Last year about this time, Theo Epstein rather famously was invited by Curt Schilling to dinner. Theo impressed Curt. You know the rest.
This year, it's Curt's compadre Pedro Martinez who's getting wined and dined. After Pedro, the free-agent pitching crop is just so many Carl Pavanos; not a trophy mantle or a jheri curl in the bunch. After Pedro comes the leftovers.
And so it is that folks are laying out some nice spreads for Pedro, popping open some fine bottles, and throwing open some fat wallets.
It sounds nice, and the eats are good, but it hasn't all been easy.
Here now, scenes from dinner with Pedro ...
Wed., Nov. 17, home of Theo Epstein, GM, Boston Red Sox
Theo: Did you enjoy the meal, Pete? You like the wine? Care for another glass? It's from Mr. Henry's private collection -- one of only three remaining bottles of that vintage in all the world.
Pedro: How many bottles you open for Curt?
Theo: I'm sorry?
Pedro: I'm saying, I got one bottle. Tell the truth. Curt got two, didn't he?
Theo: Pete, it's not like that.
Pedro: What's it like? Isn't Curt your boy? Isn't Curt the hero? Isn't he? And where's Mr. Henry tonight anyway? Why am I drinking his wine with you? Seven years in this organization, seven years of service, and I don't get the bossman for dinner? You guys want me to walk, don't you?
Theo: Absolutely not.
Pedro: You think some dusty bottle out of the cellar is going to convince me to stay? Think again. And that cigar you're about to bust out? That's supposed to impress me? Why you treating me like a rook, T? Why you want to do that?
Theo: Trust me, that's the last thing ...
Pedro: This is a stretch, right, because you gotta play the Cruise role, and you're not pretty enough, but you be Jerry Maguire for a minute and I'll be Rod Tidwell. Show me ...
Theo: The money. I got it, I got it. But listen, Pete, be reasonable. You're 33 years old, and the numbers were a bit off this year, and there are reasons to be concerned about the arm over the long haul. I've got to think about the future of the organization. We love you, we do -- but we can't stretch ourselves too thin here, you know? You're one of us. You know that in your heart. This is where you belong. Can't we work something out?
Pedro: The numbers were "a bit off"? "Can't we work something out"? I swear, I ought to throw this saltshaker at your head right now, T. I really should. Lean out over the butter tray. Get up. Stick your Ichabod Crane neck out over the butter and let's see what you got. But don't lean too far, because the inner half of that tray is mine, you hear? You think I've lost something? You try to get out of the way of this shaker. Let's see what I've lost. You think I won't do it? I'll do it. I'll do it and then I'll walk. Go get me some Yankee money is what I'll do. "Future of the organization"? I'm 33, Mr. Numbers Boy. Look around. Look at Roger. Randy. Even your beloved Curt. I'm a baby. "Future of the organization"? Make me sick. And don't get me started on what I've meant to the club in the past. Don't make me beat your behind with the loyalty stick, don't make me tattoo your skinny white hiney with big red welts where respect ought to be.
Theo: Pedro, be reasonable.
(A cut crystal saltshaker whizzes through the air and sticks, tip-first into the wall behind Epstein's head. Martinez heads for the door, picking up the dusty bottle of wine on the way out.)
Thurs., Nov. 18, an undisclosed Manhattan restaurant, accompanied by George Steinbrenner, owner, New York Yankees
Pedro: I know you have some doubts, George. But I want you to know my arm is sound and my head is right. The Red Sox were yesterday. Today, I'm ready to be a Yankee. I don't care what's been said. I don't care who said it. I can make things right with Joe. I can win over the fans. I can be what your team needs, now and for the future.
George: Yeah, um, listen, do you know Randy Johnson? I heard maybe you knew him. Do you think you can put me in touch with him? I'd really like to meet him.
Pedro: Hear me out ...
George: So you don't know him?
Pedro: Is this about the Zimmer thing? I said I was sorry. And I am, I'm truly sorry.
George: I hate Zimmer. Randy Johnson, on the other hand, him I like.
Pedro: This isn't going to work out, is it?
George: I guess not.
Pedro: I gotta say, I'm disappointed.
George: You're telling me ...
Fri., Nov. 19, executive board room, offices of New York Mets, joined by Mets GM Omar Minaya
Pedro: This is some spread.
Pedro: The chocolate éclairs are a nice touch. You don't see that much anymore, especially not with potatoes au gratin and onion rings ...
Omar: Mo Vaughn does our catering ...
Pedro: Where do I sign?
Omar: (Laughs) Seriously, what are you looking for Pedro?
Pedro: Four years, $60 million, and a steady stream of éclairs.
Omar: It's not easy to get Mo to part with the éclairs, but the money sounds doable. In fact, have you thought about more? Maybe five and 70 or six years and $80 million?
Pedro: You kidding?
Omar: No joke.
Pedro: Tommy G said it would be like this. I didn't believe him. Shouldn't this go the other way?
Omar: Wilpon likes to do things a bit differently. Look what we just gave Kris Benson ...
Pedro: I figured he had incriminating photos of Duquette or something ...
Omar: You mean like shots of him evaluating talent?
Pedro: Nice to see you two are getting along. Are the Sosa rumors for real?
Omar: Big case of éclairs headed his way as we speak.
Pedro: I'm intrigued. Would I have to wear orange-and-blue?
Omar: It was good enough for Seaver, bro.
Pedro: Would I have to throw to Piazza?
Omar: Not if I can help it.
Pedro: I'll be in touch.
Omar: Cool. Take some rings on your way out.
Sat., Nov. 20, rib joint, St. Louis, in the company of Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty
Pedro: This sauce is great. What's in it?
Walt: Eye of Woody Williams, toe of Matt Morris, wool of Jeff Suppan, and tongue of Jason Marquis.
Pedro: You're creeping me out a little, Walt.
Walt: Imagine what it's like on the inside.
Pedro: Listen, Walt, you should buck up. You've got a lot going for you. Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen -- terrific hitters, excellent defenders. Any pitcher would want to play with guys like that.
Walt: You're just saying that.
Pedro: No, really, you guys were right in it. You've got an excellent ballclub. You should make me an offer.
Walt: Yeah, right.
Pedro: I'm serious.
Walt: As if a pitcher like you would ever go out with a team like ours ...
Pedro: You don't know until you ask.
Walt: This was a bad idea, I should never have come here ...
Pedro: No, Walt, wait ...
Sun., Nov. 21, drinks on the veranda, estate of Anaheim Angles owner Arte Moreno
Pedro: I appreciate your having me out here, Arte, I do, but I have to ask you -- given that I play for the world champion Boston Red Sox, in one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports, and in the heart of the media world, and given that if I'm not a Red Sox player come April there's a good chance I could be a Yankee, and so all of that would just go double, what could you possibly have to offer that I don't already have?
Arte: I've petitioned the league to officially change the name of my franchise ... to the Anaheim Angels of Pedro Martinez.
Pedro: I'm listening.
Arte: Wanna see a hat?
Eric Neel is a columnist for Page 2.