BALTIMORE -- Why does this stuff always happen with the Red Sox? Why can't it just be about the baseball? Even for one day.
Pedro Martinez and the Sox lost their opener Sunday night in Baltimore. Martinez struggled mightily in a terrible second inning but settled down and finished with decent, though not Pedro-like, numbers. He allowed only two earned runs in six innings and gave his team a chance to win the game.
Then he did something stupid and selfish. He walked out of the ballpark while his teammates were still trying to win the game. He bailed.
This act may not seem like much of a big deal to some people, but it's a violation of a timeless baseball code.
The fallout started yesterday in Baltimore when new manager Terry Francona was asked about Martinez's perceived transgression. General manager Theo Epstein Sunday night said Francona would talk to Martinez about the matter.
Didn't happen. Probably won't happen. Francona said he didn't want to bother Pedro on his day off. The manager said it was his (Francona's) fault for not making the rule better-known during spring training.
Ouch. Francona looks weak. There's nothing new about the idea of all players staying at the park until the game is over. The manager is covering for his player, which makes for a poor start in some eyes. It's unfortunate that he was put in this position.
Remember Butch Hobson? We still have photos of Daddy Butch chatting with the tardy Roger Clemens while Clemens wore headphones as the two ran laps. It was like Dukakis in the tank.
It's understood that many Sox fans don't care what Martinez does as long as he pitches effectively. If you are in that camp, good for you. Just don't accuse the media of "running poor Pedro out of town." He appears to be running from Boston all by himself.
At some point before last season, Martinez made up his mind that he was not being respected by management. We know he still feels that way. It appears he wants to leave.
It's an interesting theory, this "no respect" thing. Last spring, when the Sox were under no obligation, they triggered the $17.5 million 2004 option year on Martinez's contract. He never said thanks. He told them it would not help them in their efforts to sign him to a contract extension beyond this season. Then a fan booed him when he gave up 10 runs in the home opener and Martinez decided the fans were against him. Then a couple of writers wrote about his behavior and he stopped talking to the media. Oh, and then some of the whiner liners were tough on him.
He seemed chipper when he arrived in Fort Myers this spring and we thought maybe this would be a smooth time for the ace. But he didn't throw hard in spring training and resented questions about the lost velocity. He told the Sox public relations department that he was "shutting it down." He would not talk again until the opener.
Let's get this straight one more time: Shutting out the media is not a capital offense. It would be nice if the fellows chose to talk, but it's OK if they don't. That's not what this is about. This is about disrespecting your manager, your teammates, and the game. It's about a player who has built up all these straw men so that he can knock them over in the name of pride and respect.
What about Jason Varitek and David Ortiz, Pedro? Are they not also proud men? They are playing in the final years of their contracts. Could you stick around 'til the end of the game to see if their efforts might not produce a comeback victory?
The Red Sox this year are paying Martinez more money than any pitcher ever has made. Is it too much to ask the guy to stick around for nine innings?
Curt Schilling starts today. This is the same Schilling who called Pedro a "punk" after Martinez went nutty in the third game of last year's ALCS. Positive or negative, the Martinez-Schilling contrast is going to be there for all to see. Every turn of the rotation.
Now that we are on the subject of pitching again, at what point precisely did Pedro morph into the Dominican John Burkett? He can talk all he wants about how strong he feels and about the silly media harping on his fastball. What about the batting practice heater he threw to Javy Lopez in the second inning Sunday night? Lopez was able to pull the ball down the line. The line-drive homer might have broken a chairback if frozen fans hadn't been in the way.
We know Martinez is still a great pitcher. He can get by without the 95 mile per hour heater. But he's been having trouble finishing guys off (remember Nick Johnson in late August?) for a while. Sometimes it looks as if Pedro is fearful of his own mound mortality -- frustrated by the inevitable decline of skills.
Sox fans still love the guy and there's been a lot to love over the years. And let's not forget that Pedro's got some leverage: namely six sensational seasons with the Sox and George Steinbrenner's checkbook. But is there any wonder why the Sox are reluctant to commit to another three years at multiple millions?
Pedro says it's about respect. He didn't show much respect for his new manager Sunday night.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.