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January 26, 2009

Canton vs. Cooperstown

Last weekend, during the NFC Championship game, the commentators were all talking about the matchup between Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner.

At some point, it became less about who was going to the Super Bowl and more about the legacy of each quarterback. Every time I heard that this particular game would determine who would end up taking up residency in the Pro Football Hall of Fame…I threw up a little in my mouth.

Are the credentials for enshrinement in Canton THAT much different than unlocking the doors at Cooperstown?

Apparently so.

A fourth NFC Championship loss would spell doom for McNabb, while a third Super Bowl appearance would, apparently, make Warner a lock. If you listened to the announcers, each touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald was another step toward immortality for the former Hy-Vee bag boy. In the second half, all that was pushed aside thanks to McNabb’s comeback.

All of a sudden, he was likened to John Elway or Joe Montana.

Unless you were under a rock, you know that the game concluded with the Arizona Cardinals winning 32 to 25 and seemingly sent Warner to the tailor to get measured for his Hall of Fame jacket.

Can someone please tell me why?

Warner wasn’t even slated to start this season under center. For his career, he has played three…count ‘em THREE full seasons as a starting quarterback. Sure, he made the Super Bowl in each of those seasons and his career winning percentage hovers around 56%, but in baseball terms…the guy is more Jose Rijo (career winning percentage of 56% and a World Series MVP) than Curt Schilling (accolades too numerous to mention).

So what in the world does Kurt Warner have to do with baseball? There hasn’t been a “Warner” in baseball since 1966 and the closest any of them haven’t gotten to the Hall of Fame were the “Waner” brothers (Paul and Lloyd) of the 30s and 40s.

Consider this if you will.

Football is a game of “what have you done for me once” while baseball fans want to know exactly “what are you doing for me now”…just look at the history of the game. Joe Namath, with his one ring and .500 record, has earned him some sort of legend status. David Cone, with his FIVE rings, a perfect game and close to 200 Ws can’t get FOUR percent of the writers to vote for him.

And that’s why I am fearful of the news I heard coming out of Pittsburgh…the Pirates are interested in signing Pedro Martinez.

Why be afraid though? Pedro is a LOCK for Cooperstown…only an idiot would leave him off their ballot, right? Right?!? Well, I thought the same about Rickey Henderson, but apparently five percent of the voters out there proved me wrong.

Take this leap of faith with me.

Before Pedro bolted Beantown for the Big Apple…the curators at the Hall of Fame were already framing up his spot on the museum walls. Four years later…and it’s a different Pedro.

No, I don’t mean that the jheri curl disappeared or that his face got a little chubbier. This is a guy, who, seemingly forgot how to win. Basically, he forgot who he was.

In the eight year stretch (seven of which were in Boston) before he donned the Mets pinstripes, Pedro had SEVEN top four finishes in the Cy Young voting. Three times (1997, 1999 and 2000), he took home the award. In 1999, he won the pitching triple crown by leading the league in wins, Ks and ERA.

Martinez was 32 when he left Boston with his six All-Star games, 182 wins and 2653 Ks under his arm. He won 70 percent of his games and had a career strikeout to walk ratio of 4.31…both ranking him third best of all-time.

Amazingly, his 117-37 record with the Red Sox ranks as the highest winning percentage (76%) any pitcher has had with any team in baseball history.

With the Mets, Martinez was 32-23 with a 3.88 ERA…a far cry from his career ERA of 2.91 or PRE-New York ERA of 2.71. Somehow, he was selected to two All-Star games (2005 and 2006) and was injured for most of his stay.

So allow me to say it…Pedro, hang it up. Please.

You’re 37 and while some of your contemporaries (Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Schilling) seemed to have stepped up their game during their prime years…yours has declined. Should you play four more years like you did the last four, your ERA is likely going to jump over 3.10 and your winning percentage will drop to 65%.

Why do it to yourself and your legacy?

Your peak was legendary and was one that would make guys like Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal or Jim Palmer slap you on the back. You took big game pitching to an entirely new level. Don’t ruin it all by suiting up with the Pirates.

I’m serious.

It was bad enough to see you trot to the mound at Shea, but after four years…we got used to it. Hang it up before you take the bump at PNC Park (or whatever they’ll call it next) because, and I’m going to attempt to bring this back to pro football, Johnny Unitas looked absolutely silly as a Charger.
BallHype: hype it up!


DA said...

I want Pedro as a Pirate. But that is just because I can drive down there. It's a pretty selfish reason I admit it. But when he was on over his career there wasn't anyone better. I'd love to catch lightning in a bottle for one day to watch it. Just one more time.

That be said, if you were saying he was going somewhere outside driving range I'd be saying retire. Which at the end of the day is really what I should rooting for preserve what's left of his legacy.

1999, was as good a year as anyone has had, but wins, the era, the k's, staggeringly good.

Going to miss you Pedro, but regrettably I think it's time to go.

P.S. - I'm not happy about it

JB said...

I agree, DA. There was not a better pitcher during Pedro's Red Sox run. It would be hard to not root for Pedro as a Buc, especially if you are that close. Face it, it isn't like you would have problems getting a good seat.

Football doesn't have MAGIC numbers. Meaning there is not an equivalent to 300 wins, 3000 hits, 500 homers, etc... There is no milestone to reach toward other than Super Bowl wins and/or trips. (Just ask Phil Simms, he knows everything!!!!) Sure we know Favre broke every record known to QB's, but we didn't start marking footballs with holograms (Thanks, Mr. Bonds) or planning huge game stoppages when he got close to Marino's career TD mark of 420. We know people either get close to the career marks or they don't...

You know Sheffield would look good in yellow and black with Pedro. Just so #500 eventually does come around....

What is worse than Unitas as a charger????

Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal...