What did we learn last night?
- LoDuca and Wright are battling their way off the schneid. Delgado's still deep in the woods.
- Kevin Burkhardt's job looks really, really fun.
- Keith has the following positions on being a teammate: he deplores the "Clemens clause" and would be upset if one of his teammates had it; despite his pro-team-unity stance, he would not be persuaded to shave his head for his boys; however, he would meet them halfway and lose the mustache, which Gary and I agree would actually be the bigger sacrifice. The Keith has spoken.
- Aaron Sele's excuse: family photo coming up. Dubious but we'll allow it. Glavine's: he was starting, so you don't mess with him, plus he hinted he might join in today. Jose's: he's hitting .350; why mess with that? Plus, he's got the best hair. Aaron Heilman's: um, what exactly is your excuse, Aaron?
- For some reason, I would have banked on Beltran's being a holdout, but it turns out he was actually one of the ringleaders, plus he did most of the barbering. So there you go.
Don't sit under the mango tree with anyone else but me
An excellent question was put to us in the comments section about Pedro Martinez (who, by the way, I'm convinced would have shaved his head). Was his signing worth it? He missed the playoffs last season, which certainly had an impact despite the clutch performances was saw from Maine and Perez, and he'll miss most of this year too. If he comes back when he's projected to and then doesn't miss any more significant time, that will be about one full year out of the four he's signed for, and $14 million of his salary, that he wasn't contributing on the field.
Those are the cons. What about his time on the field so far? You can't argue with 2005. Pedro turned in a great year, going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 208 strikeouts, and a .204 average against. He did, however, get shut down at the end of the season, earning a tongue-lashing from local radio lunatic Chris Russo. In 2006 he again started out strong until injuries hampered him and started to hurt his performances. He was 5-1 before the undershirt incident and 4-7 after, with his ERA jumping from 2.50 to 7.10.
In a worst-case scenario, let's say Pedro's comeback, slated for August, goes very poorly and maybe he even re-injures himself, and he decides to retire. Best case, he comes back fine, pitches well down the stretch and in the playoffs, collects a shiny new ring, is fairly effective next season with a minimum of DL time, and hangs 'em up after 2008 a hero to Mets fans and Red Sox fans alike. To answer the anonymous commenter's question: I don't have a problem with the signing either way.
The contract was for four years, $53 million. Let's face it, the Mets could and can still afford that. The key for me here is that they didn't go to a fifth year or beyond. Long contracts are far more crippling then simply expensive contracts. Moreover, that 2005 season in which Martinez was so effective was crucial for fans to once again believe in their team, which had built a horrible reputation for throwing money at has-beens, burnouts, and other assorted nightmares.
There was a lot of talk, and I don't know if this can be proved or disproved, that signing Pedro gave the team a leg up on signing Carlos Beltran as well as other, less major free agents. (Additionally, as much of a hard time as Beltran had that year, he wasn't the only face of the franchise. Pedro's presence and positive vibes, along with David Wright's, had to deflect some of the heat from him, even if Carlos still took his share.) Again, this is a rich team, so maybe those signing happen anyway, but (and again, we're just taking various insiders' words for it) Pedro's presence made the clubhouse click and set a certain tone, without ever stepping on Willie Randolph's toes or annoying more staid veterans like Tom Glavine (as far as we know). This countered any fears that anyone may have had stemming from reports out of Boston about demands for special treatment and pissing contests between Pedro and Curt Schilling.
With all that said, if a great team hadn't been built around Pedro it would be a very different story. This only works because the team can get by without him and, if you trust the early results, pitchers like Maine and Perez (and I hope Pelfrey) can hold the fort in his absence. Which raises an interesting question: if the team can get by without Pedro, how was signing him still worth it? Well, first there's the aforementioned "transition year" of 2005 in which good will was built up before the remaining parts (Delgado, LoDuca, etc.) had been put in place. Second, there's the matter of this year's playoffs, if God willing we're involved in them. Pedro is in line to be the proverbial free deadline addition and finishing piece to the rotation. And most of all, you have to look at it from the perspective of when the signing was made, balancing risk and reward. The Mets accepted the risk and prepared to make do if Pedro missed significant time. They made sure that it wouldn't kill them. And it hasn't.
The flip side is the reward: when healthy, Pedro has been excellent. He's only a six-inning pitcher? Who isn't these days? And besides, this bullpen is built to work.
But to get down to brass tacks, it really does come down to money. He was a good signing for Mets because they could afford him and afford to eat the missed time. They could take the rewards while hedging against the risk. If it was a smaller-payroll team that banked on him for the same money and years, they'd have crippled themselves in the process, and it would have been a terrible signing. If the worst-case scenario I described earlier actually happens, maybe fans will revisit how we feel about this, but for now I think that this team was in just the right position to make this a worthwhile signing.