Theres a great and famous scene from the movie Office Space where Initech employee Tom Smykowski (aka the brains behind the Jump to Conclusions game mat) is in a meeting with a pair of consultants.
The duo's there to find ways to make the company more efficient, so they go back and forth asking Smykowski questions about his job . . . his daily routine . . . his role within the framework of the company. But theres never a clear answer. He has no purpose. And it's unbelievably awkward.
Finally, one of the consultants (either Bob or Bob) just comes out and asks:
What would you say . . . you do here?
And after this long and glorious holiday weekend, Id like to ask the same of Pedro Martinez.
Because honestly, with Spring Training's officially under way, I have no idea what Pedro's role is on this Red Sox team. I dont know what hes doing. I don't what he's going to do. I dont know how long or often hes going to do it. I definitely dont know what a special assistant to the general manager is. That sounds made up. Straight from Seinfeld, or maybe Spaceballs:
"Before you die there is something you should know about us, Lone Star."
"I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former special assistant to the general manager . . . "
"What's that make us?"
I dont know.
But Ill say this: Unlike Tom Smykowski, whatever Pedros doing, hes really, really good at it.
If you missed the background on this story, it started back in January when Martinez officially re-joined the organization in the aforementioned role of "Special Assistant to the General Manager." It's the same title that the team bestowed on Jason Varitek before last season, but in Pedro's case, at least in the moment, it felt different. He's Pedro Martinez. It's always different.
"Pedro will be involved in several areas," Ben Cherington said at the time, "including the evaluation, mentorship, and instruction of young players in Spring Training and throughout the season."
Anyway, upon the announcement, we all spent a few hours in a state of Pedro Fever before forgetting the whole thing ever happened. Why? Because it was the week after the AFC Championship and the start of the Bruins season. Because Rondo tore his ACL later that same daynight. Because Pedro is 41 years old and no longer able to pitch.
It was nice to know he was back with the Sox even if it was just for the rare public appearance; if only to see him wear the hat again but how was he really going to help this team? What was the point of his presence other than to distract us from the increasing disaster on the field?
Since arriving in Fort Myers, Pedro's answered a lot of those questions.
First of all, he showed up on February 8. Far earlier than he ever did as a player. Back then, Pedro pushed it to the limit. If pitchers were supposed to arrive on February 13 at noon, he was the kind of guy to pull up to the parking lot at 11:59 and watch the seconds tick down before crossing the line. But February 8? This was our first sign that whatever Pedro was up to, he was 1) taking it seriously and 2) really excited to get started.
Then yesterday, he began working with the pitchers. He was out in the field, wearing a Red Sox hat and sweatshirt (even baseball pants!), talking to and teaching Rubby De La Rosa, Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard. Afterwards, Pedro met with reporters to further expound on his role and offer up an opinion or two on the Sox young arms.
When all was said and done, a few more things were clear:
1. Pedro is still Pedro.
No sooner than he spoke his last word to reporters, Martinez was on the front page of every web site in Boston. Twitter was on fire with little Pedro snippets. The arm may not be what it once was, but the personality is stronger than ever. Same goes for how much this city loves it.
2. At this very moment, special assistant to the general manager = coach.
Pedro is in Fort Myers to coach this team. He's invested in this team. He didn't just show up to shake hands and kiss babies, but instead, to take these players by the hand and turn babies into men.
"I hope to add some knowledge, anything I can to the staff, in every aspect," Martinez said. "It could be mechanically. It could be in the field. It could be off the field. It could be mentally. Which I know a lot. I know whats its like to go through struggles. I can relate to a lot of them and hopefully get them going."
3. Naturally (see: item no. 1 on this list), Pedro's going to speak his mind.
"He's so young and so full of talent that sometimes we take for granted the opportunity we're given," Martinez said of Doubront, who reportedly arrived at camp out of shape. "The same way it comes, the same way it could go. All it takes is a bad injury and you're out of baseball. The only thing that prevents injuries is hard work."
Pedro continued: "I believe he just doesn't know ... he hasn't been taught that he's going to be held accountable for his performance out there and the way he looks. That this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared to understand the responsibility that he has on top of his shoulder and the whole Boston community and the team."
4. The media (at least for now) is going to let Pedro speak his mind.
Can you imagine if Bobby Valentine was the voice in the above quote about Doubront? Can you imagine the drama? THE HORROR?!? But with Pedro, it's OK. The quote was presented and remains within the context of what it really was: A somewhat harsh, but ultimately real and honest critique. As opposed to the end of the world, or the result of some vendetta Martinez has against the young Sox pitcher.
5. The players (at least for now) are embracing his presence. Pedro's connecting with them; they're impressed with what he has to say.
"It's pretty cool," Bard said about his time working with Martinez. "That guy's a legend, and as far as I know a first ballot Hall of Famer. The fact that hes so shortly removed from playing and from being one of our teammates, he can really relate to us, and still see things the way a player sees them and get into our minds."
"I think hes a smart guy. Not just one of those guys who just (went out and) dominated a big league game, but he also knew how we was doing it. He can describe it. So its been good having a few chats with him."
6. In other words, Pedro Martinez is a damn good baseball coach.
He understands the game. But unlike many all-time greats, he's also patient and articulate enough to present that understanding in an easily digestible fashion. He has a resume that demands respect, and a sensitivity that breeds trust. He can and will help this organization. He can help instill the kind of chemistry, communication and culture that this team has dearly missed. He can help bridge the gap between players, coaches and even management.
You listen to Bard, and it's clear that it's already begun. Pedro's making an impact.
Still, no one really knows what's going on. Even more, we have no idea what will happen next.
Will Pedro's presence be confined to the Spring? Does the season start and then POOF he's back to the DR for a few months before maybe checking in around the All Star Break? Is this interest in and commitment to improving the Red Sox for real, or only fleeting?
I don't know. I'm not sure Pedro even knows. That's what makes this all so interesting and exciting.
When the Red Sox first announcement that Martinez was re-joining the organization, a lot of us just assumed it was a joke. Just for show. That it was another plot by ownership to deflect attention from their mess. And you know what? Maybe that was their intention. But either way, who cares? So far the result is overwhelmingly positive. On, above and underneath the surface.
And who knows, maybe Pedro will stuck around. Maybe he desperately misses the game. Maybe he'll get another taste of life in the Boston spotlight, remember how much he loved it, and put everything he has into helping raise this team from the ashes the same way he did 10 years ago.
Or maybe I've been had by Fenway Sports Group. Maybe I've fallen into their trap of writing columns about the 41-year-old special assistant to the general manager instead of the 31-year-old first baseman with the bum hip, the 37-year-old DH who still isn't healthy or any number of other serious issues currently facing this team.
What can I say, if the owners were trying to trick me, it's working.
But for now, so is Pedro. And I don't think I'm jumping to conclusions when I say that the more he's around, the better this team will be.