|Which is the real Tino Martinez?|
Martinez actually spoke with FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal Monday night to give his side of the story.1 The anger, the exchange between Martinez and a handful of players all came down to following baseball protocol, according to the first year coach. It's customary practice to help pick up the baseballs after taking part in a soft-toss drill in the batting cage. The three players, Martinez claims, refused to do so.
Martinez stated that altercations with Derek Dietrich, Chris Valaika, and Justin Ruggiano were nearly identical, with the exception that Martinez admitted that he grabbed Dietrich by the jersey. Dietrich told Redmond that Martinez grabbed him by the neck and the chain that went around his neck. No other player has stated that Martinez laid his hands on them.
The former Yankees first baseman added that his run-ins with the three players were each"one time incident(s)" and did not "linger" any further. After he discussed things with friends over the weekend, the four time World Series champion decided to talk to the press.
Martinez then talked about his time as a player to emphasize the normal ritual.“Do you realize I’m out of baseball basically because a couple of players didn't pick up balls in the cage when I asked them to? As a coach, when I asked them to pick up the balls, why didn’t they just say, ‘Absolutely, no problem, I’ll do it right now.’ ”Added Martinez: “I started thinking about it, thinking I’ve got to say something, not just let it go away. I’ve had a great reputation in this game for years. I walked away from the game with integrity. But now, to have a couple of kids try to ruin my name, I felt I had to say something and fight back.”
“If Bernie Williams is hitting in front of me and I’m waiting with Paul O’Neill or whoever, there are no questions asked,” said Martinez, who played 16 years in the majors and won four World Series with the Yankees. “You help pick the balls up, and the next guy hits. Whoever is hanging around helps pick the balls up. It's standard.”
Valaika would often hit after outfielder Juan Pierre, a 14-year veteran in the big leagues. According to Martinez, Valaika was content to watch Pierre pick up the baseballs.
“One day I told Juan Pierre, ‘One of these days, he’s going to help us pick up the balls. He’s a 27-year-old journeyman. You’re a 15-year big leaguer. He will help us pick up the balls,’” Martinez recalled.
“So finally after about a month or so goes by, I decide I’m going to tell him something: ‘Hey Chris, help us pick up the balls.’ And he goes, ‘Why should I? I didn’t hit ‘em.’ And I said, ‘Pick up the balls, you’re part of this team.’ And he goes, ‘But I didn’t hit ‘em.’ So, I got in his face and I said, ‘Pick up the f------ balls. You’re part of this f------ team.’ I got in his face and said it kind of angrily. And he picked up the balls.”Martinez stated he never had an issue with Vailaka again, but he clearly lost his cool with Dietrich.
Like Valaika, Martinez said he never had an issue with Dietrich again. However, Dietrich may feel otherwise since his agent contacted the MLB front office when his client was sent to the minors. Martinez was taken aback by Dietrich's claim.“I go, ‘Derek, help us pick the balls up,’” Martinez recalled. “He goes, ‘Why, I didn’t hit ‘em.’ I said, ‘I don’t give a s--- if you didn’t hit ‘em, help us pick the balls up.’ He walked toward me, not angrily, and said, ‘Hey, I didn’t hit the balls, why should I pick ‘em up?’“I grabbed his jersey and said, ‘Because you’re f------- part of this team, pick the f------ balls up right now. Pick the f------ balls up. I’m tired of your s---.’ I probably pushed him backwards. That was it.”
“Derek, a day after he gets sent to the minor leagues, decides to say, ‘Tino grabbed me by the throat two months ago,’” Martinez said. “This came out of nowhere. We were working together for two months, fine.”Martinez's version of events was confirmed by batting practice pitcher Tim Smith. As for Ruggiano, Martinez says the outfielder went back to the clubhouse after he hit and left all of the baseballs in the cage for another player to pick up.
The three players aside, it was another unnamed player that was quoted in the original report as saying Martinez used "intimidation tactics from day one." There was also a report that Martinez came down hard on minor leaguer Matt Downs during Spring Training for working with minor league hitting instructor Greg Norton after Martinez had been working with him.“I was like, ‘Why did you let him do that?’” Martinez recalled saying to the player. “He said, ‘That’s just the way he is.’ I said, ‘We’ve got to change that.’ So one day I confronted (Ruggiano) and told him how he was a terrible teammate, how he treated the players, how he was this and this and this.“I got in his face. There was no contact. I got in his face and told him he needed to change; he had one year in the big leagues, and he shouldn’t treat people like that. And I went on and on and on, probably dropped a few F-bombs. And that was it — a one-day deal there.”
“I didn’t want another coach telling him something different from what I was telling him,” Martinez said. “I said, ‘What’s he telling you?’ He said, ‘This and this and this.’ And I said, ‘That’s the same thing I’m telling you.’
The only veteran involved was first baseman Casey Kotchman, whom reportedly Martinez challenged to a fight. Martinez stayed away from discussing the alleged challenge, but was remorseful about what happened.“I kind of did it in a frustrated way. ‘You don’t trust me as a hitting coach? If you don’t want to work with me, you don’t have to work with me anymore.’”
“That’s probably the only one I regret — he’s a good guy,” Martinez said. “I questioned his injury (a strained left hamstring that Kotchman suffered on April 5). I shouldn’t have done that. I felt bad about doing that.”Finally, Martinez spoke about his discussion with management that led him to definitely resign.
Martinez categorized reports that he was bi-polar as being "ridiculous" and pointed out his stable family life. Finally, Martinez added “It was one day, it was one outburst (with each player). I had just bottled it up for so long. “I had to say something. And that was it.”“When I went in to talk to the general manager, the president, the manager, all the guys who were in Redmond’s office, I basically felt guilty, like I had done something wrong, because of what I had read in the paper,” Martinez said.“I apologized. I honestly didn’t know why I was apologizing. I did it because I felt the public was going to read that, and it made it sound like I yelled at those guys every single day. But if you ask those players how many times after that I yelled at them or said something to them, they would probably tell you zero, not one day after that.“I resigned because I felt the manager and general manager had lost trust in me somewhat. They kept asking me, ‘Did you grab (Dietrich) by the throat?’ And I kept saying no. I felt like I was being isolated by some of the coaches, the manager and the general manager. I felt that they didn’t want me around at that point.”
As a Yankees fan and a fan of Costantino Martinez, I would like to be able to believe him, but where there's smoke there's usually fire. While Martinez tried to dismiss each incident as a one time deal and there was nothing more to it, the incidents with Kotchman and Downs, and the remarks by the anonymous player seem to indicate that Martinez's statements is attempting to simplify a much larger problem.
1 - FOXSports.com