game 5. If the Red Sox don't win two out of three at home, this ALCS isn't even coming back here to Yankee Stadium for a proper melodramatic culmination.
Even before this Game 2, Boston General Manager Theo Epstein and his assistant Josh Byrnes stood on the field of Yankee Stadium with looks of incredulity on their faces -- expressions similar to so many of their predecessors. To be in charge of running the Red Sox, and to come here to The Big Ballpark every year to resume The Quest is to know how Don Quixote felt. It's tough to beat a windmill with a splintered lance.
"Arroyo has pitched as well as anybody we have against the Yankees this year," said Epstein.
"Remember, [Cleveland's] Chad Ogea beat [Florida's] Kevin Brown twice in the '97 World Series," said Byrnes. "In a short series you can never tell who the pitching hero will be."
Still, the pair could not get over the irony that Schilling, the player they had done so much to woo to Boston last Thanksgiving, had been in near-perfect health all season until turning his ankle twice against the Angels last week.
No matter how many times Red Sox physician Bill Morgan described what was wrong with Schilling's right ankle, it didn't sound any less painful or any easier to fix in time for the designated Yankee Killer to work a Game 5. In fact, every time Morgan talked about how this crazy loose tendon "snapped" from one side of Schilling's ankle bone to the other, the condition sounded worse. And so perfectly Red Sox: a miscreant tendon that is out of its "groove."
Oh, great. We can expect three days of Boston headlines about whether Curt Can Get His Groove Back.
In future years, when only box scores are consulted, it may appear that Martinez pitched rather poorly. If anything, Martinez kept his dignity despite his defeat. As he took the mound in the first inning, he heard exactly the chants from the packed house that he had expected, in response to his "the Yankees are my daddy" quote last month.
And Pedro had his answer ready.
"Who's your daddy?" bellowed the crowd.
Martinez pointed straight up to the sky.
The Yankees may think they "own" him, but Pedro thinks he knows who made him.
"[The chant] actually made me feel really good. I realized I was somebody really important," said Martinez. "If you reverse it and think back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to catch a bus. Today I was the center of attention of 60,000 people. . . . "I can't say I'm disappointed with how I pitched, but those are not the results I wanted. . . . I can't do anything if we don't score runs," added Martinez. "I was really emotional. Sometimes we don't realize who we are and what we get to do. . . . Only God can answer. . . . I thank him so much. Pedro won. My biggest daddy is the one who brought me out there and brought me from the mango tree onto the biggest stage."
Theologians, psychologists, sociologists and late night comics, have a field day. Talk about raw material.
So, Martinez, even though his daddies spanked him again, says that he has, in some larger way, won. And Schilling insists that "this is not about me braving through something" and won't pitch again unless he feels like his proper self. Of course, October is often the month when pitchers depend on bravery more than health and ask for very few runs as their daily bread.
At this very moment, a line has formed outside Torre's office. Game 3 starter Kevin Brown, who has endured back spasms all season, says he's feeling good enough to pitch effectively, as he did against the Twins last week. And Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who pronounced his own shoulder "dead" just two weeks ago, says that it may be alive again. Gimme the ball, skipper.
"All of a sudden, our pitching looks pretty good," said Torre. "We may have one more [starting] pitcher than we need."
Perhaps Joe could lend him to the Red Sox.