06/04/2002 00:55 am ET
Players react to managerial change
Martinez remembered for respecting players
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Forget about Buck Martinez, the manager, for just one second. Let's talk about Buck Martinez, the man. You can search the entire sports world and never find anyone as easy to be around, as pleasant to talk to on a daily basis. It's been noted several times before, but it's important for perspective.
On Monday, the day Martinez got fired, several of his players spoke about what he meant to them.
"He was good to me, said Scott Eyre. “He showed me trust and confidence. He showed me respect. You can ask anyone in here, you're not going to find a better human being. I mean that from the bottom of my heart."
"I'm going to miss him personally. I thought he was a fun guy to be around," Darrin Fletcher said. "He always came to the ballpark with a smile on his face. I think we all should take responsibility in a good man being fired. We haven't been doing the job on the field and a guy lost his job for it."
That's just two of the opinions in the Toronto clubhouse, but many of the others matched. To a man, they said that Martinez meant a lot to them. That's no slap in the face of Carlos Tosca, the new manager. It's just a show of respect to their former skipper, a man who touched their lives.
"He's a good man. Unfortunately, we didn't win ballgames when he was here," Vernon Wells said. "Everything that happens is due to us. When we had a chance to win ballgames, we didn't. When you take a managerial position, everything's going to fall on your shoulders. You have to take the good with the bad. Unfortunately, he had to take the bad this time."
"Buck's a very upbeat guy," said Jose Cruz Jr. "He liked to teach, he liked to talk baseball. He was a baseball man, he is a baseball man."
Martinez got a chance despite no previous coaching or managing experience. He was given an opportunity because of his extensive baseball background. Namely, 17 years as a Major League player and several more as an analyst. Will he be lucky enough to get another audition with a 100-115 career record? That remains to be seen.
Even if he doesn't, he left a legacy that all of his players will remember.
"I didn't pitch very well with the White Sox and when I got here I went to Triple-A all summer," Eyre said. "When I came up, he showed me respect as a pitcher. I didn't know where he saw that in me. He believed in me."
Several other Blue Jays could tell similar stories, how trust from their manager inspired belief in themselves. Roy Halladay, who talked about that very subject on Sunday, didn't want to comment after the ouster. It's a sensitive topic, and he asked for a few days to collect his thoughts.
It was a surprising dismissal, to say the least. All of the rumors had been around for weeks on end, but the way it happened was unexpected. Coming off a series sweep in Detroit, this was the furthest thing from the players' minds when they came to the ballpark on Monday.
"It's shocking, but they have to do what they have to do," Eyre said. "That's why I'm glad I'm a player. I don't have to deal with the business aspect. I get to play a kid's game."
"It can't be easy. He loves baseball, he loves coming to the yard every single day," Eyre continued. "You can see that, even when we were scuffling. He couldn't walk around with a grin on his face, but he loves baseball, plain and simple."
In the end, that's what makes many people believe that Martinez will land on his feet. He loves the game and the game loves him. He will land on his feet, he will be involved in baseball in one capacity or another. Fletcher, a catcher just like Martinez, provided some eloquent closing words.
"Change happens. We all know that," he said. "The cliche is it's a business, and it is. I'll miss Buck."
He won't be alone in that respect.
Spencer Fordin, who covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com, can be reached at
email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.