Less than two minutes into a news conference before Thursday night’s Game 2 of the World Series, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe started their comedy routine. It was give and take reminiscent of the 2004 World Series champions, the lovable “idiots” that broke the Curse of the Bambino.
They played it fast and loose and a little quirky. The act started when Martinez mentioned the similarities between the bearded 2013 club and the 2004 champions.
“Without a doubt, this club has a lot of character,” said Martinez, now a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington. “It’s a team that looks pretty much like us, yes, because they can’t wait to get to the field . . . And I don’t know if you guys have been noticing the way they play the game. They play the game like a wolfpack, that’s how I describe the whole team, like a wolfpack. They draw a plan to kill and to feed everybody.’’
At that point Lowe interrupted and asked, “What are we talking about again, right now? You got me lost. You started talking about kill.”
Knowing he had an audience of reporters right where he wanted them, Martinez continued, “Because they go after the kill, a little baby animal that’s hurt or something like that, the easiest catch.”
Lowe laughed at his former teammate, then chimed in again, “Did you guys get all of that?”
Always the outspoken entertainer, Martinez didn’t disappoint, not during interviews and not when he joined his 2004 teammates for first-pitch duties. Flanked by Lowe and Trot Nixon for a mini-reunion at the news conference, it was a chance for the trio to reminisce about playing in Boston and on the accomplishments of the current club. And it was entertaining stuff all around.
“Once you win a World Series here, I think there’s always going to be a piece of you that roots for [the Red Sox],” said Lowe. “It’s a special place. There’s a lot asked of you when you play here. But I think you don’t appreciate it, at least I didn’t, until you leave. Once you leave, you miss this. How many other World Series teams have a bunch of guys like us come back and talk to you? You kind of get forgotten and you just move on down the road. And I think that’s one thing that’s always been very special about this city.”
All three gave full support for the Boston beards. They understood it helped counter the monotony of a long season and inject personality into the clubhouse. For Nixon, the facial hairstylings of the current club made him reflect on his questionable hair choices as a player.
“I know we had guys that would shave their head and so forth,’’ said Nixon. “But who knows what goes on between baseball players’ ears. I don’t know what was going on between mine half the time. But just something to change it up. I had a Mohawk one year and it was God awful. When I looked at pictures of it, I couldn’t believe my wife let me wear my hair that way.”
Lowe and Martinez turned serious when the subject of Jon Lester and the alleged ball tampering came up. Both believed the controversy was much ado about nothing.
“I don’t know how it’s not legal,” said Lowe. “Everyone has pine tar. Hitters have pine tar. They have it all over themselves . . . What’s the difference if you have pine tar in your glove or what a lot of people do is just put gobs and gobs of hairspray in their hair and they do this [run hands through hair], and you’re going to get the same result, but that’s legal.”
Added Martinez: “You can grab a bat and it’s full of pine tar, and you can just go and feel your hands sticky. It’s just so many things that you probably could do, even not realizing you’re doing it. But if we all watch baseball and we watch what happened [Wednesday] night, it’s not about what he had in his glove. It’s about how bad St. Louis came out and played.”
When asked about pitching against the cheaters of baseball’s steroid era, Martinez noted that he “never thought that the steroid scandal would be such a big deal because all I saw out there was a player that wanted to beat me and I wanted to beat him.” But as he learned how steroids could help players recover quicker, Martinez figured he “was at a little bit of a disadvantage” and “now my numbers, if they were big, they look bigger.”
Martinez was candid when it came to discussing his departure from the Red Sox after the 2004 season. The savvy pitcher admitted he probably unwisely gave Red Sox management more leverage than he should have. After winning the World Series, when asked by reporters if he had played his last game for the Red Sox, Martinez said that he hoped not, that he had too much to lose with a new house and all his interests in Boston.
“I’m not going to lie,” said Martinez. “It didn’t take me completely by surprise. But, at the same time, I think I hurt my chances even more by being like I’ve always been, outspoken, from the heart . . . Little did I know that would come back to bite me, because during negotiations, you don’t talk about those things. You give the team the advantage of offering whatever they thought.
“Even though I was honest later on and I said, ‘[president/CEO Larry] Lucchino, I got four years from another team. Guaranteed all four years. And all I’m asking from you guys is three years or two years and an option. And they said, ‘Nah.’ He said, ‘Nah.’ . . . I think I hurt my chances by expressing to the Red Sox how much I wanted to be in Boston, so they felt like I would take a huge cut, one-year guarantee.”