Tino Martinez, the first-year hitting coach for the Marlins and an All-Star first baseman as a player, resigned Sunday in the wake of allegations he abused players, both verbally and physically.
The abrupt announcement came immediately following Sunday’s game within hours after the Miami Herald reported Martinez was on the hot seat due to complaints from players that he was overly combative.
“We’ve accepted Tino Martinez’s resignation as hitting coach postgame today,” said Larry Beinfest, Marlins president of baseball operations, in a hastily called news conference.
Martinez acknowledged that he grabbed rookie second baseman Derek Dietrich by the front of his jersey in early May and “overreacted” and “probably” swore with others in trying to be firm with some of the Marlins’ younger players.
“I want to apologize to the Marlins organization for my behavior,” said Martinez, 45. “I think I was frustrated at times, the way players were behaving and certain ways they were doing things. When I asked them to do something and they wouldn’t do it, whatever it may be, I thought the way to get through was by being firm with them, and I probably used some four-letter words.”
Martinez disputed media reports that he grabbed Dietrich by the neck.
“The only thing I’ve done is, I did grab Dietrich — we had a little thing in the [batting] cage one day — by the jersey,” Martinez said. “That was it. I never touched his neck. I never grabbed his neck. If anything else, [I want] his parents to know that because I have a 20-year-old son and I would be very upset if someone grabbed my son’s neck. That never happened.”
Sources, though, said Martinez — who was owner Jeffrey Loria’s personal pick to take over as hitting coach — displayed a pattern of abusive behavior from the start of spring training and made numerous threats.
“It’s all shocked everybody,” said one player, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “He uses intimidation. It’s been a problem since Day One.”
As a player during the course of a 16-year major-league career in which he totaled 1,925 hits — mostly with the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners — the Tampa native was considered stoic and reserved.
But Martinez had no prior coaching experience at the professional level when Loria picked him to become hitting coach under new manager Mike Redmond.
Martinez is not the first of Loria’s hand-picked hires to resign or be fired long before their contracts expired. Joe Girardi was fired after one season as manager in 2006. Ozzie Guillen was fired after the 2012 season, one year into a four-year deal. By resigning, Martinez will forfeit the two remaining years on his contract.
According to sources, Martinez erupted over seemingly minor issues that didn’t merit such anger. In addition to Dietrich, who was demoted to the minors last week, Martinez became excessively angry with outfielder Justin Ruggiano, first baseman Casey Kotchman, infielder Chris Valaika and minor-league infielder Matt Downs, among others.
A few players complained to Redmond about Martinez’s behavior during the course of the season. It came to a boil last week after Dietrich was demoted and his agent contacted the Marlins to report the incident involving the 24-year old player, which occurred in early May on only the second baseman’s fifth day in the majors.
Sources said Martinez was poised to resign as early as Friday, when he and Redmond were summoned to a closed-door meeting with front office executives to discuss the issue. Loria refused to accept the resignation when Martinez offered it Friday, and the coach remained in uniform the rest of the weekend.
Martinez said Loria “thought there were other options.”
Meanwhile, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association was notified of the alleged incident with Dietrich — along with others involving Martinez — and the union then contacted the Commissioner’s Office, which was demanding action from the Marlins.
“It’s been building for a few days,” Martinez said. “I thought I made some mistakes along the way, but I didn’t know this was going to come out publicly at all. So when this came out [during Sunday’s game], I thought [resigning] was the right thing to do.”
Redmond said Martinez’s lack of coaching experience could have been a factor.
“I know going from a player to a coach, it’s hard,” Redmond said. “Part of the grind is learning how to deal with different situations with different players, different personalities — all that stuff is a challenge. Some people can do it. Some people can’t.”
The Marlins weren’t the only team interested in hiring Martinez to be their hitting coach. The Boston Red Sox were also in the running for him.
The Marlins are the lowest-scoring team in the majors this season.
Injuries and a lack of experience in the lineup have been singled out as the two biggest reasons for the team’s lack of offense. But one player said that the rift between hitters and Martinez has also had an effect.
“I think it’s definitely had an effect,” the player said.
Said Martinez: “Right now I’m disappointed in myself for this being public. I’m embarrassed. Obviously I made a mistake, and I apologized for that to the Marlins organization, my family, and everyone involved.”
The Marlins named minor-league hitting coordinator John Pierson as interim hitting coach.