Several readers have written in to ask me about
the comments I made in my
latest ESPN.com piece, in which I argued that Tino Martinez and
Scott Brosius are no longer useful baseball players, particularly
given their salaries. The gist of the feedback is that because Martinez had
driven in 100 runs in all of his years with the Yankees before 2000, and
because Brosius had a good year in 1998 capped with a World Series MVP
award, that these two players are therefore valuable.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Brosius’s case is a pretty easy one. Tell me which one of these stat lines
is not like the others:
Year AVG OBP SLG OPS 1997 .203 .259 .317 576 1998 .300 .371 .472 843 1999 .247 .307 .414 721 2000 .230 .299 .374 673
You don’t need me to tell you that he was horrible in two of those three
years and lousy in a third. Among 11 American League third basemen who
qualified for the batting title in 2000, Brosius finished dead last in OBP
and tenth in slugging, just .001 ahead of Rangers’ rookie Mike Lamb.
Brosius’s .673 OPS was 145 points behind that of Mike Lowell, whom
the Yankees traded when they re-signed Brosius to that idiotic three-year,
$15-million deal in the wake of the 1998 World Series.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Brosius was the worst third baseman in the
AL, even without considering his salary. When you realize that Troy
Glaus, Eric Chavez, Tony Batista and Mike Lamb
combined made less than Brosius did, you see what an incredible
mistake the Yankees made when they retained him.
Tino Martinez’s case is a little more complex, but let’s start with the
same statistical snapshot:
Year AVG OBP SLG OPS 1997 .296 .371 .577 948 1998 .281 .355 .505 860 1999 .263 .341 .458 799 2000 .258 .328 .422 750
Martinez had a great year in 1997, topping 30 home runs for just the second
time in his career. Since then, he has declined in every category above in
every year; by 1999, he was decidedly below-average. In 2000, he hit rock
Among the 16 American League first basemen who qualified for the batting
title, Tino finished last in slugging percentage, and was more than 200
points behind the third-ranked hitter in that category. Brian
Daubach saves Tino from a last-place finish in OBP, but Boston watchers
know that Daubach didn’t exactly keep his job all year. So for 2000, we can
pretty safely say that Tino was either the worst or the second-worst first
baseman in the AL.
But what about all those RBI? Tino knocked in at least 105 runs in his
first four years in pinstripes, and his supporters have all pointed that
out, calling him a "solid run producer". Well, if you stuck me in
the lineup behind the guys Tino hit behind, I could be a "solid run
Paul Bernie Tino Year O'Neill's OBP Williams's OBP Martinez's RBI 1996 .411 .391 117 1997 .399 .408 141 1998 .372 .422 123 1999 .353 .435 105 2000 .336 .391 91
Do you think it’s a coincidence that Martinez’s RBI fell below the 100 mark
when the two hitters in front of him had their worst OBP years in the Tino
Martinez Era? I can assure you it’s not. You can’t knock in guys who aren’t
When you consider that Martinez plays the easiest defensive position on the
field, he apears to have even less value. I do have to give him some credit
for handling a lot of errant Chuck Knoblauch throws, but the
defensive value he brought over a replacement-level first baseman was minimal.
Instead of blowing $10 million on Martinez and Brosius, the Yanks could
easily have found less expensive replacements to put up similar or better
numbers. It’s hard to believe that Mario Valdez, who spent the whole
year with Minnesota’s Triple-A team despite slugging .665, wouldn’t have
outslugged Martinez’s .422 mark if the Yankees had taken such a chance.
If Nick Johnson is healthy next spring, Torre should install him as
the first baseman and have Brian Cashman hand Martinez a ticket out of
town. As for Brosius, there’s no easy solution at hand, but the daring mind
thinks that moving Derek Jeter to third base and installing
D’Angelo Jimenez at shortstop would be the right long-term move for
the team and for Jeter, who would face less wear at the hot corner. If the
Yanks put Johnson at first base next year, though, I’ll be happy.
Keith Law can be reached at email@example.com.
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