Jim Moore: Still trying to understand why the Mariners pulled the plug so soon on Leonys Martin
I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth Sunday morning when Mikey, one of my 13-year-old twins, ran upstairs and gave me the news – Leonys Martin had been designated for assignment by the Mariners.
Three days later, I still don’t understand why general manager Jerry Dipoto pulled the plug on his starting center fielder.
I know he wasn’t hitting. A .111 average won’t work no matter how good your defense is in center field. But he only had 58 at-bats, hardly enough time to make a call like the Mariners made. And they could certainly use his services now with red-hot right fielder Mitch Haniger leaving Tuesday’s game with an oblique injury.
You can present arguments as to why the Mariners made the right decision:
• With a losing record, the team couldn’t wait around for Martin to produce, especially when they have others on the roster who can play center field and more options in Tacoma.
• Martin was in the middle of going back to his old swing with higher hands and wasn’t apt to figure it out against major-league pitchers.
I can see that side of things, but didn’t Martin earn a longer look with what he did in his first season with the Mariners last year?
I understand that he wasn’t the same hitter after he suffered a midseason hamstring injury. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought – Martin actually hit .267 in September, better than his season-long average of .247. And his power numbers were down after the All-Star break, but he still averaged .251 after as opposed to .243 before.
It just doesn’t add up to me. How can you dispose of a guy who meant so much to the team last year on and off the field? In the dugout, in the clubhouse, he was a spark, the life of the team.
He was so happy to be here, to get a fresh start in Seattle after playing in Texas. At spring training this year, remember how excited he was when the Mariners had a mariachi band follow him around on his birthday? He called it one of the best moments in his career.
Dipoto would no doubt contend that it’s not just 58 at-bats, it’s a downward trend that started in the second half of last season and continued in spring training. But Martin should have been given more time, at least 100 at-bats to get it turned around. This time of year, you can double a .111 average with a 3 for 4 in one game and a few 1 for 3’s. He was not given that opportunity.
You could say that Martin showed no signs of being able to go 3 for 4, and I would agree with you. But hitting is a funny thing. Getting one hit can change your confidence just like that. Balls that were being caught can start dropping. Martin deserved the benefit of the doubt.
I wonder how his teammates feel about it. I’m sure they feel bad for Martin, but what about the decision? Do they feel it was warranted? Does it matter what they think?
If I’m a Mariner player, I’m thinking: “Really? This fast? The same thing could happen to me.”
Thing is, these are big-league baseball players. They already know they’re accountable. But it should be within reason. And in this case, it wasn’t.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.