What if Carlos Martinez preferred his bagels to be bread-sliced, didn’t care for gooey butter cake, and didn’t care to understand what was so memorable about a hill? St. Louis would tear him apart ruthlessly, right? Not exactly, but the ivory tower that some look down upon Martinez is rather maddening and funny at the same time. The outrage machine. Let’s get into it.
Martinez is a wildcard, and has been since the start. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, can get easily rattled in a big game, and has shown a propensity to be a problem child in offseason preparations. When asked a few years ago what kept Martinez out of that Cy Young tier, Yadier Molina used one word: “mentality.” It’s a trait that affects (or short-circuits) hundreds of young baseball players, so let’s not act so surprised.
Those are the problems we should be talking about with him. Seriously. Let’s dice up his mound activity. Can he still pitch? Where does he slot in on this roster as his contract rounds third base? What can he offer to the Cardinals in his age 30 season? Yes, he’s gotten older, and one could argue not that much wiser, baseball player-behavior wise. But his actions off the field don’t matter much to me.
I’m talking about riding a motorcycle in his hometown without a mask during a pandemic (his choice), using a phone on the highway, or choosing to jaywalk on a calm Thursday morning. Don’t care. Never did. But wait, he got into a fight at a strip club? Let me ask you a question: who hasn’t shoved someone or been shoved at a strip club once upon a time? That’s Martinez’s business. People take small things and blow them out of proportion. I wouldn’t want anyone following me around 24/7. Would you?
“Carlos Martinez is seen not wearing his seat belt. What kind of role model is he??! Oh no! What will I tell my son?!”
If there was an earthquake, he would be blamed. If Art Hill suddenly didn’t allow sledding, he’d be blamed. Whatever Mike Matheny didn’t do, Martinez will take the blame. That’s the current poll in town after former Blue goaltender Jake Allen left town last year in a trade. Just do me a favor and don’t forget about all the great charity work he’s performed for years, work that has brought good fortune to so many lives. Don’t forget the good, even if the bad is along for the ride too. Sometimes, it’s a packaged deal.
In reality, I wouldn’t rule out the sometimes starter/part-time reliever finding himself in a trade before the season gets going. But for the time being, he’s a Cardinal, so what need can he fill? If I had to pick, slot him in the rotation, which can use some firepower.
Baseball wise, Martinez is less of an enigma. Let’s go ahead and toss his 2020 season, like we would with just about every player last year. Martinez compiled a 3.17 ERA and closed 24 games in 2019. For three seasons, he was a very competent starter. Not an ace, but a solid #2. With 179 innings pitched and a crafty ERA, one would say he was a reliable arm. And then injuries and disappointment on the field, as well as off-field prep issues, began to sink into his career. If he wasn’t getting scolded for something on social media, he was being questioned for a role the following season.
I never saw “ace” in Martinez’s makeup. I just saw a talented arm. For his sake, and the team’s fortune as well, he could get it in gear for 2021. Whether it ends in Cardinal Red or another thread, “El Gallo” still has time to get it right. He can still put together a nice finish. Yadier Molina is behind homeplate, and there’s a steel fortress behind him this year at Busch. The best way to ease the microscope away from your faults and flaws is to perform at a higher level on the field. Pitch well, win games, get that next contract.
Now, if he could just find the willpower to wait to do a live story on Instagram until the stop light!!!
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