- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

They are the Washington Nationals, but their bloodlines are connected to the Montreal Expos — which makes New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez and the Nationals former blood brothers, albeit very estranged.

As if Nationals fans needed one more indignity to deal with after last night’s 3-1 loss to the Mets at RFK Stadium, a look back at the history of the relocated franchise is a reminder of how good this organization was, and what great players it had.

Yes, for those who were booing the hated Pedro last night — the anointed villain of Nationals fans after he hit three Washington batters last week, including Jose Guillen twice, nearly setting off a bench-clearing brawl — he was once the star of this franchise.

Pedro came up through the Los Angeles Dodgers organization — which also developed his brother, Ramon Martinez — and was traded in December 1993 for Delino DeShields.

It was with the Expos that Pedro emerged as a superstar pitcher, going 55-33 over four years, including his first Cy Young season, when he went 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts in 1997.

He is so identified with the Boston Red Sox and the seven seasons he spent there after being traded from Montreal in November 1997 that his time with the Expos gets buried. But when you look up the records of the franchise that is now wearing the uniform of the Washington Nationals, Pedro’s name is prominent.

Pedro is fourth in strikeouts with 543, fifth all-time in career ERA at 3.05 and fifth in wins. He is tied for fifth in single-season victories with 17, and fourth in ERA, with that 1.90 mark. And his 305 strikeouts in 1997 remains the franchise single-season record — the Washington Nationals’ franchise single-season record.

He was once the heart of this franchise. Now he owns the heart of this team.

Fans flocked to RFK Stadium last night anticipating some sort of beanball rematch with Pedro, despite the warnings from umpires, after the fireworks at Shea Stadium last week. It was College Night, which meant anyone with a college identification could get in for $5, and after three innings, there were still long lines of fans waiting outside the stadium to buy tickets and get in.

They didn’t miss anything. In fact, they were spared the embarrassment of seeing Nationals starter Tony Armas Jr. not only not put Pedro on his back when the Mets pitcher came up in the second inning, but walk him. Walk him. How pathetic.

You would have thought Guillen might have wanted to put Armas on his back when they got to the dugout, but the Nationals’ right fielder had his own chance for revenge when he came up in the bottom of the sixth inning with one out and the bases loaded, with New York leading 2-1. But Guillen, going head to head with his nemesis, meekly grounded out to short for an inning-ending double play.

Daddy’s home, baby. Daddy’s home.

By the time Guillen came up, the crowd of 29,985 already been robbed of any excitement over a showdown between Pedro and the home team. Here it was, bases loaded against Pedro Martinez, with the team’s top slugger at the plate, and you could have carried on a conversation with someone sitting five sections away, it was so quiet.

Baseball has landed with a thud in its second season in Washington. The lack of enthusiasm that dominated the home opener on Tuesday certainly carried over to last night, though it could have changed if the Nationals gave the crowd something to get enthused about. But after Pedro held the home team to just three hits over seven innings, the best the fans could do is deliver a decent booing as he made his way back to the dugout after being taken out by Mets manager Willie Randolph just before the start of the eighth inning.

And you know Pedro loved it.

Pedro, as most baseball observers know, is just one in a long list of great players that played for the Expos franchise and then moved on. It was how the franchise barely survived in the final years in Montreal, trading star players they could no longer afford in exchange for young prospects.

So who did the Expos get in 1997 when they traded Pedro? Carl Pavano and another young pitcher named Tony Armas Jr.

Is there no end to the insults?

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