Category Archives: Philadelphia Phillies

Mookie Betts in a blur

Mookie Betts certainly knows how to make an entrance.

Mookie Betts certainly knows how to make an entrance.

In the second inning of Fenway Park’s Opening Day, Mookie Betts came to bat with Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon on base and sent a pitch that ricocheted off the third row of seats above the Green Monster. It was 4-0 so quickly that it felt like Pedro Martinez’s ceremonial first pitch was the one Betts rejected over the wall.

It’s served as a microcosm of his ascent from promising minor league infielder to starting center fielder for the Boston Red Sox in just one calendar year. He’s shot past so many other highly rated prospects to force his way onto the roster in the middle of a lost season last year, and today, he kept adding to his myth. It feels like he’s a character out of every sappy baseball script. He’s feeding every trope and cliche, smiling and hitting and leaving everyone wondering if this is history unfolding. Continue reading

Aspirations for greatness, via Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

If I glance to my left from my desk at work, I can see various things taped up: concert setlists, band photos, album covers, little trinkets to keep me motivated and feeling like I’m at home. One of them is a Pedro Martinez baseball card, circa 2003. He’s pumping his fist, probably after another strikeout.

Thanks to a quick decline in baseball card quality the past couple of seasons, the collecting bug that I rekindled around 2010 has flamed out again, leading me back to the occasional, nostalgic purchase. I still seek out individual Red Sox each year, and I pick up stray cards of players I like on the cheap. In terms of space and money spent, it’s a much more affordable existence.

This weekend, I was tooling around again for the first time in a few months, and sort of instinctively started looking for Pedro cards. Soon enough, I found a 10-card lot of ones I mostly didn’t have, priced around $3 total, and took the plunge. The entire exercise probably took around 10 minutes.

Tomorrow afternoon, there’s a very good chance that Pedro is going to be announced as a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, along with Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and maybe a couple of others (John Smoltz? Mike Piazza?). It’s a feather in the cap of an incredible career, and it feels nice to know that he’s being acknowledged for his work. But that’s not what I was thinking about when I went searching for those cards, because I don’t think much about the Hall of Fame anymore. Continue reading

Pedro calling it a career

Pedro, as a young dandy in Montreal.

What has been evident for months will soon be official: Pedro Martinez is retiring from baseball.

Certainly, this is not a surprising development. Pedro last pitched in the 2009 World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies, and very well, might I add, and sat out the 2010 and ’11 campaigns.

In the meantime, he’s enjoyed himself in his native Dominican Republic, spending time with his family away from the game:

“It was after I didn’t play for one year and I was able to garden again with my mom and be with my boys and go to baseball games,” Martinez said. “I got attached, I got attached to that kind of life. Being at home, being able to sit on my boat and not worry about tomorrow. It was really what made me lean towards not coming back.”

As I have written extensively before, Pedro Martinez was the most exciting baseball player I’ve ever seen. Truly, he was an artist on the mound, and had the added grace and wisdom to adjust to life as a dealer after arm troubles robbed him of his devastating fastball later in his career. He might not have been the best pitcher in the league at that point, but he was still a thrill to watch.

The honors will come soon enough. Before long, he’ll have a bronze plaque in Cooperstown, his no. 45 will hang on Fenway Park’s right field facade and his career highlights will live on in documentaries, books and memories.

And there is no shortage of amazing memories.

Papelbon takes the logical next step

“They don’t pay me to think. If I’m a thinker, then I’m not a closer. That’s the way I look at it, man.”
— Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon is taking his fastball to Philly.

At his best, Jonathan Papelbon always gave the impression of an overgrown kid who couldn’t believe his good luck to be in a major league uniform, throwing fastballs and intimidating hitters for a living. This is the Papelbon I fell in love with, the big kid closing the door in the ninth, being his incredibly goofy self away from the stadium.

I remember driving down 93 South one afternoon during the offseason, listening to Papelbon glowing about a sneaker deal with Reebok. He was beside him, giddy about how the company gave him a bunch of sneakers — for free! When he excitedly asked the radio hosts if they needed a pair, the studio gave way to laughter, and told Papelbon that, no, they didn’t need any free sneakers, but they appreciated the offer.

But my first impression of him was nothing like that. I remember sitting at the bar in Chili’s on a Sunday afternoon after hunting for records at a flea market in Raynham, Mass., watching Papelbon make his debut in a start against the Minnesota Twins. I’d been reading about his progress through Portland and Pawtucket that season, and I knew he’d be given the ball that day. Continue reading

Cliff Lee and greatness

Lee has been frustrating batters to no end lately.

There are very few situations where I will find myself rooting against the Boston Red Sox. After more than two decades of faith and devotion, dunking my head into the deep waters of players, personalities, history, stats and memorabilia, I have conditioned myself to always see the good in the hometown team (minus one notable exception).

What happened yesterday, watching Cliff Lee completely dominate the Red Sox, didn’t cause me to loosen those morals. But despite being disappointed with the outcome, I’m still able to step away and appreciate greatness when it presents itself. And the roll that Cliff Lee has been on lately is the stuff of greatness, a tall, cool lefty blessed by the Baseball Gods with equal portions of confidence and control. Continue reading