Martinez criticizes team's negotiating tactics

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Pedro Martinez returned home Friday and bashed the team he led to a World Series title.

He knocked the Boston Red Sox for their front office moves and predicted a rough season awaits.

"They will field the best bad team in baseball history," Martinez said at a news conference Friday.

One day after he was introduced by the New York Mets -- who signed him to a four-year, $53 million contract -- Martinez criticized the Red Sox for firing key employees, including team doctor Bill Morgan.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Martinez also criticized the negotiating tactics of Red Sox officials, saying he repeatedly got mixed signals from team president Larry Lucchino, owner John Henry and general manager Theo Epstein, who he called "arrogant."

"I told (Henry), 'You want to sign me, get it done. Please force them to get it done. I'm willing to stay here. Negotiate with them. I just don't want to be under (Curt) Schilling,'" Martinez said.

He also said he deserved a better deal than Schilling.

"Schilling is 38, I'm only 33," he said. "The fact that I had an off-year doesn't mean that I can be below Schilling. Still, with an off-year, I'm way over Schilling as a pitcher and I've pitched pretty much like Schilling the last few years, if you're going to talk about durability."

Martinez said he was "dumbfounded" to hear that fellow Dominican Manny Ramirez could be mentioned as possible trade bait after winning the World Series MVP.

"After giving seven great years, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe and I were not signed," Martinez said.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner said the Mets "have shown more respect in days than Boston did in seven years."

Epstein discounted the comments and said Friday that Martinez is "a brilliant pitcher ... an emotional person as well."

"It doesn't bother me," Epstein said. "I don't necessarily define myself by what anyone says about me, let alone a player that we just didn't sign to bring back to Boston. We'll be fine as an organization.

"I just don't put much stock in that. It's a heat of the moment-type thing," Epstein said. "I choose to look at the man, not one comment."

Accompanied by Mets vice president Fred Wilpon, general manager Omar Minaya and agent Fernando Cuza, Martinez said Boston had "every opportunity" to sign him in the past two years, even below market value.

"I'm a proud man and I think I deserve a little respect for the work I've done," he said. "I felt disillusioned and hurt by the way the Red Sox let me go so easily."

Henry said the club "offered Pedro exactly what he said it would take to sign him" when team officials visited Martinez in the Dominican Republic on Dec. 8.

"Our organization went out of our way to treat Pedro with the greatest respect over the past three years. I am surprised and very disappointed by the continuing negative comments in that regard," Henry said Friday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
"Nevertheless, I wish him great success with the Mets."

Martinez said Epstein and Lucchino "weren't getting along in negotiations. Lucchino would say one thing and Theo would show up with another."

He said Epstein treated his agent, Fernando Cuza, poorly during negotiations.

"Theo got really arrogant on Fernando and I didn't appreciate it," Martinez said. "Theo believed that he had me and wasn't the nicest man communicating with Fernando."

He said Red Sox manager Terry Francona played a small role in managing the team, taking his cues from the team's front office.

"Francona is subject to what they decide," Martinez said. "Francona had no say, like he didn't have any say in managing the team. He was manipulated from upstairs."

Asked for evidence to back that assertion, he said, "I was in the clubhouse, that's how I know."

Martinez, 33, said he could retire after finishing his contract with the Mets.

"I don't plan to play until I'm 40 years, but I will have four years to study that decision," he said.

Martinez shook off questions about the condition of his arm in light of a 16-9 record and a 3.90 ERA in his final season with Boston.

"I felt good this year and I feel good now," he said. "I don't know where rumors about my health started. I didn't have a bad year, but it wasn't the norm for me."

Martinez hopes to inject new life into the Mets, who finished next to last in the NL East in 2004 after finishing last the two previous seasons.

"My goal now is to stay healthy and get the Mets back to the World Series and win it," Martinez said.