tino martinez getty

After Tino Martinez resigns, Marlins name John Pierson interim hitting coach

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Amid allegations from several Marlins players that hitting coach Tino Martinez resorted to both physical and verbal abuse, the former Yankee star resigned from his position. John Pierson was named the interim hitting coach. Pierson had been serving the team as the organization’s Minor League field director.

Martinez had offered to resign when the organization was made aware of the complaints, but owner Jeffrey Loria stunningly gave a vote of confidence to his hitting coach. It was only when the allegations went public that Martinez stepped down. “It has been building for a few days,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know this was going to come out publicly. When this came out, I thought it was the right thing to do.”

As Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel describes it, Martinez had a controversial style, engaging in disagreements with manager Mike Redmond along with a physical engagement with rookie second baseman Derek Dietrich. The allegations suggest Martinez had grabbed Dietrich by the neck, but Martinez firmly denied any such action, saying, “I want to say that I never physically touched anyone by the neck. That never happened.”

Martinez sounds legitimately apologetic about his actions. Via MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro:

“I just thought with some young players, you needed to be a little firmer and try to get them on the right track,” Martinez said. “Obviously, I made a mistake, and I apologize for that too. I apologize to the Marlins’ organization, my family and everyone involved.”

To his credit, Redmond was rational about the situation as well, empathizing with the difficulties Martinez faced as a new coach following a 16-year playing career:

“Coaching is tough,” Redmond said. “I know that going from a player to a coach, it’s hard. Part of the grind is learning how to deal with different situations with different players and personalities. All of that stuff is a challenge. Some people can do it. Some people can’t.

“At the same time, too, we need those guys. That’s the show. Those 25 guys out there, they’re the ones who go out there and perform. Our job is to keep them going. That’s the important thing.”

For the Marlins, it’s another blemish on a very blemished record. After opening up a $634 million new stadium last year, the Marlins boasted a payroll north of $100 million, $40 million more than it had been at its highest point dating back to 2000. Quickly, though, after the team fizzled, Loria traded away the same free agents he had signed to rich, lengthy contracts as free agents, and sent away some of the organization’s homegrown stars as well, such as Hanley Ramirez. They opened up the 2013 season with a $50 million payroll. On average, the Marlins are averaging about 11,000 fewer fans per game than they were last year. Their latest misstep won’t help bring any more fans to the ballpark.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.