[H]ere, coming through the same tunnel as so many champions have walked before, the great man, Frank Sinatra, who has the phrasing, who has the control, who understands the composers, who knows what losing means as so many have, who made the great comeback, who stands still, enduringly, on top of the entertainment world.
—Howard Cosell, Madison Square Garden, October 13, 1974
Frank Sinatra retired from show business to great fanfare. He returned to it not long after and loomed larger than life, bigger than ever, for the rest of his career. His fans, naturally, were thrilled to have him onstage and in studios again, even if the name Sinatra became jokily synonymous in some circles with short-lived retirement.
When it comes to comebacks, Pedro Martinez puts Ol’ Blue Eyes to shame.
The chairman of our board hasn’t thrown in front of an audience of discernible size since April Fool’s Day when the joke was on us that a rotation headed by the firm of Santana & Martinez could be counted on for regular starts of the every-fifth-day variety. Johan, rainouts notwithstanding, has kept up his part of the bargain. Pedro’s 2008, however, has been one outing and out: an uncomfortable three and one-third innings cut off at the legs…or at least one of their hamstrings.
I didn’t expect Pedro back any time soon once he left his April 1 start against the Marlins early and injured. I figured he’d tool up I-95 to St. Lucie, rehab in that nebulous way he does, emitting hope and frustration in every murky dispatch that wafted north. By now, Pedro Martinez must hold all the pitching records for extended spring training.
Tonight, two months and two days after he hobbled off the Joe Robbie Pro Player Dolphin Stadium mound and into the mists of the presumably zillion-day disabled list, he will reappear from out of the San Francisco fog. He will no longer be Pedro Martinez the question mark — Any word on Pedro? How is Pedro progressing? When might we see Pedro? — but Pedro Martinez the pitcher.
Pedro Martinez lights up a room as no pitcher does, as no pitcher can. Pedro Martinez’s sudden re-emergence in the Mets clubhouse is considered a balm even when he’s just passing through town for a checkup. That’s usually all he has time for. He has to get back to St. Lucie. He has to get back to the Dominican. He has to disappear for a while longer. But he’ll be back, they say. When? They’ll let us know.
Tonight’s the night. Just as it was in late July of ’06, just as it was that September, just as it was on Labor Day 2007. Pedro knows how to come back. Pedro knows how to pitch. Pedro Martinez is one of the indisputable greats. He looks so good out there when he’s out there. But he and us, we need to be more than strangers in the night exchanging glances.