August 03, 2007

What Pedro Means To Me

By David Rubin
(This article is dedicated to my true hero, my dad, Albert Rubin!)
Growing up during the 1960's and 70's, the Mets' organization was all about pitching. From Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Gary Gentry to Jon Matlack, Craig Swan and Tug McGraw, pitching defined each of our teams; during the 80's, it was all about Doc Gooden, with David Cone, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Jesse Orosco, Bobby Ojeda, Doug Sisk and Jeff Reardon along for the ride. The 90's, a decade almost lost in comparison, we still had Frank Viola, John Franco and Al Leiter, to name a few...and now, with the rise of both John Maine and Oliver Perez, the end of HOFer Tom Glavine's career along the pursuit of win 300, with star closer Billy Wagner and a bullpen loaded with the names Feliciano, Smith (soon to be called up again) and Heilman, we ALMOST have recaptured a feeling of pitching dominance of yesteryear...the remaining ingredient, missing in this "stew", is the return of one Pedro Martinez!

We can speculate all we want to about the potential of Pelfrey, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra, or the potential addition of Zambrano or Santana in the off-season, but right here, almost close enough to touch, is the return to our team one of the 10 greatest (in my opinion) pitchers of all-time, Mr. Pedro Martinez. Sandy Koufax is a legend in the game, as well as in the house I grew up in, as even though he was a Dodger in a house of Giants/Mets fans, his dominance was something that even captivated my grandfather! Now let me explain how hard that was to do- my father once took my dad to a game, Mets versus the Phillies, on Father's Day, only to see what he called the most boring game of his life- that's right, the Jim Bunning-pitched perfect game! Furthermore, one of my grandfather's favorite players of all-time (and therefore, one of mine, too) was catcher Ted Simmons, NOT due to his game-calling or defensive capabilities, but because of his switch-hitting prowess!

Even this man could not deny how amazing it was to watch as Sandy blew away batter after batter for some six unforgettable seasons...and I am sure, if he had lived long enough to watch Pedro, he'd agree with me that not only did Pedro have an almost equally unforgettable ('97 - '04) run, but furthermore, with his guile and possessed of one of the most clever pitching minds of all-time, he'd agree that, even after the multiple injuries and operations of the past year, the Pedro coming back will again become one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. He won't have to throw a heater that once nearly challenged Billy Wagner, as one hitting around 88-90 mph will more than suffice alongside Pedro's wicked curve and breaking stuff.

However, it's not just Pedro's arm that has been missing this season - it's his heart, his whimsical nature and his sheer joy for the game that has made this season seem almost workman-like in comparison to the last 2. Whether Pedro had pitched another game for us or not, we had more than benefitted from the original 4-year contract that most nay-sayers said we were crazy to offer him. What they weren't taking into account was the heart and competiveness of this great warrior, and how it rubbed off on those around him regardless of their background or tenure. Pedro unites a team, and keeps them loose when things get tough. He's battle-tested, and there's hardly a pitcher this side of Whitey Ford I'd rather have on that mound when the play-offs come!

For me, Pedro's return brings me back to my childhood, to a time when I rooted for players when we knew far less about their personal lives and far more about what they did on the field.

I will always remember meeting Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack at Lum's Chinese Restaurant in Flushing after a game, and how wonderfully they treated a nine-year old fan...and I'd rather have met a pitcher than a hitter any time!

Years later, when renowned sports-writer (Newsday) Steve Jacobson took me (along with his son, Matthew) outside the Mets' clubhouse, I was more excited about meeting Skip Lockwood than matinee-idol Lee Mazzilli.

When Pedro threw his first pitch for us in 2005, I was reminded of the excitement I felt in 1981, when Tim Leary made his debut, watching at home with Danny, Warren and Adam, friends from high school, hoping that he'd be the next Tom Seaver (only to be injured in that game and respond with a barely mediocre career afterwards).

Finally, when Pedro signed with us, instead of listening to those who said we were getting a pitcher who perhaps left too much of his body on the mound in seasons past, I instead saw a legend who would bring credibility to our organization when it was so desperately needed, for Omar, for the Wilpons, for new manager, Willie Randolph, for the competition, but, mostly, for fans who wished for and dreamed still of 1986.

I'm not expecting the Pedro of 1999, or even the Pedro of 2005. What I am expecting, and hoping and praying for, is a return of the noble warrior, the samurai if you will, who will give us just enough of a boost to get past the Cubs, Brewers, Dodgers, Padres, Phillies and Braves, to the World Series, and, perhaps, a chance to face his old team, the Red Sox, in what could be not only a reunion of teams from 1986, but a chance to put a beautiful ribbon around one of the most brilliant careers a pitcher could ever dream of...a World Series victory with a National League team and an even greater page in the world of baseball immortality.

At a time when my father is fighting the good fight, undergoing dialysis and unable to attend games like he'd love to (and has been doing for nearly 71 of his 78 years), Pedro's fight to return has almost been symbollic to me of my dad's fight for a return to a normal (and hopefully long) life...if Pedro can do it, dad can do it, and WHEN dad does it, AND Pedro does it, I'll know that there is a lot more that's right in the world...

In the meantime, I have 2 Pedro shirts which I haven't worn since his last start, waiting to come out of the drawer, to be worn again with pride and anticpation...just like Pedro, who was waiting far more to throw on that old number 45 again and take control of a small patch of dirt like only he can...I'll be watching, I've already been waiting, and whatever the outcome, I take my hat off to one Pedro Jaime Martinez for showing the world that not all millionaire pitchers are in it for the money...some are still in it for the beauty of this, the greatest game of all time...


Anonymous said...

i didnt know one player could mean so much to one person

Anonymous said...

well its pedro!

Anonymous said...

yeah...i think he means that much to all of us

Anonymous said...

darn right!!!

Anonymous said...

pedros return is a well awaited one