A few things before I check out of the Residence Inn and head down to the ballpark here in Clearwater. . .
1) The more I examine the situation, the more I believe the Martinez signing borders on a no-brainer. According to my calculations, the Phillies have guaranteed Martinez just over $885,000 for the rest of the season. So, essentially, that's the money they are risking. Everything after that comes in the form of incentives, which are presumably structured so that, if reached, they pay for themselves in the form of performance. Granted, it is easy for me to spend other people's money. But it sure seems like $885,000 isn't a whole lot to gamble. Especially if Martinez makes his major league debut in a mid-week game at home that wasn't previously sold out (I don't care how old the guy is -- his debut will be sold out).
The one unquantifiable concern that filled the airwaves in the build-up to his signing concerned his personality. As my colleague Sam Donnellon put it on Daily News Live, the Phillies clubhouse is very egalitarian. While there are plenty of stars on the roster, there aren't a whole lot of superstars. Ryan Howard is the most down-to-earth $18-million-a-year player I have met. Chase Utley would rather be pelted with rocks than bask in his celebrity status. And it wouldn't surprise me if the only two people who can get Raul Ibanez to talk about himself are his wife and Harvey Dorfman. I'm not saying there are no egos in the clubhouse - this is baseball, afterall, where a certain degree of narcisism is needed to survive. But aside from starting pitching, team chemistry was the biggest factor in the Phillies' World Series run last season.
Well, nothing I have seen out of Pedro Martinez thus far suggests that he will rock the sturdy boat that is the Phillies' clubhouse. Sure, it is early, and he is still very much in a honeymoon stage. But two instances yesterday gave me a good glimpse at Martinez the man. When he arrived at Bright House Field, a small group of autograph seekers awaited him. Instead of taking a back route to the stadium, he walked right toward them, chatting them up and signing their keep sakes. Later that afternoon, as he was dressing to leave, he sat with a Phillies minor leaguer and talked to him at length about the trials and tribulations of professional baseball. In neither instance was Martinez aware that there was a member of the media nearby. When he arrived at the park, I was sitting in my car watching the scene unfold from a distance. In the clubhouse, I was in another corner, talking to some Threshers personnel behind a row of make-shift lockers.
I'm a firm believer that true character is revealed only when no one is looking.
2) Most people assume that because I am the beat writer for the Phillies, I root for them to win. They do not understand when I swear that is not the case. Don't get me wrong - I like to see the teams I cover have success. I cover sports because I enjoy watching athletic performance at the highest level. But I don't have Phillies pennants hanging in my room. What I will admit is that I find myself pulling for certain individuals. It is only human. While part of the intrigue of covering sports is seeing how various human emotions reveal themselves in defeat, deep down inside you enjoy when certain guys succeed. The Phillies have a lot of these guys, and Rodrigo Lopez is becoming one of them. Out of baseball for two years, back at the big leagues at 33 years old, the likely lame duck in the rotation, it is tough not to enjoy what he has done in his last three outings.
Here is a stat for you: Since Pedro Martinez's physical, Phillies starters have allowed two runs in 25 innings.
3) Pedro Martinez is scheduled to throw a simulated game in about an hour. Stay tuned for updates.