Bob Toth | On 17, Sep 2018
Previous to Saturday’s recreation, longtime Cleveland slugger Victor Martinez introduced his plan to retire at season’s finish, bringing a near knowledgeable profession that started in 1996 with the Indians group and that has lasted 16 years on the Main League degree.
Martinez’s announcement ended a month of hypothesis in the Motor Metropolis after the 39-year-old, relegated solely to designated hitting duties during the last two years and for almost all of the final 4, had beforehand indicated in August that he was ‘pretty sure’ that this season can be his final. He erased these doubts previous to Saturday’s recreation, when the Indians honored one of many higher switch-hitters in franchise historical past in a quick ceremony.
Martinez stood close to house plate with Indians supervisor (and his former supervisor with the Boston Pink Sox) Terry Francona and Cleveland group president Chris Antonetti and watched a tribute video on the left area scoreboard narrated by Indians’ Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Bob DiBiasio, showing touched by the gesture. Following the video, he was introduced by Antonetti with a reproduction of house plate with a number of the highlights of his Indians tenure written throughout it. A hand shake between the 2 turned as an alternative into an prolonged and emotional embrace by Martinez, who shared an identical gesture together with his former skipper Francona afterwards.
Martinez made only one plate look in Saturday’s recreation, grounding out to 3rd earlier than being lifted for pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia in Cleveland’s 15-Zero blowout win over Detroit. He didn’t play in Sunday’s collection finale.
The skilled baseball profession of Martinez began on July 15, 1996, when Indians scout (and former Tribe pitcher) Luis Aponte signed the 17-year-old out of Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, to a professional contract. He was a shortstop on the time, however Aponte thought that third base, first base, or catching was in his future.
“I had a tough time in my first game catching,” shared Martinez in a Might 2, 2002, story in The Plain Supplier. “The pitcher threw the ball in the dirt and I got out of the way. Minnie Mendoza [former Indians scout and minor league coach] told me, ‘You got to block it.’”
He noticed his first official minor league motion in 1999 with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the place he additionally honed his English talking expertise whereas dwelling with Bob and Patty Bixler of Mahoning Valley.
“They didn’t speak Spanish and I didn’t speak English when I went there,” stated Martinez in the aforementioned story. “The first couple of months we used sign language.”
A robust season in 2001 at Excessive-A Kinston, which included a cycle, earned him the staff’s Minor League Participant of the Yr Award. The mother or father membership additional rewarded him by including him to the 40-man roster. After a dominant efficiency at Double-A Akron in 2002 and an look for the World Staff in the Futures All-Star recreation at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Martinez leapfrogged Triple-A and obtained the decision to the Majors on September 9 after Main League rosters had expanded.
“Victor is a special player, a special person,” Indians assistant common supervisor Neil Huntington was quoted in a September 10, 2002, story in The Plain Supplier. “His makeup and work ethic have allowed him to keep improving in all areas. You hate to put labels or expectations on anybody, but it wouldn’t surprise me to someday see him in an All-Star Game, or better.”
Martinez, who was named the Japanese League’s Most Priceless Participant (his second straight league MVP award) and gained the league’s batting title, debuted on September 10 in the quantity 63 and acquired successful and two RBI in 4 at bats. He appeared in 12 video games earlier than the season ended for the Indians, hitting .281 with a double, a homer, and 5 RBI.
The emergence of Martinez and fellow switch-hitting backstop Josh Bard allowed the workforce to deal Einar Diaz to the Texas Rangers as a part of the Travis Hafner deal in the offseason. Martinez began the 2003 season at Triple-A Buffalo, primarily to work on controlling the operating recreation, and obtained referred to as again as much as Cleveland on the finish of June, sporting his new quantity 20. He hit 4 doubles and a homer whereas driving in 16 in 49 video games of labor, lacking greater than three weeks in August with a bone bruise after twisting his proper ankle.
Martinez broke camp with the membership (now sporting his rather more acquainted 41) and have become the breakout participant that many in the group had been hoping for in 2004, when he emerged as one of many prime offensive catching threats in the sport. He was chosen to his first American League All-Star staff after hitting .290 in the primary half with 25 doubles, 12 homers, and 63 RBI. He hit .283 over 141 video games in complete on the yr with 38 doubles, 23 homers, and 108 RBI whereas understanding of the cleanup spot extensively and was chosen after the season because the Silver Slugger Award winner (the primary catcher chosen in Tribe historical past). He led all catchers in homers and RBI that season and his 101 RBI whereas in the lineup at catcher established a brand new franchise greatest (ousting Sandy Alomar’s 83 set in 1997).
Firstly of the 2005 season, the Indians restructured his contract, inking him to a five-year deal taking him by way of the 2009 marketing campaign with a staff choice for 2010.
“This signing is a significant one for the Indians organization and its fans in that it represents a big commitment from Larry and Paul Dolan and their recognition of a very special player,” basic supervisor and government vice chairman Mark Shapiro stated in a press launch saying the contract extension. “With a special player like Victor Martinez, whose talent is matched only by his character, it is a priority for us to insure his long term place in the line up, on the team and in the community.”
Martinez scuffled to start out the season, hitting simply .207 in April and .213 in Might to deliver a .210 common via the primary two months of the marketing campaign. However by season’s finish, aided by a .380/.449/.578 second half slash, Martinez ended his yr with a powerful .305 common, hitting 33 doubles and 20 homers whereas driving in 80 runs in 147 video games, however the Indians faltered down the stretch and missed out on a playoff spot with an finish of September collapse.
He remained a dependable producer in the lineup in 2006, including in work at first base on his days off behind the plate. He performed in what was then a career-high 153 video games, hitting 37 doubles and 16 homers whereas driving in 93 with a then-career-best .316 common and .391 on-base proportion.
Martinez performed an enormous position in the Tribe’s run to the postseason in 2007. He was an All-Star for the second time and completed the season seventh in the AL MVP voting, his third season getting votes in the balloting. He set new profession highs with 40 doubles and 114 RBI whereas including 25 homers and a .301 common in 147 video games. He hit .353 in the primary playoff collection of his profession, serving to the Indians defeat the New York Yankees in the American League Division Collection. Cleveland misplaced in seven video games in the American League Championship Collection to the Boston Purple Sox that season; Martinez hit .296 with eight hits and 4 runs scored in the set.
Issues began properly for Martinez in 2008, as he started the primary month of the yr hitting .366 with 5 doubles and ten RBI. However issues shortly went south for each Martinez and the Tribe as they weren’t capable of replicate their efficiency from the earlier yr. Hafner landed on the disabled record, as did
Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez). Jake Westbrook wanted Tommy John surgical procedure and in June, each Martinez and Josh Barfield hit the 15-day shelf with accidents of their very own. Martinez, who had strained his left hamstring on Opening Day, underwent surgical procedure to take away bone chips from his proper elbow. By the top of June, the group sank to final place in the American League Central, and every week later, star pitcher and free agent to be CC Sabathia was shipped to Milwaukee. Former nearer Joe Borowski, who handled accidents, was launched, and Casey Blake was traded to Los Angeles for Dodgers prospect Carlos Santana.
Martinez was restricted to only 73 video games, hitting .278 with two homers and 35 RBI on the yr.
The mini-rebuild didn’t work for Cleveland, as the subsequent season proved to be even worse. The staff spent a lot of the primary 4 months of the marketing campaign in final place earlier than sliding into fourth at season’s finish. An eleven-game dropping streak in September (when the membership misplaced 15 of 16) capped off a 7-21 month. Martinez was wholesome once more and headed to his third All-Star group (the staff’s solely consultant), hitting .284 by way of his first 99 video games. However heartbreak was coming for the eighth-year backstop and first baseman, as on July 31, the Indians dealt him to the Pink Sox for pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Worth, simply days after reigning Cy Younger winner Cliff Lee was traded to Philadelphia on the heels of different offers that despatched
Mark DeRosa, Rafael Betancourt, and Ryan Garko packing for prospects.
“This is the toughest day of my career,” Martinez shared with reporters in quotes in the August 1, 2009, version of The Plain Supplier. “That is my home, and I really feel like I’m leaving my home.
“This organization brought me to the big leagues. It made me a better person and player. I always wanted to wear one uniform in my career…but tomorrow is another day, and we’ve got to move on.”
Martinez hid behind sun shades to cover his eyes, weary from tears, whereas dressed in a black hat and Ed Hardy shirt.
“It’s a challenging personal moment for me, Chris Antonetti and our organization,” stated Indians GM Shapiro to the media following the commerce in quotes in the August 1, 2009, The Plain Supplier. “I was there the first week we signed Victor in Venezuela. I know he will be a friend well beyond his playing days and my GM days.”
The trades of Lee and Martinez saved $16 million on the books for the subsequent yr in membership choices. The thought was that the banged up Tribe might probably contend the subsequent season had the 2 been retained, however that these possibilities weren’t nice and that Shapiro’s suggestion to possession was to maneuver items now to have an extended window of alternative down the street.
“I’m not asking for patience,” continued Shapiro. “I feel similar frustration as to where we are. I take responsibility for that. We’re trying to do everything we can to get back to a championship ballclub. I don’t ask for applause now…I just want to be right at the end.”
Masterson, who was acquired in the Martinez deal, turned a key cog in the rotation for years. The identical could possibly be stated for Carlos Carrasco, the one piece of the Lee commerce that panned out, in addition to Michael Brantley, the most important contributor from the Sabathia deal the season earlier than.
Martinez took nicely to his new residence in Boston together with his new supervisor Francona, placing up a .336/.405/.507 line in 56 video games with the Purple Sox with 12 doubles, eight homers, and 41 RBI. He made his return to the playoffs that season with the membership that had knocked him out simply two years earlier than, hitting .182 with a pair of RBI because the Sox have been swept in the primary spherical by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Pink Sox picked up his straightforward choice for 2010 and have been rewarded with one other All-Star season from the switch-hitting slugger, who hit .302 with 32 doubles, 20 homers, and 79 RBI earlier than hitting the open marketplace for the primary time in his profession. He signed with the Detroit Tigers in the offseason on a four-year, $50 million deal, giving the Indians’ division rival a harmful lineup mate with Miguel Cabrera.
Martinez helped lead the Tigers to the playoffs in his first season at Comerica Park, utilizing the spacious confines to match a career-high with 40 doubles. He hit simply 12 homers on the yr, however greater than made up for it with a .330 batting common and 103 runs batted in as Detroit went to the ALCS. He missed all of 2012 with a torn left ACL suffered throughout offseason conditioning (lacking the Tigers’ World Collection look that season), however bounced again to type in 2013, showing in 159 video games and hitting .301 with 36 doubles, 14 homers, and 83 RBI whereas the Tigers reached the ALCS once more.
He was an All-Star for the ultimate time in 2014 in a profession yr on the age of 35. He performed in 151 video games, slashing .335/.409/.565 with 33 doubles, a career-best 32 homers, and 103 RBI. He was the league’s chief in on-base proportion and led all of baseball in OPS (.974) and intentional walks (28). He completed second that yr in the AL MVP voting and was a Silver Slugger recipient for the second time in his profession and first time in greater than ten years.
Coronary heart scares slowed him a bit in 2015, resulting in an offseason cardiac ablation process to deal with an irregular heartbeat (a process that his former skipper Francona additionally had achieved earlier that yr), however Martinez was again to posing an enormous menace in the center of the Tigers lineup in 2016, when he hit 22 doubles and 27 homers with 86 RBI and a .289 common.
The wear and tear and tear on his physique might have lastly caught as much as him during the last two seasons as his enjoying profession winded in the direction of its finish. He was restricted to DH obligation solely final season whereas enjoying in 107 video games and accumulating his fewest variety of hits (100) since his injury-shortened 2008 season in Cleveland. Via 128 video games this season, Martinez is hitting simply four-thousandths of some extent above his earlier profession low, posting a .249/.296/.351 line with 19 doubles, 9 homers, and 53 RBI.
In 16 MLB seasons, he owns a .295/.360/.455 slash with 421 doubles, three triples, 246 homers, and 1,177 RBI with 2,148 complete hits. He stays the Indians’ all-time chief in a handful of offensive statistics by a catcher, together with homers (103), RBI (518), batting common (.297), on-base proportion (.369), slugging (.463), and OPS (.832).
Martinez’s mark on Cleveland is probably going not executed, as he would appear to be a primary candidate for induction in the Indians’ Corridor of Fame house at Heritage Park someplace down the street for the work that he did with the membership in the course of the first decade of the 21st century. Right here’s hoping that Martinez wraps his profession with an honorary one-day contract with the Indians after the season, to deliver his profession full circle again residence to Cleveland whereas permitting him to as soon as once more put on the jersey of the group that he beloved so dearly one final time earlier than hanging up the cleats for good.
Congratulations, Victor, on an unimaginable profession.
Photograph: David Maxwell/Getty Pictures