Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pedro by Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman

Photo: the hardcover, from its Goodreads page

Better-written than usual for this type of book, Pedro nonetheless continues a string of multi-millionaires complaining of lack of respect and then throwing their teammates and colleagues under the bus. Mike Napoli, for example, may wake up one morning, read a page of this, and wonder WTF?

It is well-written and it has a better narrative flow than is usual for the genre. Michael Silverman has created a structure of Pedro's voice, narrative voice (certainly not Pedro's), author voice (same) and then enmeshes direct quotes from others, like you're reading a screenplay of a documentary. It doesn't sound like it works (and, sporadically, it doesn't), but overall it does work and you read on.

You get the childhood background, but without the grittiness that you think the self-proclaimed poverty would demand. It's smoothed over when maybe it shouldn't have been, but then this isn't really a documentary, it just sounds like one. You get the beginning, with the Dodgers, then the other teams: the Expos, the Red Sox, the Mets and the Phillies. (Did you remember that Pedro's last start was in the 2009 World Series against the Yanks? I did, but it seemed surreal, then and now.) You get the typical beef about the management: the Dodgers and Sox especially.

And this is the first of two things that made me rate this a three rather than a four: it's hypocritical about two things, so glaring you wonder they weren't amended. The first: Every Sox fan knows Pedro's last game was Game 4 of the 2004 World Series. Immediately he let it be known that he wanted a 3-4 year contract, and the Sox wanted to give him the shortest one possible, a year, or two, at most. That was known before the season ended and for as long as it took for him to get a guaranteed 3-4 year deal with the Mets. And it was also known that his shoulder and arm were frayed. More time on the DL; more injuries; more babying at the end...All of this was known. And it was just as well-known that the Sox were right: Pedro had one good year left for the Mets, and then the rest of that contract he mostly spent on the DL. If the Sox had given him a 3-4 year deal, they were going to eat 2-3 years of it. They said that out loud, and they were right. If you were Sox ownership, do you make that deal? The Mets did, as they candidly said, because they had a newer ballpark and the fan base was dwindling, and they had to bring in a name.

The hypocritical part is that this book whines about a lack of respect from the Sox about all this--and then shows in following chapters that they were right! He acknowledges he lasted just one more good season (a very good 2005) and then had one injury after another. The 2009 season with Philadelphia was a half-season for him--he was 5-1 and basically started in September. The rest of the year he was the same place as the previous three--on and off (mostly on) the DL. He narrates all this without saying the Sox were right, but clearly shows in his narration that the Sox were right. He calls it a lack of respect that the Sox weren't willing to give him a long guaranteed contract and then eat 75%-80% of it. But of course that's not what businesses do. And the casual fan could see his physical regression in 2003 and 2004. It was obvious. I wouldn't have given him that contract, either. (He's made hundreds of millions from baseball and endorsements, so don't feel bad for him.)

The other blatant example of hypocrisy is how he states all book long that he was misunderstood, that he was mislabeled, that he didn't throw at batters intentionally, that he wasn't a headhunter--and then, often in the same sentence or paragraph, admits that he hit someone on purpose, and that he often told the player he would do so, and then does it. He threatened players verbally with it all the time, then hit the player--and then says he's misunderstood, that he's not a headhunter. This is so obvious in the book that you shake your head.

But, again, that's what these books do, right? They complain about money, about disrespect, about how the media screws them, all that same stuff all the time. It makes you yearn for another Ball Four, and to truly appreciate how direct and honest it was. Say what you want about Bouton, but he was well aware of how not a God he was, about how lucky he was to do what he did and to make the money he did, and he had actual thoughts to say, and didn't complain too much about management or anything else. Yes, he was traded for Dooley Womack, but he never says he shouldn't have been.

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