Can you think of one franchise in professional sports that can identify one individual as their greatest villain as well as the New York Yankees can with Pedro Martinez?
Lebron and the Wizards? Too one-sided. TO and the Eagles? All of that was off-field drama that never spilled over onto the games. Favre and the Vikings? That’s more like a messy divorce, with hatred replacing eroded love and admiration.
Nope, Pedro versus the Yankees trumps all of them. For visceral hatred, nothing is better. Here’s the history: 1999, he strikes us out 17 times in our house then memorably whups Clemens in the ALCS. 2003, he tosses Zimmer and goes on to get humiliated in Game 7 as Grady Little wanders around the dugout with his dick in his hand. 2004, he’s along for the ride as the Sox make an historic comeback. All that to go along with a shade under a decade of consistently pitching inside, frequently hitting guys like Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, with no fear of reprisal.
Here’s an example of the how Yankee fans feel about him: 2003, ALCS Game 3. Pedro beans Karim Garcia, which leads to Manny overreacting to a high fastball from Clemens, which leads to both benches clearing, which leads to Pedro flipping Zimmer as he charged him. I’m watching this in my dorm room in Blacksburg. As soon as Pedro flipped Zim, I went nuts – yelling, throwing shit at the TV, going crazy. I wanted to be there so I could fight Pedro Martinez. It didn’t matter that Pedro actually responded pretty rationally to the situation – despite the fact that he’s rail thin, I’m pretty sure he could have done much more damage to a guy who looks like the Quaker Oats guy if he got diabetes. I wanted blood. I’ve never felt that fired up by a game.
I’m sure that’s mirrored by most Yankee fans. But seeing the guy comeback with the Phillies, smiling, making all those “happy to be here” statements and sounding downright humble made me realize that part of what makes sports fun is having that villain. I had almost as much fun rooting against him as I did pulling for my team. For years, Pedro’s snide act got me fired up. There’s an old expression that says, “If he was on fire I wouldn’t spit on him.” If I saw Pedro Martinez on fire, I’d spit on him just to say that I got to spit on him. After I was done I’d light him on fire again and be on my way, provided I had the resources needed to produce a fire.
As a sports fan, I feel like we’re defined almost as much by the teams and players we hate as we are by the ones we like. It’s like Batman. Without the Joker he’s a mentally imbalanced flying mammal enthusiast. They strengthen each other’s purpose for being there. Seeing the Yankees win is always great, but winning against Pedro was always better. It’s nice beating the Blue Jays, but it felt better to stick it to Pedro in Fenway. Much in the same way that I’m sure Batman wouldn’t be as pumped to put away Egghead or Bane.
One of the hardest parts about losing the way the Yanks did in 2004 is this: that incantation of the Red Sox is gone, so the chance for revenge is gone. David Ortiz the baseball player has been replaced by David Ortiz, the guy who resembles Grimace and can’t hit. Manny was traded. Damon plays for us. Curt Schilling retired. Jason Varitek sadly perished in a car wreck while the team enlisted his AA-level hitting ability twin to play in his place. Trot Nixon retired to become a garbage man. That chapter is closed, and the opportunity for vengeance isn’t there.
So this is the best we’re going to get. A chance to clinch the belt in our house with the Joker on the mound. I can’t wait, and it’s part of what makes sports fun. So thank you, Pedro. Thank you for being that foil. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to battle it out with you one last time. You were an amazing athlete and no matter what happens tonight, our rivalry with you was a tremendous joy for all involved – fan and player alike.
You know what, who am I kidding?
For all his references to himself as this “old goat” back for one last ride, let’s call a spade a spade: Pedro Martinez has been, and forever will be, an absolute punk. I don’t buy his humble pie routine for a second. The only way I’ll be happy tonight is if the Yanks put the final nail in his career’s coffin and end his it. A line drive off his face would be all too fitting after all those times he hit Jeter. Go to Hell, you arrogant piece of shit. Here’s what I want to see tonight: Pedro gets pounded. Doesn’t make it out of the first. It’s so bad that Charlie Manuel literally has to forfeit out of sheer embarrassment. After the game, ARod and Jeter physically pull him from the clubhouse and make him watch movies of the Yankees getting hits off of him with footage of Posada having fun with Pedro’s wife spliced in.
Nick Swisher and Mark Teixiera then come out of the dugout with the little midget buddy Pedro used to have in Boston. The midget high fives Pedro…then rips off his shirt to reveal a Yankees jersey. He starts doing crotch chops right in Pedro’s face as he sits there crying hysterically. Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera join in the crotch chopping. Bud Selig comes out for the trophy presentation, drops the trophy, and gets in on the crotch chopping fun himself. Then several NYPD officers come out onto the field with a drug sniffing dog and inform Pedro that there was mucho coke stashed in his car’s trunk, so they’re locking him up for possession. As he’s dragged off the field kicking and screaming in handcuffs, A.J. Burnett comes out of the stands and delivers a whipped creme pie to his face.
After all of this, Jeter will grab a mic and say, “A.J., what do you call all this?” And Burnett will yell, “The Aristocrats!”
I think that’s the only way a World Series like this could, and should, end.
By the way, for further clarification: in this 90’s-00’s Yankees-Batman metaphor, Jeter is Bruce Wayne, Rivera is Alfred, Joe Torre is Harvey Dent, and Schilling is Mr. Freeze.
Tune in next week when I compare Ron Artest to Brainiac.