Edgar Martinez wants a better life. The Mariners want a better offense. So the hitting coach and the club Tuesday seemed to have reached a mutually convenient solution: Martinez will leave his current job to become next year the organization’s overall hitting advisor.
That means the legendary designated hitter will not be tied to the 162-game grind that pulls him away from his wife and three kids, and the Mariners can find help to rectify the club’s dismal second-half descent that left them out of the playoffs for the 17th year in a row.
In a statement Tuesday announcing the change, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said, “Edgar came to (manager Scott Servais) and me after the season ended and talked to us about his desire to find a position of value within the organization that would provide more flexibility than the role of major league hitting coach.
“We have spent the past three weeks working with Edgar to design a new position that will allow us to take advantage of his knowledge, passion and teaching skill at both the Major and minor league levels, while allowing Edgar flexibility that is unavailable in his current role.”
Later Tuesday in a teleconference with reporters, Martinez said, “I wanted to have more of a flexible schedule. The coaching goes into long hours and the travel. With the situation with my family at this point, I just thought if I could have an ideal situation where I could spend some time with a MLB team and be part of it and help and expanding other roles, but also be home more with the family, that was is what I was thinking.
“It’s more of a broad role that allows me to be home more, but still tied to the team and be part of it.”
So in a broad fashion, the Mariners have found a job for another franchise icon in the way the club gave Ichiro, after it was clear he could no longer contribute as a player, an invented position of advisor to majority owner chairman John Stanton.
No one is saying that Martinez was responsible for the club’s second-half offensive collapse that dropped the Mariners from an almost-certain playoff team to being passed by Oakland and Tampa Bay, two of MLB’s most decrepit franchises.
But when a team gets embarrassed despite winning 89 games, heads roll. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., whose staff issued the fewest walks in baseball (they controlled the zone for a club-record 400 walks), nevertheless paid with his job Oct. 1.
“Obviously, I wasn’t happy with the way the offense performed,” Martinez said. “I knew it was kind of tough in the second half, but that wasn’t why I made this decision. I’ve been thinking about it since the previous year. It wasn’t the reason why I decided to take a different role.”
Both Stottlemyre, 54, and Martinez, 55, grew up in baseball’s pre-analytics era. As with every club now in baseball, the Mariners’ tactical decisions are heavily driven by data. The transition is easier for some than others, including players as well as coaches and managers.
At a press conference after the season when Stottlemyre’s firing was disclosed, Servais hinted at the reason for offing a coach he hired and considered a friend.
“I think we can (be) even better in getting information to our players and working with our group upstairs in our analytical department,” Servais told the Seattle Times, “to make sure we are all in sync and getting the most out of each and every one. The model has a lot of merit.”
Since Martinez remains with the organization — the news release said he will be “present at Spring Training and present throughout the season to work with hitters and hitting coaches from all levels of the Mariners’ system” — there won’t be any criticism of the job he’s done since mid-2015, when he was hired by manager Lloyd McClendon to replace Howard Johnson.
When Dipoto replaced McClendon with Servais, there was said to be an instruction from then-CEO Howard Lincoln that Martinez was to be retained for as long as he wanted the job. It was unlikely that anyone in the Mariners’ orbit objected.
From a standpoint of local public endearment, Martinez is unique. The late broadcaster Dave Niehaus described it as well as anyone.
“I’ve never heard anybody in any walk of life say anything ever halfway bad about Edgar Martinez,” he said. “I’ve never heard a cross word from him. He has always had nice things to say about everyone, even in trying circumstances. He’s a great human being.”
Whether Martinez, a seven-time All-Star who just missed election to the Hall of Fame in January and is forecasted to make it on the next ballot, deployed analytics in a useful way, there is little doubt that the baseball lifestyle, glamorous as it seems to outsiders, is basically nuts.
“There is one side of me that enjoys it a lot,” he told reporters. “I enjoy working with the players. We have great guys in the clubhouse and we have a great coaching staff. But when you have a family and don’t see the family much, especially when you have young kids, it can be tough.
“The situation is, when you come home late at night, your whole family is sleeping. And in my case, I get up early in the morning just so I can see the kids and Holli, and then they’re gone the whole day and I come back at night and it’s the same role again. It’s a situation where at this point in life, I’d rather choose to be around a little more.”
Hard to argue with that. Just as it is hard to argue that getting up from the Mariners’ epic pratfall this summer mandates sentiment-free thinking.