Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette recited doggerel by Ogden Nash, told jokes about baseball sad sack Bob Uecker, and listed the statistics of Greg Maddux and Juan Marichal in introducing Pedro Martinez yesterday afternoon as the highest-paid player in baseball.
But Duquette may have been at his creative best when he described Martinez's six-year, $75 million contract -- one that could be worth as much as $92 million if the team exercises a $17 million option for a seventh year -- as a bargain.
``It looked to us like he might have gotten $15 million a year as a free agent,'' Duquette said yesterday, referring to the possibility that Martinez could have left as a free agent after the 1998 season.
``That was our evaluation. In terms of that, we got a bargain. There are very few players at this stage of their career who are this good. [Greg] Maddux is one. Pedro is another.''
Whether Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who signed off on the richest contract in baseball history, would agree that it was a bargain is not known. Harrington skipped a press conference that was the biggest in recent years on Yawkey Way, attended not only by media types but the Dominican consul general.
But when Martinez was asked how he felt about all the money he's receiving -- beginning with a $3 million signing bonus and an annual salary that starts at $7 million next season, leaps to the $11 million range in 1999, and goes up in each of the four years thereafter -- he left 'em laughing with understatement.
``I feel happy,'' said Martinez, who admitted he nearly slept through the hotel wake-up call for the physical exam he had to pass to make the deal official. ``You will never imagine all the things I can do with that money. And that will help a lot of people.
``That's why I admire so much Mo Vaughn and Mark McGwire. They're two big men with big hearts. A lot of that money will go to my future and to the future of my family, but part of it will go to some people, especially in the schools and with baseball fields.''
Duquette, who opened by quoting Nash's ``Christmas comes but once a year . . . '' verse, insisted the Red Sox still had enough left under their tree for Mo Vaughn and John Valentin, the incumbent veterans who, like Martinez, are entering their free agent year.
``We're inviting them to come on board for 1998 and beyond,'' Duquette said. ``It's their ball club to join and lead, and we hope they help us to accomplish our organization and team goals to win a World Series championship.''
Even though he had never been to Boston before being traded by the Expos to the Red Sox last month, Martinez already understands what winning a World Series would mean here. He said Red Sox fans here remind him of Canadiens fans in Montreal.
``Like Nomar said, `I think there's no better place to win it than here,' '' said Martinez, who was greeted by Nomar Garciaparra on his first visit to Boston. ``All the high hopes I see in people's eyes for just being here, imagine if we win.
``I guess they'll turn the city upside down if we win the World Series here. Like I saw here, bread and butter, that's baseball. I hope winning the World Series will be the greatest gift for this city.''
Martinez was paid $3.615 million in his last year in Montreal. His countryman, Hall of Famer Marichal, was paid a maximum of $155,000 in his career. Duquette, whose first job in pro ball was with the Milwaukee Brewers, told of how Uecker was paid $21,000 in his best year as a player.
``And $17,000 of that came from selling other players' equipment,'' cracked Duquette, whose high spirits were evident on the day he staked his professional reputation on the 26-year-old righthander who won the National League's Cy Young Award last season.
Duquette, who said he was encouraged by Martinez's favorable response to Boston on his first visit, said the deal began to fall into place last week when he and assistant GM Mike Port flew to Chicago to meet with the pitcher's agents, Jim Bronner and Bob Gilhooley.
``After that meeting,'' Duquette said, ``we had an idea that we had the basis of a deal. There was a deal to be made there.
``We were going to give it our best shot. We were going to get right to the point and see if we could convince them of the merits of signing with the Red Sox.''
They succeeded with a dispatch remarkable when compared to the failed Roger Clemens negotiations and the stalled talks with Vaughn and Valentin.
``Roger goes,'' Port said, ``and in a year, Dan comes back with a guy who probably has a 10-year career remaining, as opposed to the three, four, five years, whatever Roger has left.''
Martinez said he plans to return to the Dominican Republic with more than just a fatter money clip.
``If there's somebody who has a lot of fans in the Dominican right now, it's me,'' Martinez said, ``and you're going to see a lot of kids telling Mommy and Daddy, `I want a Red Sox cap.' I'm going to take a few hats home and start giving them away.''