Q&A with Mike Silverman on Working with Pedro

This week, we at SoSHBaseball were lucky enough to have a Q&A with Boston Herald writer Mike Silverman on working with Pedro Martinez. And he really, really answered the heck out of these questions.

Michael Silverman has been covering the Red Sox and Major League Baseball for the Boston Herald since the middle of the 1995 season. This Q&A is a discussion with Mike Silverman on working with Pedro to write Pedro, a book co-authored with Pedro Martinez. It is available now. You can find Mike on Twitter at @MikeSilvermanBB.

Derek Stewart: Do you have any sense of how Pedro would discuss his starts after the game? We’ve seen how Schilling would come on the site and discuss the ins and outs of what he was thinking when he threw a certain pitch. Was Pedro like that when discussing his starts?

Mike Silverman: Derek, Chapter 17, “Art and Craft” goes into a fair amount of detail about how Pedro prepared for his starts, how he worked with Varitek, how he sized up batters, some observations about baseballs, wind direction – one of my favorite chapters to work on with him. When I hear him on MLB TV these days and dropping nuggets like bat wiggling and observing batters during BP, I’m literally getting ticked off, because he didn’t offer those gems up when we spoke. But to finally get to your question, no, he didn’t discuss post-start analyses. I’d bet he’d say that the hitters’ results spoke for themselves.

He does get into the differences between how he approached games and how Schilling did. Let’s just say Pedro could not relate to that notebook that Schilling kept. In Ch. 25, “Who’s Your Daddy?” Pedro writes a lot about Schilling.


ThePrideOfShiner: How hard was it to get Pedro to discuss the bad parts of his career? In theory, no one minds remembering the good times, but did you meet any resistance while working with Pedro?

Mike Silverman: Your definition of “bad” may differ from mine, but if you’re speaking of getting hurt, or being doubted, or being charged, or being accused of doing something, or being insulted, or acting like a prima donna, or being snippy, or underperforming, or being disliked by teammates, or moments where he wanted to quit, or cried about being homesick, or being mishandled by coaches, or being misunderstood, then yeah, that’s actually a recurring and dominant theme in his book. So, no, there wasn’t much resistance.


Clears Cleaver: Mike – how did you get chosen to write this book? Did you approach Pedro? Did he approach you? Can you tell about the pitch to write the book? I’m guessing the curly red-haired guy wasn’t in the running to write it… Who else was in contention if anyone?

Mike Silverman: About being chosen, I’ll pass along this link from Sunday’s Herald, where I write about how that went down.

The book was shopped around, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt won the rights. I heard there was interest from others in writing it but I don’t have names. Believe me, I’m thankful for Pedro’s loyalty. Never heard Dan’s name, interestingly enough. But Dan was very supportive throughout the process, and remains a good sport for serving as Pedro’s punching bag so often in the past and again in the book.


Stan Gable: What words or phrases does Pedro use most?

Mike Silverman: Stan, “My God” ranks right up there. “I snapped” does, too. “Heart of a lion.” “Mango tree.” I could come up with a few others much spicier, but there might be young children reading this, and I don’t want to be responsible for corrupting anyone.


PortageeExpress: How did the writing process work? How do you feel you were most effective in getting Pedro to describe aspects of his career that would make for good reading?

Mike Silverman: You’ll be the judge on whether or not the book reads well – may it please the court – but we obviously put a great deal of effort into trying to make that happen. The writing came after nearly all the reporting was done, although there were always more questions to be asked and some of the 67 or so interviewees got back to me real late in the process. Pedro and I spoke often in Boston during the summer of 2013, and I went down to the Dominican twice. One of those trips began with a couple of days with him in Miami. We went at his career pretty methodically, checking off all the high and low points along the way, and took many, many excursions off-topic when we thought it was a fruitful path. It usually was. I asked Pedro to be as descriptive as possible, using all five senses when he recalled events, so that I could re-tell them as best I could. He and I are pretty used to being together in an on-the-record capacity from when I covered him with the Herald, so it was easy for us to slip into that work environment and be productive. Those chunks of time were precious and challenging to schedule. I only wish I had more down time when I was with him, because he’s a lot of fun to be with, a gracious host and being in the Dominican Republic is amazing. When he was done for the day, he was done, or else we’d meet and he wasn’t ready to talk yet, so there was still some time to hang out or go with him on some errands. One night I arrived at his place and there was Vladimir Guerrero on his patio, playing dominoes. No big deal. That man can throw down the tiles, let me tell you.


stupendousman: When Pedro talked about OTHER pitchers’ performances – if he ever did – what did he say? Was he specific about certain aspects, the way that some SoSH posters would be: “Johnson was mixing his fastball and slider very well, setting up the batter with one pitch and then finishing his off with the other,” “Maddux kept outside, outside, outside, even when it wasn’t working”? Or did he refer to other aspects of the job: “Schilling has spent the past few years working on flexibility exercises, and he can now go deeper into the season before the shoulder starts to hurt”?

Mike Silverman: In Chapter 12, “Click,” Pedro writes of his first All-Star Game, 1996, and watching Glavine and Maddux throw a bullpen. A snippet:

… I watched them warm up. Each was spotting his off-speed pitches: changeup in, changeup away, curveball in, curveball outside. Up to that point, I thought the only two factors I could control with those pitches were velocity and how they broke. I didn’t even realize that locating the curveball and changeup was on the table.
That blew me away.
I asked Glavine, “You throw changeups on this side and then on that side?”
He looked at me as if I had asked him if he slept in a bed.
“Yeah, don’t you know that?”
“No, first time I’ve seen that.”

There’s more like that.


Tony Kosinski: Whenever you see Pedro in front of the camera (and not on the mound) he’s always happy and smiling. Was Pedro ever not in a good mood when you interacted with him? What makes Pedro mad?

Mike Silverman: What makes Pedro mad? That question. No, he’s much more mellow and happy now than he was when he was playing, especially in those last few years in Boston, really from 2001 through 2004, when he was cranky – a lot. We address that phase of his career in the book.

When we spoke about upsetting moments from the past, it was almost as if Pedro was undergoing hypnosis. He could instantly fall back into how he felt and reacted. At times, the expression on his face was so intense, it was unsettling to be the object of his focus.


Al Zarilla: When did Pedro develop the “I can beat anybody and most likely will” confidence? Was it while he was still with Montreal or after he came to the Red Sox? With the Dodgers even, maybe? I watched his first Red Sox start on TV, don’t think I’d seen him at all with Montreal. Going in I was wondering if he’d be all he was cracked up to be (typical Sox fan skepticism). He was more, so much more.

Mike Silverman: He had that unshakable confidence since a teenager, which was why he had such a hard time when he encountered those who didn’t share it. This is a major theme from the book, and the early chapters (my favorite to report and write) of his formative years are meant to give everyone a good understanding of his mindset as he became an adult.


EdRalphRomero: Hi Mike, thanks for doing this and I look forward to reading your book. I am hoping you could speak to the process of writing this book with Pedro. I am specifically curious about the change in the relationship which must occur when a writer co-authors a book with an athlete. You are now collaborators and (in a sense) business partners (in that you share in the revenue associated with the book). Do you feel this will hinder future objectivity in your writings on Pedro? Obviously Pedro isn’t coming out of retirement (damn!) but in some magical world where he did, do you think you would be able to cover him? Would you have written this book if Pedro was an active player?

Thanks!

Mike Silverman: Good question. I’m glad he waited until he was gone from the Red Sox and also retired before he decided it was time to write the book. At the very least, that means I can’t answer your final question.

My personal belief is that I will be able to write objectively about Pedro in the future, although I understand the premise of your question. Once there’s an appearance of a conflict of interest, there might as well be. In this day and age of so many ties between the media and sports, I suppose not stepping on blurred lines becomes harder and harder, and that doing this project with Pedro means I fall under the same umbrella as well. All I can say is that I’ll strive to be fair and accountable.


Damian Dydyn: Mike, first off, it’s exciting to think about the kinds of insights we might get into one of the all time great Red Sox players over the next couple of days. So thank you for writing this book and for taking the time to chat with us!

So, on to the question. Listening to Pedro talk, it quickly becomes apparent that his success was driven by so much more than his natural gifts. His knowledge about the game, the amount of preparation he did, the thought that went into every at bat, every pitch sequence – every pitch – was just incredible. When talking to Pedro about pitching, how often did you just sit back and think “Holy cow. I had no idea just how much information he has rattling around in his head”?

I imagine we only get a glimpse of the depth of his knowledge when he sits in the booth. What’s it like actually being in a room with him and just letting him share the breadth of his wisdom and experience?

Mike Silverman: No exaggeration, Pedro’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever been around. His intuition about people and their motives is off the charts. I’ve had many “Holy cow” moments with him. On my end, I tried hard to let him teach and share his knowledge as much as possible throughout the book so that hardcore baseball fans could learn from him.


AlNipper49: What did Pedro smell like?

Mike Silverman: He smelled gooooooood – like victory.


cahlton: Three questions:

1. During the late 90s and early Aughts, did he ever wish he were pitching for a better team, one that could get him to the World Series?
2. Why didn’t he retire when he got hurt? Was his decision to remake his mechanics and keep pitching founded entirely on wanting to compete, or was it motivated by money as well? To what degree did he find it frustrating, post-injury, not to be able to blow batters away any longer?
3. Did he have anything revealing to say–anything we haven’t heard before–about Grady Little‘s fateful decision not to pull him from Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS?

Mike Silverman:

1. He never expressed that.
2. You mean in 2001 with his shoulder? He was 29 years old. It was his first serious injury. Why would he quit? … He was frustrated because he knew that he was no longer at his peak, but he kept trying to get back there by retooling his repertoire and approach. He adjusted. His 2002 season was pretty good.
3. The Sports Illustrated excerpt from 2003 left out some details that are in the book that I believe have not been reported before.


There is no Rev: I’ve long thought about how great it is that Pedro overcame the bitterness that surrounded his departure for the Mets.

Do you have any insight as to how Pedro was able to overcome that bitterness and the process – not just contractual but emotional and psychological – that brought him back to the Red Sox?

Mike Silverman: Not sure about verifiable insight. I just think he mellowed and both he and the Red Sox understood that he was upset at the time, and nobody took it too personally. (Chapter 27, “Take That Computer and Stick It…” gets into his departure from the Red Sox in detail.) He always felt attached to Boston, so it became water under the bridge once he retired and nobody held grudges. And now he’s back.


santadevil: Mike, thanks for doing this for SoSH.

I assumed you got into the Yankee game 1-hitter from 1999, where Chili Davis hit the homerun in the 2nd inning. Did Pedro mention if that home run really focused him more that game, or was he just so dominant that year, that it was just a normal extension of his season?

Mike Silverman: Chapter 15, “Command Performance” includes that start. He said the home run helped him “to bear down even more the rest of the way.” Fastball, bad location. I think readers will enjoy reading how cranky Pedro was before the start and what he told Kerrigan to go do with Jeter.


Comebacker to Foulke: Boston feels like Pedro is “theirs,” that he is first and foremost a Red Sox; does he feel like if he could do it all again, would he have done more on his end to try and work things out with John Henry & Theo Epstein, so he could remain in Boston after 2004?

Also, did he ever drill a guy 100% on purpose?

And one more: Who is Karim Garcia?

Mike Silverman: About Boston, he could not have done more. The Red Sox did not want him back on more than a two-year deal until very late in the process, when they went up to three guaranteed years. They were too late, and the Red Sox, as Theo Epstein describes in the “Take That Computer and Stick It…” chapter, there was a split vote about bringing back Pedro.

Pedro writes that after he became good that when he hit a batter, 90 percent of the time it was on purpose.

Who is Karim Garcia? Pedro answers this in many different ways on Pages 226 and 227. A “dumb-ass” is one answer.


MentalDisabldLst: Mike, thanks for doing this chat, and huge congratulations on getting the book deal of a (sports) lifetime.

My questions are a little generic; please use them as a jumping-off point to answer the question you want to answer:

1. What was the best story you heard from (or about) Pedro that just had to be cut from the book (for whatever reason)?
2. How would Pedro answer the question, “In baseball, does winning create chemistry more or less than chemistry creates winning?”
3. Would you say there was any opponent (batter or even another starter) who Pedro regarded as his nemesis?
4. Tell us what you know about the conversations between Duquette and Pedro when the terms of the Montreal trade were agreed to, and they wanted to give him the extension. What made Pedro believe Boston would be the right place for him? He could have picked his destination, and named his price. Why say yes to the Duke?

Mike Silverman:
1. The Sports Illustrated for Kids Q&A about Sandra Bullock could not go in Pedro’s memoir, hopefully everyone understands that. Everything else is a distant second.
2. Sorry, I OD’d on clubhouse chemistry questions in 2012.
3. Derek Jeter and Edgar Martinez were his least favorite batters to face. He didn’t look at other starters as nemeses.
4. It’s all detailed in Chapter 13 “Dan, You Made a Bad Trade.”

Pedro_3D_sm


jasvlm: Mike, did Pedro try to impart any aspects of his game or approach to the younger Red Sox pitchers who were with the team while he was? He seems to relish this role with the team now, and I am curious if he made a habit of this during his active days.

If he had to get 3 outs to save a game for him, what reliever, ex-teammate or not, would he choose to close it out?

Mike Silverman: Best example comes from Chapter 21, “Body of Work,” where he writes about coaching Derek Lowe.


There is no Rev: Ace pitchers are notorious for being… let’s call it, “difficult.” Also, writing is hard. What was the most challenging thing about working with Pedro in this process? Was there anything or anytime where he was just plain difficult to deal with? Or annoying about certain parts of the project?

Mike Silverman: When it comes to working with Pedro, the biggest challenge is tracking him down and keeping track of whether he’s in the D.R., Miami, Boston, New York or who knows where. He was committed to this project, so if it took a few tries to figure out logistics, it was no big deal in the end because we always figured it out and he was always present and invested when we worked together. Me, annoyed? Never. Not complaining. Ever.


koufax32: What was his own favorite performance and why?

Does he currently own an Enrique Wilson voodoo doll?

Mike Silverman: He’s proudest of the 1999 Division Series game against Cleveland when he pitched hurt and an August, 2000, game in Kansas City when the bullpen needed a day off. Pedro gave up five runs in the first inning but got his act back together to go eight.

Enrique Wilson doll: I never asked, which in hindsight was shortsighted on my part.


Rudi Fingers: I still remember reading the quote in the papers the day after Pedro’s 17 strikeout game against the Yankees in ’99: “It’s as good as it gets, I won’t lie.”

I always felt that Pedro paid the price for his amazing September – 5 straight starts with 120 pitches or more, where he lowered his ERA from 2.36 to 2.08 – with the injuries to his shoulder that came about just in time for the playoffs.

My gut feeling is that Pedro wouldn’t change a thing about September/October – the pennant race, the career-threatening (and career-defining) ALDS performance, etc.

My question: In your discussions with Pedro about September and October ‘99, what stands out in your mind?

Mike Silverman: His Division Series game against Cleveland. Chapter 16, “Petey’s in the House.” He goes into lots of detail about that game. First of two fear-of-assassination references in the book.


Dogman2: Pedro has publicly stated he was wrong about throwing Zimmer to the ground in that game so long ago.

Let’s be honest, he really, really, really enjoyed that as much as all of us did, right?

Mike Silverman: Not really. I believe him when he says in Chapter 23, “Blame Game,” that he wishes he had turned the other cheek and ran away from Zimmer and let Zimmer chase him around Fenway Park.


brs3: Thanks for doing this, Mike.

Based on your conversations with Pedro, and the clear level of knowledge he has about the game, do you think he’ll ever take an on-field role, e.g. as a pitching coach? I suspect this answer might be in the book, so I’ve already pre-ordered it – can’t wait to dig into it.

Mike Silverman: He writes of how much he enjoys working with the young and veteran Red Sox pitchers. But I’d be shocked if he ever became a full-time coach. I don’t think he’d want to devote the long hours necessary to be a modern-day coach. Pedro usually didn’t go to advance scouting meetings as a player. I think for now he’s happy about his TV analyst career. And about being an author, of course.


Dogman2: Aside from Sandra Bullock, who else is on Pedro’s children’s book list?

Mike Silverman: Couldn’t tell you.


glasspusher: I was in grad school in Cleveland from 1995 until 2000. Did Pedro say what it was like pitching in the Jake? He was unbelievable. Saw him there many times.

Mike Silverman: I believe Pedro would say that the fans who hover over the visitor’s bullpen are foul-mouthed.


Soxfan in Fla: I was at the Trop the night of the Gerald Williams mound charge and subsequent 15 attempts at beaning Brian Daubach. How did he keep himself in such a zone that night with all the distractions to take a no hitter into the 9th?

Mike Silverman: Read Chapter 18, “Alpha Male.” Includes a moment of joy from Pedro when he thinks he might have nipped Williams with his cleat when they were both in the dogpile.


koufax32: Pedro’s career straddled the advent of sabermetrics in baseball. How did this new area of analyzing opponents’ strengths and weaknesses affect his preparation? What would his game prep be like in 1998 compared to 2004 or later?

Mike Silverman: The first part’s something I didn’t ask him, good question. I don’t believe he ever changed his analysis system much even with the advent of sabermetrics.


Ramon AC: How much money would I have to give to what charity to get Pedro to come to my house and play catch with me?

Mike Silverman: While you wait for that day, donate to that charity now and look at it as a down payment.


sfip: Whom besides Ramon does he credit for teaching him most about pitching at a major league level?

Mike Silverman: Eleodoro Arias, Guy Conti, Burt Hooton, Felipe Alou, to name a few.


E5 Yaz: Mike, every now and then a debate resurfaces on this site as to the actual value Jason Varitek had in working with the pitching staff. Pedro recently was quoted as talking about the process he and Tek went through to get comfortable working as a tandem. Is there anything specifically about this covered in the book, or in general about his working relationship with catchers?

For me, the lasting Pedro pitching memory is the relief job in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, when he wasn’t at 100 percent.. Did you talk with him about that game; if so, what was his recollection about it.

Mike Silverman: On Varitek, with whom I spoke for the book, the best stuff is in Chapter 15, “Command Performance” – p. 148: “That’s when I went in another direction. I hired Jason Varitek” – and Chapter 17, “Art and Craft.” Lots of details about how they worked together.

’99 ALDS Game 5: See Chapter 16, “Petey’s in the House.”


SumnerH: Following up on E5 Yaz’s great question about catching, any insights into how important catchers are and in what manner (from an accomplished pitcher’s POV) would be greatly appreciated.

Also, how did he go about preparing for a game? Scouting, practicing pitches, watching game tape, etc. What’s the process?

Mike Silverman: See Chapter 17, “Art and Craft,” for the most on this, but there are teachable moments sprinkled throughout the book, beginning with Chapter 2, “Heart of a Lion,” where he writes about his earliest days as a Dodgers prospect. We write a lot about how he matured as a pitcher.


ScubaSteveAvery: How did Pedro’s experiences in Great Falls (Rookie lg.), Bakersfield (A+), San Antonio (AA), and Albuquerque (AAA) shape him as a pitcher? Did he discuss any lessons learned at those levels that helped translate to big league dominance?

Mike Silverman: Man, all I can say here is read the book – this strikes very close to the overriding reason he had to write the book. These chapters “Heart of a Lion,” “Dodgertown Blues,” “Sweet Home Montana,” “King of the Jungle,” “’It’s Ramon’s Little Brother’,” “Off the Bus,” and “Fragile: Handle With Care,” all go into detail about what you’re asking about.


scotian1: How difficult was the transition from a totally Spanish speaking environment to a totally English speaking one along with great cultural differences between the Dominican and Great Falls?

Mike Silverman: Chapter 3 “Dodgertown Blues” and Chapter 4, “Sweet Home Montana” each address the language and cultural barriers Pedro crossed. He stumbled, though. Teammates in Montana got him to ask a question to a woman that he should not have. First time in Los Angeles, he saw a sign for UCLA and asked his driver “What’s an Ookla?”


yeahlunchbox: To piggyback on scotian’s question, how was it transitioning from Spanish to English, then to French while he was with Montreal.

Mike Silverman: In Chapter 9, “Je Ne Parle Pas Francais,” new Expo Pedro gets punked by Larry Walker on the French language issue.


wade boggs chicken dinner: Hi Mike, thanks for doing this and congrats on your book. I’m sure it will sell like hotcakes.

My impression of Pedro is that he is pretty guarded – or politic – about talking about his ex-teammates or other of his peers. Do you agree with this? If so, were you able to get him to open up about other players (both pitchers and hitters) or was this not the focus of your book?

Mike Silverman: Disagree. Pedro douses the book with his opinions about former teammates and opponents.


shoebox91: Mike, thanks for the time and for helping make this book about my all-time favorite Red Sox happen.

I always got the sense that he and Curt Schilling never really got along and wondered if Pedro addressed that much with you. Was it simply “This is the guy they’re bringing in to replace me so I’m naturally not going to like him,” or was it more than that? Was that intensified after the Series was over and Schill was one of the “saviors” with the whole bloody sock deal?

Thanks again for your time.

Mike Silverman: Chapter 25, “Who’s Your Daddy?” deals with the Pedro-Schilling (gehrig38) relationship. I spoke with Curt about Pedro, and Pedro about Curt. Sorry to disappoint anyone, but Pedro doesn’t drop any bombs here, or at least not to a greater extent than elsewhere in the book.
They clearly were not best of friends but professionally, they got along fine. Two guys dripping in personality, opinions and talent, but in each of those facets, they were so, so different. Preparation, in-game style – complete opposites. They were teammates for just one season – and what a season that was – but Pedro was not near his peak and Schilling was. Tension? Some, a bit, maybe, probably, but not that much, or at least nothing extraordinary for either one of them. I found it quite interesting that Schilling traces his ankle (bloody sock) injury to spring training, when he started to copy Pedro’s method of “hooking” the rubber with his right cleat. Schilling gained a couple mph on his fastball but at the expense of essentially ruining his ankle with the late career delivery change.


Damian Dydyn: Mike, can you talk about how the writing process worked? Did most of it happen face to face? Over the phone? Through email, text, and chat? Video chat? Assuming you spent some some time with him face to face, what was the most interesting place you guys met and did you ever have to deal with fans interrupting looking for an autograph or just wanting to say “Hello” or “Thank you”?

Mike Silverman: All face to face. A few texts along the way – this was the reporting for the book. Writing, re-writing and more re-writing was solitary. Aided by excellent editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Susan Canavan. Best places for Pedro and me to talk were at his “finca” in his hometown Manoguayabo. Just sat on a patio, or his porch, one afternoon, without too many interruptions. Spent one long afternoon talking in South Beach, Miami, at his place. It’s a really nice place.

We met at a restaurant in Boston a few times. The interruptions there were frequent but not bothersome. He didn’t say no to anyone. Walking with him through lobbies would take a long time because of all the autographs and pictures. If I were better prepared, I could have gotten some writing in during those pauses.


chechusma: Hi Mike –

I was simply wondering if there were any stories or anecdotes that you would have liked to include in the book, but could not, for whatever reason. (Obviously, I don’t expect or want you to share anything that Pedro wanted to keep private and out of the public eye.)

Thanks! Can’t wait to read it.

Mike Silverman: Nah, I think we got everything in we wanted to. Pedro’s not big on talking about his family much, but his reasons for why that is are in the book.


Rick Rowand: Thanks Mike. I was wondering if you had a chance to watch any games with Pedro while going through this process and if you did what that was like. Did he analyze what the pitchers were doing in setting up pitches and things like that?

Mike Silverman: One night we went out in Boston and there was a game on TV. He kept a close eye on it. If the place was quieter, I would have loved to have just sat there and talked (well, mainly listen) about the game with him. But the music made that impossible. Damn. Next time.


Thank you for all the great questions, everybody. But, really, not a single one about Nelson de la Rosa? (Pages 255-257)

If you do get your hands on the book, thank you – we hope you enjoy it. If anyone wants to continue the discussion of the book here on awesome SoSH, I’ll pop back in now and then, check to see if there any more questions.

Thanks!
Michael

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