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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Trying harder to win over our ace

Careful, Red Sox fans. I think a couple of you who were at Fenway Park yesterday did not get out of your seats and applaud when Pedro Martinez came off after his sixth and final inning of work. The little guy might think that's disrespectful. It might make him leave town after he collects his $17.5 million next year. And that would be the end of the baseball world as we know it.

Time for New England to cowboy up and make Pedro feel welcome. There's still time to make him like us. But it's going to take a concentrated effort.

For sure, you won't see any more cheap shots coming from this space. No more "Diva Pedro," no more Pedro as the Diana Ross of baseball. No more wiseguy remarks about blowing off the team photo, Dad's birthday, lighting the torch at the Pam Am Games, shutting it down at the end of the season, or establishing himself as the neediest 10-game winner in baseball history. Here's to a moratorium on media negativity. There'll be no blood on these hands, no responsibility for driving Pedro out of town. And let the word go forth to the people at sports radio: No more hosts saying that Pedro should have pitched when he was sick. No more callers questioning Pedro's injuries or illnesses. Callers from now on will be screened to make sure they aren't going to say anything to offend the ace. We don't want Pedro to leave Boston, no sir.

Sox owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino are not dopes. They know Pedro is feeling a little disrespected. He dope-slapped them after they gave him that $17.5 million wet kiss in the springtime. He assured them that would do them no good at contract time. And now he has told a trusted reporter (apparently not knowing he'd be quoted, but revealing his true feelings, nonetheless) that he's out of here after 2004. He thinks the town is against him because he's Dominican. He's hurt that Joe from Brockton questioned his fortitude on WEEI. No respect, you know?

The owners know they've not done enough to show Pedro due respect. Accordingly, they've ordered rose petals to be sprinkled in Pedro's path when he gets out of his car in the Fenway parking lot. They've arranged to have his favorite foods in the clubhouse before and after every game. No red M&Ms in his candy bowl. They've assured him that he doesn't have to be on time. He doesn't have to worry about traveling with the team or working out with his teammates.

No more "Sweet Caroline." Only salsa between innings.

Oh, and that Globe game story in Spanish the day after he pitches? Let's make it an entire Spanish edition, El Globo. (And Pedro can refuse to speak in as many languages as he chooses.)

We can all do more. Zakim Bridge? Tip Tunnel? Make it the Pedro Bridge and the Martinez Tunnel. And instead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Southie, we'll have an annual St. Pedro Parade in the South End. We'll raise the Dominican flag over the State House and City Hall. Durgin-Park will sell Pedro Popovers. Peterborough, N.H., will be renamed Pedroborough.

Let's face it, Pedro has had it rough here in Boston, and it's up to us to make him feel welcome. Really. Has any other athlete been treated more harshly in the Hub? Vin Baker? Carl Everett? Bob Stanley? Terry Glenn? Tony Eason? Sidney Wicks? Curtis Rowe? Wil Cordero? Bill Buckner? None of these guys endured anything close to the disrepect that has dogged Pedro here all these years.

Remember the guy who stood by the dugout and booed Pedro in April? Pedro does. The Sox need to assure Pedro that they've revoked the heathen's season tickets.

It won't be easy, but if everybody does his or her part, and the Sox owners pony up $100 million or more, we might be able to change Pedro's mind and convince him that he is loved here in New England.

We all know he's worth it. He's the greatest pitcher we've seen since Sandy Koufax. He's a perfect 12-0 vs. Seattle, a potential first-round opponent of the Red Sox. In 1999, he came through with Boston's guttiest postseason pitching performance since Jim Lonborg in 1967.

He remains one of the greatest performers and most intelligent athletes to ever play in Boston. And he's capable of being the most charming.

Too bad something went wrong along the way. Too bad he got it in his head that we don't respect him. Too bad he wants to leave.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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