While Tino Martinez was a fine major leaguer for most of his 16 years, he’s also now easily the weakest performer to receive a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. The former first baseman was given his day today as the first of four additions to the Park this year, joining Joe Torre, Goose Gossage and Paul O’Neill. Gossage’s day will come tomorrow. Bernie Williams is expected to be added next year.
Tino’s plaque focuses more on two singular events than his career numbers in seven seasons with the Yankees and leaves out the other nine years altogether, though that’s typical for the Yankee plaques.
Martinez drove in 100 runs in five of his seven seasons with the Yankees, but it was the late 90’s… everyone drove in 100 runs. In 1999, he was one of four Yankees to do so. His only season in the top 10 in the AL in OPS was 1997, when he finished second in the MVP balloting on the strength of his 141 RBI on a first-place team. But he never finished in the top 10 in WAR, he never won a Gold Glove (or deserved to) for all of his “superlative defense” and he was just a lifetime .233/.321/.351 hitter in 99 postseason games.
So, yeah, fine player. And the Yankees are free to do what they want with their park. It just doesn’t seem quite right that Martinez is in and Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles aren’t, not to mention some of the deceased Hall of Famers also not included.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”
As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.