PEDRO, JETER, AND RODRIGUEZ

November 4, 2009

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy says that Pedro Martinez still likes to think of himself as a Red Sox when he plays the Yankees and their “evil empire.”
“Six years later, he is back in new Yankee Stadium, still pitching for the honor of Red Sox Nation.
Pedro Martinez gets the ball in Game 6 tonight of the World Series, and he is the only thing standing between the Evil Empire and its 27th world championship.
In his role as Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher, Pedro knows he is carrying the colors for Sox fans around the world – just as he did in 2003 when Grady Little left him on the mound too long in the ancient ballpark across the street.
Yesterday Pedro was reminded that every thinking Sox fan is rooting against the Yankees.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all,’’ said a smiling Martinez. “I know they don’t like the Yankees to win, not even in Nintendo games. And knowing that I am part of Boston, I consider myself a Bostonian . . . I’m pretty sure that every Boston fan out there can feel proud that I’m going to try to beat the Yankees, and I’m going to give just the same effort I always did for them. They’re special fans, and they will always have my respect.’’
Great stuff.
No one likes the spotlight more than Pedro. That’s why tonight’s game is one of the great sporting events of the year. It’s must-see TV.
Pedro has the perfect temperament for this stage. He is a diva’s diva. He wants the ball at the end of the game. He makes Diana Ross look like a humble Pip.
At 180 pounds, Pedro is bigger than Aretha Franklin. He’s Maria Callas, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion. His heart will go on. He is a prime-time performer with a Bill O’Reilly ego. He was born to pitch in the big games and it’s hard to find one bigger than tonight at The House That Jeter Built.
Just a few months after his apparent retirement under a mango tree in the Dominican Republic, the little guy with the giant chip on his shoulder gets the ball in a potential clinch game for the Yankees. Which makes for great theater. The moneybags Yanks are on the cusp of their first championship since 2000, and only Pedro can stop them.
Feeding the tabloid beasts, Pedro has been an absolute quote machine in this Fall Classic. Last week in New York he said, “If I was on the Yankees, I’d
probably be like a king over here.’’ He also said, “I might be the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium.’’
Good one. Forget about Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and even Jackie Robinson. In his own mind, Pedro takes the cake. Every time. That’s why we can’t wait for him to take the mound in the bottom of the first.
The 2009 World Series is easily the best since 2001 (how great was Johnny Damon’s double steal in Game 4?), and the re-emergence of Pedro as a major
player brings dessert to the hardball feast. It’s as if Elvis was scheduled to appear on stage with Springsteen and Clapton at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
induction. Pedro is back and he’s more important than ever.
The little fella pitched pretty well (six innings, six hits, three runs, two walks, eight strikeouts) while taking the loss in Game 2 last week at Yankee Stadium.
When he was lifted in the seventh, he walked off the mound slowly and smiled softly while the crowd’s taunts washed over him.
Pedro is a proud man who remembers every slight. He is a counter. He equates respect with dollars. Martinez never forgave Jimy Williams for replacing him in a Saturday start after Pedro sauntered into Fenway a few minutes before he was scheduled to throw the first pitch. Pedro was insanely jealous of Curt Schilling when the Big Blowhard came into the Sox clubhouse with his “new sheriff in town’’ bluster in 2004.
Pedro won the third game of the 2004 World Series (seven innings, no runs, three hits) in St. Louis and is looking to close the book on his October résumé
with another Series win tonight. Don’t bet against him. The Yankee lineup scares most righty pitchers, especially in the Bronx, but Pedro can neutralize the Bombers with his smarts and location.
Mark Teixeira tossed some bouquets at Pedro during yesterday’s off day at the Stadium.
“You’re not going to outthink Pedro,’’ said the struggling switch hitter. “He’s one of the smartest pitchers in baseball.’’
The Yankees were Pedro’s daddy when Grady left him on the mound too long in 2003. Tonight Pedro has a chance to make everything right. All these years later, he’s still pitching for the Red Sox.”

Phil Rogers, of the ChiTrib, looks into the Yankees’ dugout and likes what he sees. “Talk about expensive real estate.

With Alex Rodriguez at third base and Derek Jeter at shortstop, the Yankees start every game with $52 million worth of ballplayers standing within 50 feet of each other, either in the dugout, bats in their hands, or in the infield. They’ve always earned their money, but this fall they have been a bargain.

The Yankees have done a lot of things right to get this close to their 27th World Series championship but nothing has been a bigger key than the guys with the actress girlfriends, arguably the best third baseman-shortstop combination ever.

In Rodriguez’s first spring training playing alongside Jeter, pitcher Kevin Brown said it would be great to have “two great shortstops” guarding the left side. But both have always distinguished themselves more with their ability to produce runs that prevent them. Those are the skills that have been displayed during this postseason.

Entering Game 5 on Monday night, Rodriguez and Jeter were hitting a combined .340 with nine home runs, 21 runs batted in and 24 runs scored over 13 playoff games. Factor in almost a walk per game apiece, along with three pitches that have hit Rodriguez, and they’ve reached base 57 times in 124 plate appearances.

That’s some statistic.

The Twins, Angels and Phillies had enough pitching to be among the best teams in the majors. But using only the best of their pitchers, they have gotten Jeter and Rodriguez out only slightly more than half the time. That’s how you average 5.2 runs in the playoffs.

Greatness in October is almost second nature to Jeter. He’s the modern Yogi Berra, having played in seven World Series in his 13 seasons. It’s not an entirely new experience for Rodriguez, but he entered 2009 haunted by having hit .159 while driving in one run in 59 at-bats in his last three playoff series.

Rodriguez said his two-out double in the ninth inning off a shaken Brad Lidge in Sunday’s Game 4 was the biggest hit of his career. But it was only one of a
series of big moments for him during the run, the most dramatic being game-tying home runs in the ninth inning of Game 2 against the Twins and the 11th inning of Game 2 against the Angels.

The second of those came in a stretch in which Rodriguez, 34, homered in three consecutive games off the Angels. He entered Monday night’s possible
clincher with six homers and 15 RBIs. He had tied the Yankees’ record for most home runs and RBIs in a single postseason. He broke the RBI mark with a first-inning double Monday.

Rodriguez opened the World Series by going 0-for-8 with six strikeouts before getting back on track.

“It is important to stay calm,” Rodriguez said of his approach. “For me, making an adjustment after Game 1 and 2 was very easy because what I was doing was just being a little overanxious. One thing about postseason, if you want to hit, you’ve got to swing at strikes, and if you don’t swing at strikes, you’re going to expose your weakness.”

Jeter, 35, hasn’t had as many big moments as Rodriguez in the latest run, a but he has scored runs in 10 of 13 games.

Don’t be surprised if the Yankees announce a new contract for Jeter shortly after the World Series. He has one year left on his 10-year, $189 million contract.

Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million contract pays him until he’s 42. Based on that, Jeter could seek a six-year extension, which would take him through the 2016 season.”

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