It was all going too smoothly. Six of seven from the Yankees. Six straight wins overall. Best start since 1918. Best record in baseball. Byung Hyun Kim getting a standing ovation. Sox executives picking up trash in the stands. A Fenway ball boy making a catch worthy of Ozzie Smith. Manny Ramirez smoking the ball and smiling. Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke coming as advertised. David Ortiz even more Yaz-like.
And then we pick up the Saturday papers and there it is: Pedro Martinez is fed up with Red Sox management and will become a free agent at the end of the season. He will not negotiate any more this year. He will pitch this year, then sell his services to the highest bidder. He also called his bosses liars.
There's an old saying in the NBA that a playoff series hasn't really started until the road team wins a game. We know that the Boston baseball season has not officially begun until a star Red Sox player starts bitching about something.
And so the Sox season is finally under way.
Thank goodness. It was getting downright boring here in the toy department.
Last weekend in New York, I wrote three columns about the Red Sox without a single shot at any player, manager, coach, or front office person. What else could one do? The Sox were almost flawless against the Yankees. A weekend of feel-good commentary was followed by a glowing tribute to the new, media-savvy Ramirez in Tuesday's Globe.
The readers were reeling. Our offices were bombarded with "What have you done with Shaughnessy?" inquiries. Kidnapped by aliens? Blackmailed by Boston Dirt Dogs? Hit in the head by a foul ball and unable to summon usual measures of sarcasm? Or maybe The
None of that was true. It's just that things were going so well for the Red Sox that the usual rules didn't apply. Searches for buffoonery, controversy, ineptitude, and hopelessness came up empty. It was as if the Sox suddenly were following the Patriot game plan that produced two Super Bowl championships in three seasons. Praise the Sox and pass the pompoms. That's all we did. Everything was perfect. Never was heard a discouraging word.
Now, finally, Pedro has delivered. After not speaking publicly for a month, he unloaded on the front office. He said, "I just don't like people lying, trying to fake that they're signing us when they never made an effort to actually think about anything." He mentioned teammates Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek as other players who'd been dissed by management.
On the surface, Pedro's remarks do not constitute much of a news bomb, but the story still shook the timbers in most of the homes in Red Sox Nation.
Calm down, people. First of all, Pedro certainly will entertain an offer if the Sox play his tune between now and October. And the Sox still can negotiate with him exclusively for a short window after the World Series. We know that Nomar Garciaparra, Lowe, Varitek, and Ortiz are in the same contract boat with Pedro. The Sox are risking losing all of them. Pedro is no different in that regard.
What makes him different is that he is selfish enough to talk about this at a time when the rest of his teammates seem committed to winning games and dealing with 2005 after this season. Since the season started, we haven't heard any "where's mine?" commentary from the other four star players. Just Pedro -- who hasn't otherwise commented about anything since the end of spring training.
There are fans out there who love Pedro unconditionally. His Sox record of 104-29 (before last night) has earned him immunity from criticism with some. They protect him like he's a member of the family because he has been a wonderful pitcher for so many years. Nothing he says or does ever will bother them.
If you feel that way, good for you.
Not me. The Dominican Diva's diatribe is offensive on every level. He's calling the owners liars -- a pretty strong attack on people who are paying him $17.5 million, more than any other pitcher in the history of baseball. He's raising the issue of his own status at a time when teammates in the same situation have remained quiet. He's claiming some of those teammates have not been made offers -- a charge management disputes. Pedro talking about other teammates' negotiations is like Schilling talking about steroid testing.
Mostly, it's just tiresome. Pedro's persecution complex rears its head once again. At a time when everything was going so well.
The front office and fans in our town have done nothing but kiss his forehead for six-plus seasons here, but it's never enough for Pedro. One fan boos him, he thinks he's getting the Sidney Wicks-Tony Eason treatment. One columnist makes a sarcastic remark, he stops talking to everyone in the media. He doesn't get a contract extension when four of his teammates are in the same boat, his owners are liars. This is Pedro's world, and given all the things that are happening in the real world, it's silly and offensive.
May Day. At a moment when the Sox look better than ever, Pedro is bitching about how he's being treated. The Red Sox season has officially begun.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.