In one of my recent blogs, I defended Carlos Delgado. Many fans have blamed the first baseman as the primary reason for our struggles and inconsistent play this entire season. Baseball is a team sport. The 2008 Mets will either succeed or fail as a team. However, that being said, there is one player who bears much of the burden for these next 74 games. Perhaps more than anyone else, I feel that Pedro Martinez holds the fate of our club in his (pitching) hand.
Pedro is the wildcard for our pitching staff the rest of the season. The big question mark. At 36 years old, it is safe to say that he will never again be the strikeout master he once was. Like so many pitchers who have come before him, Pedro is at that critical point in his career where he needs to learn to pitch with his head and his heart. And not his arm. This future Hall of Famer needs to adapt and to adjust. For himself, for his own legacy and definitely, for his teammates.
With our other starters we mostly know what we can expect every fifth day. Johan will pitch superb, keep us in the game and give us our best chance of adding a “W.” (If we could only score some runs for him, that’d be nice). With John Maine, we can usually count on something bordering on the area of a quality start. Oliver Perez? Well, I think we all wake up in the morning with the same nervous feeling in the pit of our stomach when it’s Ollie’s turn to pitch. Mike Pelfrey has been a huge surprise and a nice plus. With the exception of his June 16th start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Southern California of the Pacific Time Zone on Planet Earth, or whatever they are calling themselves this week, Pelfrey’s numbers over the last 7 starts have rivaled those of Santana’s. “The Big Pelf” has allowed just 9 earned runs in his last 38 2/3 innings for a Seaver-esque 2.33 ERA. And that leaves Pedro.
Pedro has been anything but lights out since his return from the DL. His last 3 starts have been less than memorable. He’s allowed an incomprehensible 17 Earned Runs and 22 hits in just 15 innings. However, he will have approximately 15 more starts this year and he needs to make the most of them. He will be a free agent after this season and if for nothing else, his market value could increase exponentially if he was to dominate the NL and lead the Mets into the post-season. Pedro is one of those rare athletes that seems to make those around him better. The combination of Johan Santana and a strong Pedro Martinez in the same rotation is enough to cause fans from Atlanta to Philadelphia many sleepless nights. We all were biding our team, anxiously awaiting his return from the DL. We felt that once Pedro was back things would instantly turn around for the Mets. That did not transpire overnight. I feel confident that if Pedro can turn things around and start winning, his teammates will follow. A winning attitude, a positive attitude, is contagious.
Interestingly enough, Martinez will pitch on Monday. Although it is still only early July, this is the biggest game of the year for our Mets. Normally the thought of a Pedro Martinez starting such a crucial game would give us a feeling of confidence. But based on Pedro of late, we have some feelings of uncertainty. The importance of Monday’s game can not be stressed enough. If we win, we will have taken 3 out of 4 from the first place team…in THEIR home park. This will send a clear message that we may be down, but we are not defeated. On the flip side, a loss would still get us a split. Not what we hoped for but then again, not too bad. We will justify the weekend and say we traveled into enemy territory and came out with a split. Monday’s game is actually worth two in the standings. A victory will put us just 2 ½ out, a loss 4 ½.
Ironically, it will # 45 on the mound at Citizens Bank.