Tino Martinez was back in a big league uniform full-time this season for the first time since retiring following the 2005 season, in which he spent with the Yankees. Martinez was hired to guide the anemic offense of the Miami Marlins as their new hitting coach following the Marlins’ hiring of Mike Redmond as their new manager. But amid allegations of abuse towards players, Martinez resigned from his position following today’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and will be replaced by minor-league hitting coordinator John Pierson on an interim basis.
According to an unnamed player, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, Martinez has displayed abusive behavior — both physical and verbal — since the start of spring training. “He uses intimidation. It’s been a problem since day one,” said the player.
The former All-Star first basemen — who spent time with the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays throughout his 16 year big league career — has been accused of outbursts of excessive anger towards outfielders Derek Dietrich and Justin Ruggiano, first baseman Casey Kotchman, and infielders Chris Valaika and Matt Downs, among others. The incident with Dietrich is the only reported physical outburst by Martinez, as he was accused of grabbing Dietrich by the neck and neck chain in a fit of rage after Dietrich ignored Martinez’s request to pick up baseballs following a session in the batting cage.
The altercation, which allegedly took place in May, wasn’t reported to Marlins brass at the time, and was only brought to light by Dietrich’s agent, Mark Meter, following Dietrich’s demotion to the Double-A Jacksonville Suns of the Southern League this past week; at which time Martinez offered his resignation. However, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria — who personally hand-picked Martinez to replace Eduardo Perez as the team’s hitting coach — refused to accept the resignation, and according to Tino, thought that “there were other options.” But once news of the abusive behavior was made public, Martinez immediately resigned, forfeiting the following two years of his contract.
“It’s been building for a few days,” Martinez said. “I thought I made some mistakes along the way, but I didn’t know this was going to come out publicly at all. So when this came out [during Sunday’s game], I thought [resigning] was the right thing to do.”
Following his decision, Martinez also offered an apology and an explanation, saying, “I want to apologize to the Marlins organization for my behavior. I think I was frustrated at times, the way players were behaving and, certain ways they were doing things. When I asked them to do something and they wouldn’t do it, whatever it may be, I thought the way to get through was by being firm with them, and I probably used some four-letter words.”
And while he acknowledged the incident with Dietrich, he flat out denied that he grabbed the young outfielder by the neck.
“That only thing I’ve done is, I did grab Dietrich — we had a little thing in the [batting] cage one day — by the jersey,” Martinez said. “That was it. I never touched his neck. I never grabbed his neck. If anything else, [I want] his parents to know that because I have a 20-year-old son and I would be very upset if someone grabbed my son’s neck. That never happened.”
Players have apparently made complaints about Martinez to Redmond all throughout the season, although no action was taken against him. However, Redmond did imply that Martinez’s lack of coaching experience could have factored into his behaviors.
“I know going from a player to a coach, it’s hard,” Redmond said. “Part of the grind is learning how to deal with different situations with different players, different personalities — all of that stuff is a challenge. Some people can do it, some people can’t.”
Prior to this season, Martinez had never coached at the professional level, although he was named a special instructor for the Yankees in 2008, helping the team’s first basemen with their defense. He was also later named Special Assistant to the General Manager, and served as a part-time broadcaster for the YES Network in 2010. He also previously served as a volunteer assistant coach for the University of South Florida Bulls, beginning in 2007 under then-newly hired head coach Lelo Prado, who also happens to be Martinez’s brother-in-law; and in 2008 was quoted as describing Martinez as a calm influence for his players, saying “He’s not like a college guy like me that goes crazy over the little things, he’s calm. He’s great for me, because he’s a guy all the time. But he just brings so much to the table.”
USF players also praised Martinez’s presence.
Charles Cleveland, 1B/3B: “You can’t put a price tag on it. You get to learn from a guy whose been there and done that, won four World Series. He was a star in the major leagues and so you just always want to be a sponge and just listen to everything he says.”
Dexter Butler, 2B: “Being a hitter, if Coach Martinez comes to tell you, yeah, that’s a good hit, you know, something like that, you’re really like, yeah. I maybe can hit. So, it’s a lot of fun having him out here.”
As a player, Martinez was considered a fan-favorite (especially with the Yankees) and often displayed a stoic, yet intense demeanor that endeared him to fans, coaches, and teammates alike who appreciated the gritty, all-out style of play he was known for. Strictly speaking from a fan’s perspective (as I grew up watching and idolizing Tino during his time with the Yankees during their late ’90′s-early 2000′s dynasty run), he always appeared to be a very personable and well-liked member of the clubhouse. You knew he was a fiercely competitive player, so the news of his intense approach to coaching doesn’t come as a too much of a shock to me. What does shock me, especially given his track record working with younger players, is his lack of patience and angry outbursts with the Marlins’ young talent.
Not to excuse these appalling actions in the least bit, but I can’t help but wonder if there was something else, perhaps in his personal life, that contributed to his unacceptable behaviors. One thing is for certain in the wake of this disturbing news; his reputation as a coach has been completely tarnished, and I highly doubt he’ll have an easy time securing another potential coaching gig anytime soon; although people who have committed more heinous acts have been granted second chances. I just can’t see any right-thinking club entrusting the development of their players with a man who has displayed such abusive behaviors; at least not until he finds a way to address and deal with whatever issues may have led to such outbursts.