Pedro Martinez can seem like one of the rudest, nastiest people you could ever find. But you don't have to look very deep to see that he's not as bad as some have made him out to be. And that's especially true if he's pitching for your team. Martinez is one of those guys that you come to love if he's on your side, even if you loathed him for many years as an opponent. That's what people do with players like Pedro. He is always a thorn in your side until he's on your side of the field.
When Martinez signed with the Phillies this past Summer, some thought it a good move while others thought it to be a waste of time and money. Right from his arrival, Pedro started warming hearts with his little boy smile and enthusiasm for baseball. He easily slipped into a great loyalty to the Phillies for signing him and giving him the chance to pitch with a team already well on their way to the World Series. You could have become wealthy if you had received a royalty from every time that he said "whatever they want" when he was asked about how he wanted to be used or how quickly the Phillies would move him to the majors.
Besides getting another nice payday, Martinez wanted to pitch in the postseason and the Phillies afforded him the opportunity for both. Now, not only is he pitching in the postseason, but he's pitching game two of the biggest stage on the postseason schedule and there aren't too many fans concerned about the fact that he's out there.
"I think he's a guy who's in good shape physically," explained Charlie Manuel about his decision to start Martinez in game two. "I think with the knowledge and knowing how to pitch, I think that definitely he's ready, and I think that he can handle the big setting. He's been there before, and he likes being there, and he likes everything about it."
While this particular setting would be big for any pitcher, it's especially big for Pedro because of his history with the fans in New York. It was late in the 2004 season when Martinez got scalded by the Yankees. After the game, a frustrated Pedro talked frankly to the media and it's become a rallying cry for Yankee fans every time that Martinez has faced the Yankees since.
"They beat me. They're that good right now. They're that hot," said Martinez after the loss to the Yankees. He probably should have just stopped there, but he went on. "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy".
Now, Yankee Stadium - new or old - fills with calls of "who's your daddy" whenever Martinez appears. Instead of being a source of frustration though, Martinez has made his peace with the chant and actually embraces it. "It [the chant] really reminds me that God is my daddy. It gives me strength. It keeps me strong and healthy, and I believe I can do anything." The chant also serves Martinez as a reminder of how good he can be. "I said that quote out of frustration. Now, hearing it the following few years that I played, it reminds me not to make the same mistake."
The New York fans have actually had plenty of reason to get on Martinez and stay on him hard. Even before becoming New York's son, Martinez was embroiled in controversy thanks to an incident in the 2003 ALCS. At the time, Martinez was pitching for the Red Sox and umpires ruled that he hit the Yankees Karim Garcia with a pitch when actually, the ball had hit his bat. The benches started to empty and Yankees bench coach, Don Zimmer, charged at Martinez. Recalling the incident, Martinez said he was surprised by what took place next.
"When Zim came over to me, I thought he was going to just give me advice or something, just 'Go, Pedro, you need to slow down or something,' or try to make it look a little bit different," explained Martinez. "Zim charged me, and I think he's going to say something, but his reaction was totally the opposite, was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom."
The end result saw Martinez throw then 72 year old Zimmer to the ground. "I just had to react and defend myself kind of. I remember getting back to my dugout and seeing middle fingers. My mom, poor mom. I'm glad she's blessed by God because all those curses were, I mean, unbelievable," said Pedro prior to the opening of this year's World Series. It was the first time that Martinez had ever really talked about the incident at any length. "I thought when I saw Zim down on the ground, I thought so much of my dad. I respect older people, I respect elders; I don't condone anything like that. But I've got no choice. I've got no choice but to just respond and get away."
While it didn't matter much to fans, Zimmer apologized to Martinez the next day and took the blame for causing the incident. Zimmer recently again stated that Martinez was not at fault for what happened. Even after Zimmer's next day apology, the press and the fans of New York expected an apology to come from Martinez as well, but it didn't and Martinez still has no regret for that. "I never wanted to apologize to you guys because why should I apologize to you guys or come to a press conference and say, I apologize for something I didn't intend to do," said Martinez. "It's a normal human reaction to defend yourself when you feel threatened, and that's what happened to me at that point. I had to defend myself."
So while Yankee fans will forever taunt Martinez, his conscience is clear and he has found a way to fight through those chants and even use them for his own good. Meanwhile, Phillies fans just hope that when Martinez leaves New York this time, he'll be the daddy.