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Look, I know it hurts. None of us wanted it to end like this. But, this is the way it is, the way it has to be. It’s over for us.
Those are the sentences I once wrote on my ex-girlfriend’s dry-erase board when she was away at work to inform her our relationship was over. Coincidentally, they’re also the same sentences die-hard Sox fans are repeating to ourselves as we attempt to come to grips with the start of a Sox-less World Series.
Most of us here in Boston and New England are going to avoid this World Series much like I avoided my ex’s phone calls after dumping her via a memo that was next to her shopping list. None of us want to see the Yankees buy another title. None of us want to listen to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver prattle on for hours about how Nick Swisher keeps the team loose, nor do we need constant reminders of Taco Bell’s latest contribution to America’s obesity problem. With the Bruins and Celtics getting their seasons into full swing, it’s easy for all of us to give this year’s Fall Classic the cold shoulder.
Thursday night’s game is different. It means something to anyone that cheered for the Red Sox before the theatrical release of Fever Pitch. It means more than the Devils-Bruins game, or The Office and 30 Rock, because Thursday night we all get to catch up with an old friend of ours–Pedro Martinez.
I haven’t seen Pedro since October 26, 2004, when he walked off the mound in Game 3 of the World Series, having pitched seven solid innings in which he only allowed three hits. At the time, I never thought it would be over five years until I saw him again.
I thought I saw him pitching a few times for the Mets. But, it wasn’t the same Pedro. Something was off. Something was missing. You know what it was? The New York Yankees.
Pedro, like every great athlete, needs something to fuel his greatness. For Michael Jordan it was his drive to be the best ever. For Andre Agassi, it was crystal meth. And for Pedro Martinez, it’s his hatred for the Yankees. Now, I don’t mean “hate” in the way a pro ball player may hate facing a certain team or having to visit a particular stadium. No, I mean Pedro hates the Yankees the same way you or I hate the Yankees. He loathes them. He wants to them to fail miserably, and be humiliated and destroyed.
OK then, how do explain Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS when Pedro threw down a fat, 72-year-old Don Zimmer by his head for having the audacity to get in face? While many of us have probably openly discussed assaulting various members of the Yankees organization, Pedro actually did it, on national television, and to a guy that probably needed a nurse just to help him out of the dugout and onto the field, no less. You don’t do that to a team you have a friendly rivalry with. You do that to your sworn enemy. That night, on the grass of Fenway, was not just the blubbering face of a senior citizen who had no business in the middle of a brawl, but the evidence of Pedro Martinez’s unbridled hatred for anyone wearing the Yankee pinstripes.
That’s why he signed with the Mets (well that and the millions of dollars they offered him). He knew it was the only other team besides the Sox that would give him the chance to pitch in meaningful games against his nemesis. What he soon realized, however, is that most people care about the Mets-Yankees rivalry as much as Mets care about playing quality baseball in September—very little.
Without that fire, Pedro wasn’t Pedro. So, he retreated home to the Domican Republic and began plotting his next move, undoubtedly spending hour after hour under the shade of a banana tree, hurling fastball after fastball at a cardboard cutout of a Yankees player, muttering under his breath, “Who are you Karim Garcia to try to test Pedro Martinez?” When he saw this summer that the Phillies and Yankees had a decent shot of meeting in the World Series, he called his agent, and was on the next flight to Philadelphia.
Now, I finally get to see the real Pedro again, under the lights of Yankee Stadium. He’ll be pitching his first important game in half a decade against a team he, like you and I, hates with ever fiber of his body. The uniform has another team’s name, but he’s pitching for us. He wants what we want. As we all know from his time here, he’s more than capable of making that happen. It’ll be Boston’s Pedro on the hill Thursday night. That’s why I’ll be tuning in. That’s why you should as well.