The Strain on Pedro and Superstars

Transcript taken from Boston Dirt Dogs:
He said some people – he’s not sure who – accused him of faking an illness last season to avoid pitching against the Yankees. He said that was bad, but this was worse. He said some people on the radio were making fun of him while he was in a Boston hospital last week caring for his sick, 5-year-old son. He said those people were accusing him of showing up late to spring training this year for no good reason.
“And my son’s lying there in bed,” he said. “How would you feel? The doctors were more upset than I was. They heard about it and they wanted to write a letter, but I said I didn’t need that. I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of talking, I’m tired of being the guy everybody comes to. I’m tired of everything.”
When he says everything, he means it. Moments before he lashed back at his stealth critics, Martinez was engulfed in Sox fans, signing autographs and smiling for photographs for hundreds of giddy snowbirds for half an hour. At one point, the crowd broke into a chant of “Ped-ro! Ped-ro!” It was a nice gesture, but he really doesn’t want to hear it anymore.
“I’m tired of my name,” he said. “Hey, Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. That’s all I hear. Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. I want to change my name.”
Ah, the life of a superstar. Can you blame Pedro? Pedro is hounded every second. He is hounded at home during the off-season, he is hounded on the road during the season. There is probably no place Pedro can go to escape from it all. It certainly comes with the territority, what with being the best pitcher of your era…but I think the perfect line to go here is what Mark McGwire said over lunch with Tony LaRussa the year after he retired. LaRussa said that McGwire said with joy on his face, (and this is a paraphrasing, just to cover my butt) “Tony, it feels great to have no stress”.
red of hearing his name. “Pedro, can I have an interview?” “Go get this guy, Pedro.” “Mr. Pedro, can you sign this?” “Pedro, Pedro, Pedro…” I would tire of hearing my name eventually, too. The success he has enjoyed, the team he plays for, the quest the team plays for…Pedro is the face of the Red Sox. Not Manny, Nomar, or Curt. When people think of the Boston Red Sox, they think of Pedro Martinez. (On a side note, that is why we must resign him.)
Pedro has gotten bad raps before. For example, last year. He was first vilified for demanding his option year for 2004 be picked up or he was going to leave, 100%. Some people chalk it up to being a baby, some chalk it up to security. I think it was both, and also a way to gauge how badly the Red Sox wanted Pedro. After the contract, the media slammed him for saying he was going to test the market anyways. Pedro commented on that, saying the media twisted his words and presented what he said in full. What he said (which I cannot recollect nor find) was actually very respectful.
Superstars in baseball – any sport – have a hard time. They have the weight, the added burden of everybody looking up to them, expecting, wanting them to perform. They have go out and play not for the joy of the game, not even for the money, but for the fans. People say money rules all. Perhaps – for the middling players. But for the true superstars like A-Rod, Pedro…the fans are watching them, whispering about them. It no longer becomes about the game or about the money. It becomes about measuring up. Pedro is a fragile being, and I would think the media would realize that. I would also think the media would realize that the best way to get Pedro joyous again … joyous enough to bring a Yoda mask to the dugout … joyous enough to have teammates get sick of him and tape him to the dugout pole (where is that Pedro?) is to just simply leave him alone and let him play the game for the game itself. Baseball, stepping out onto the field, is a joy at any level of baseball. But with each level up, the expectations, the burden increases. It gets too much. It becomes a job.
Pedro, feel comforted that at least one guy is behind you. I’ve got your back, I will always have your back.