Encore for Pedro?

Pedro Curtain Call-lrg copy.jpgHas the proverbial fat lady sung for pitcher Pedro Martinez?

It’s fascinating to me how an athlete’s career trajectory and that of a professional singer can have such similarities.

At the MET–as at many other opera houses–productions and performances are scheduled and cast years in advance.  This is necessary because it is the only way to engage jet-setting conductors and singers who have managers securing them bookings years in advance all over the world.

One of the consequences of such early planning, however, can be that–with so much intervening time between the booking and the performances, it’s possible that the artist in question could be be experiencing vocal trouble or some other malady unforseen at the time of the booking. 

Or perhaps the role for which the artist was engaged was well-suited to his or her voice at the time of the booking but in the span of time before the performances, the oice has changed.  Perhaps the artist has lost a bit of the “bloom” on the top of the voice or the voice has darkened.  Or perhaps he/she does not possess the same tessitura–range–he/she once did.

In such cases, it is not unheard of for a singer to be “bought out”:  paid their fee not to sing.  Another singer is then quickly found as a replacement.  This is usually done by way of a public announcement stating that the initial artist has bowed out due to illness, but those in-the-know are aware of the real story.

Sometimes, though, the original artist remains in the show.  Management–and the artist himself/herself (if there is any self-awareness there)–cross their fingers and hope for the best. 

Often a much-beloved artist can go onstage and give it his/her best effort and, even if the singing is not as great as in the artist’s prime, the adoring public will overlook any present-day flaws and give the singer the accolades to which he/she has become accustomed–even if the performance does not particularly merit that response..

Unless the artist is extremely popular, if the “suspension of belief” required to recall the artist’s glory days is just too great or there are a host of glaring problems, e.g., wobbles that have developed in the voice, faulty intonation, or a lack of breath support, the artist may not escape embarassment.  He or she will likely hear a few boos sprinkled in with tepid applause at curtain calls.

The latter is my fear for a Pedro Martinez return to the New York Mets.

I don’t remember hearing much interest in Pedro until now:  only after not one of the potential fifth-starters has distinguished himself in Spring Training. 

While it’s certainly possible that Pedro has retooled himself and could contribute to the pitching roster in some way, my fear is that the minute he has a faulty start, the Shea, oops, Citi Field crowd will show little patience for lack of velocity on his fastball or faulty location. 

Just as I feel very sad when I hear a once-great singer onstage whose present-day performance bears little resemblance to the “glory days”, I would feel similar pangs to see this three-time Cy Young award winner embarass himself or have criticisms and boos heaped upon him.

He’s had too distinguished a career to go out in any other way than holding his head up high.

No, in lieu of Pedro, I don’t have any suggestions for the fifth spot.

The words of the late soprano Beverly Sills come to mind: 

“I retired when I was 51 so people would say ‘Why so soon’?’ instead of ‘When will that woman shut up?”

USA: Worst to First?

20obama_533.jpgI have to admit that I am more closely watching and infinitely more interested in the Presidential campaign than the World Series.  However, I must say that I am smitten with the Tampa Bay Rays and am rooting for them in the Series.

There are numerous reasons why I’ve been showing the Rays some love in this Post-Season.

1.  The “worst to first” success story of the Rays and manager Joe Maddon–on a very modest budget, I might add–has been a compelling story.

2.  Besides the joy of watching the young, eager players–many of whom are “home grown” talent–I’ve ADORED seeing Cliff Floyd (shown at far right in the above picture) playing the father-figure to these “kids”.  As a former Met outfielder, he was always a favorite of mine.  While he’s ostensibly been a bench player for the team (and is now out of the series because of a shoulder problem), everything that I have read indicates that his contribution as a veteran and leader on and off the field has been a very big part of the team’s success.

3. I do not think the Phillies are a better team than the Mets, quite frankly.  Furthermore, I REALLY don’t want them to win the World Series and would probably root against them no matter who the opposing team was.  Heck, I would root for the YANKEES if they had been playing against the Phillies.

4.  Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I’ve hopped on the Tampa Bay Bandwagon is the simple fact that I miss baseball.  Even being only half-heartedly involved in the Post-Season games feels better than the absence of the sport entirely…and helps pass the time until “pitchers and catchers report.”

Well after my Post-Season allegiance had been informally pledged to Tampa Bay, I had the pleasure of finding out that the “Captain” of my Democratic “team” had been introduced at his rally at Legends Field in Tampa Bay one week ago by Rays rookie pitcher David Price.  Barack Obama was also joined onstage by Rays players Fernando Perez, Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes, B.J. Upton, Edwin Jackson, and Jason Bartlett. 




000000000010obama.jpgAs seen in the first part of the above video clip, Obama quipped that perhaps he too would stay au courant and get a “Mohawk”.  Here, the Photoshoppery of Angus Shafer and Carl Lisciandrello of Tampa Bay Online imagines that look. 

Campaigning in Philadelphia, Obama had previously–when pressed for an answer to whom he was backing in the World Series–responded that–with his campaign manager being from Philadelphia–he had better say, “The Phillies.”.  Following the Tampa Bay appearance, it was no surprise then to see accusations by McCain of Obama “flip-flopping:. 

As has been noted, though, Obama actually made clear that his team is the Chicago White Sox: 


Any pandering Obama might have shown in these two appearances, paled in comparison to the way Sarah Palin sucked up to crowds in Florida and then New Hampshire.  Mark Leibovich, author of the New York Times political blog “The Caucus” citied Palin’s “duplicity” in a recent post:

Gov. Sarah Palin has added a twist on the old baseball maxim of “root root root for the home team” – as in, “root, root, root for the home team, depending on where you are.”

As The Caucus noted, Ms. Palin visited Salem, N.H. Wednesday night and said she looked forward to watching Senator John McCain debate Senator Barack Obama “right here, in the heart of Red Sox Nation.” Ms. Palin said that “Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor,” a timely applause line given that the Sox trail the Tampa Bay Rays three-games-to-one in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

It seems, however, that Ms. Palin voiced a similar sentiment – actually, identical sentiment – last week at a rally in Florida.

“How about those Tampa Bay Rays?” Ms. Palin said after the Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox.

“You know what that tells me? It tells me that the people in this area know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor.” 


Bringing baseball into the campaign even resulted in an small gaffe for Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden: 

No matter how innocuous the preface to his comments may have seemed, he may be receiving a letter from the Tampa Bay Rays organization as did David Pinto, author of a popular sports blog, Baseball Musings.  Both Mr. Pinto and Mr. Biden have recently made the slipup of using the franchise’s OLD name–a crime for which the organization is issuing citations.  The Rays have requested that Mr. Pinto pay a $10 fine for doing so, depositing it at the nearest “Drop the Devil” donation box near him.

Obviously, politicians can get slam dunked when they bring sports onto the stump.  Which recent politician was it that confused hockey for some other sport when trying to make a connection with the locals?   Trying too hard to be seen as similar to one’s constituents can hurt a candidate’s campaign.  The Republican’s’ recent efforts to reach out to “Joe SixPack” and “Joe the Plumber” did not come off nearly as sincere when Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was caught with her RNC-purchased high-end fashion designer’s pants down.

That said, I was charmed to see the Rays players coming out in support of Obama.  After all, they were showing support at an event advertised as a political rally; when Governor Palin–a political figure in the midst of a contentious campaign–dropped the puck at two recent hockey games, those were supposedly non-partisan sports events held in tax-payer-financed arenas.

With his “9 = 8” season mantra and cerebral quotes not unlike Mets manager Jerry Manuel’s interesting analogies and sayings from diverse sources, it appears to me that Joe Maddon started the 2008 season with a lot of hope for his club.  It seems that very early on, he  generated a team-wide “Audacity of Hope” campaign of his own.  Even if the Rays do not win the World Series, going from the team with the worst record in baseball last season to first place in the American League this season represents a manager’s, a team’s, and fans’ hopes fulfilled.

I, too, have great hope right now:  for our country.  I have the audacity to hope that it might be possible to make changes we need and begin the process of our country going from the worst it’s been in recent times–economically, environmentally, diplomatically, managerially–to first.

Or at least a record over .500.


Please cast your vote on November 4th!

ADDENDUM:  I had assistance in recalling the incident involving confusing hockey and another sport:

The person in question was not, as I wrote earlier, a politician, but a person in the opera world, trying to make connections to popular culture.  The incident took place in 2007 during a live HD Metropolitan Opera telecast of Tan Dun’s “The Last Emperor”, featuring Placido Domingo. 

As an intermission feature, Beverly Sills–host of that telecast–interviewed Domingo live.  When the conversation turned to David Beckham coming to the U.S., Sills–knowing that Domingo is a big fan of Beckham’s sport–excitedly blurted out something about Beckham playing hockey. 

Umm.  No.