Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't cry for me, Constantino

I feel like Tino Martinez retiring deserves its own post, though I'd been waiting to see an official announcement making the rounds first. I'm not really sure what to say, though.

Unlike most of the other people in the Mariners blogosphere, I never actually saw Tino as a guy on the home team. I wasn't here for the Edgar-Tino Super-Martinez-Combo, nor did I live in New York or St. Louis or Tampa or anywhere else he played. However, for some reason, I've always had a lot of respect for the guy. I know this sounds like a huge cliche, but Tino always just seemed like, well, a ballplayer. For even more of a cliche, a "throwback" ballplayer. No bullshit, no flashy or flamboyant stuff, just a talented guy who went out there every day and played his heart out with class and dignity.

It's funny. With Olerud, and with Tino as well, I think the worst word I've ever heard anyone use to describe them was "slow". Most players, even the greatest ones, have something that fans and critics complain about; their skill, their attitude, how much they get paid, their family, their accent, their steroid suspicions, whatever. But some players are just a class act, and Tino is one of them. He's the kind of intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken guy that you'd want to have as your next-door neighbor, if he wasn't the first baseman for the hometown nine. He was the Yankee I could cheer for. Last season I had a conversation with a Yankee-hating friend that went something like:

YH: "It doesn't matter. Once a guy goes to the Yankees, I hate him. Pure and simple."
Me: "I bet I can come up with at least one or two guys on the Yankees you don't hate."
YH: "Try me."
Me: "What about when Olerud was there?"
YH: "That didn't count. He wasn't there long enough to lose his soul, so he wasn't REALLY a Yankee, so I didn't have to hate him."
Me: "Okay, fine, what about... Tino Martinez?"
YH: *long, long pause*
Me: "See? Everyone loves Tino."
YH: "I don't love Tino. But you're right, I don't hate him. I just hate the uniform he's wearing again."

Even in retiring, Tino didn't make a big deal about the whole thing. A week ago, there was an article in the St. Petersburg times with the lead:

"Tino Martinez didn't want to make a formal announcement. If he'd had his way, he just would have not showed up for spring training and gone on with his life. But with a new high-profile gig at ESPN about to start, he figured people might notice."

I thought it was cool that another article said that he'll be doing some work with ESPN and also taking classes at the University of Tampa to finish his degree. I'm really happy for him; it sounds like a good arrangement.

And while this isn't about his retirement, a guy wrote this article about Tino back when he had that home run streak last May (mostly against the Mariners, heh). I think he expressed the "everyone loves Tino" sentiment pretty well, though.

Sometimes nice guys DO finish first. Here's to Tino - to a great guy, a great career, and a great future!

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