Pedro is the same. He is still equal parts strange, silly, audacious, angry and wickedly intelligent. Yes, all of them, if not at the same moment, at least in the same press conference.
He was also, as one AP sportswriter put it, erudite in his pregame opening volley toward Yankees fans. The first of many memories that came flooding back on the nostalgia trip that was this game was how laughable I used to find his claim that some of his more controversial remarks were attributable to poor English.
And the more years that pass, the more poetically and provocatively Pedro speaks. Especially when he's speaking in New York.
As Denton put it:
He brought his own 150-pound version of badassery to this town when we sorely needed it. And he very quickly took to heart the rivalry and developed a hatred for the Yankees akin to my own.
He has always been angry. That anger, that fire, that's the feeling of Pedro. He has always been a little guy whose body was all wrong and sure to give out completely at any time. Now here he is, nearing 40, without his fastball but with enough guile to still be on the mound, staring down Yankees hitters in late October.
This is how he has always done it, from the scrawny kid in the Dominican Republic who would always be second fiddle to his brother Ramon, to the mean, smoke-throwing bastard who was never going to make it out of the Dodgers bullpen, to the leader of the Boston underdogs against the Bambino and the Bombers, to the wily veteran plying his trade in the National League through surgeries and injuries and rehab and making his stubborn return to the mound at an age when few would have envisioned him still in uniform. He has been fueled all along, it seems, by sheer spite.
He still has a knack for whipping Yankees fans into a froth -- the "Who's Your Daddy?" chants were ringing out in the first inning at the new Stadium last night. He still has a graceful, looping movement on many of his pitches, though his arm slot and velocity are low, and he even seems a shade stocky these days. He can still put in a quality start, six innings and three earned runs; he struck out eight hitters with that 88-mph stuff.
In the end, however, this game would also remind me of a more recent time, a night Pedro ceded the field he once ruled absolutely to a younger man--in 2006, Josh Beckett showing early flashes of dominance, in last night's case, a brilliant AJ Burnett. A night haunted by memories, but which also left no doubt that the Pedro of legend has been gone a while.