Fernando Martinez: Organizational Metaphor

PORT ST. LUCIE FL - Fernando Martinez #26 of the New York Mets poses for a portrait during the New York Mets Photo Day. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Mets reportedly placed Fernando Martinez on waivers to make room for Scott Hairston. This means something, dang it.

The only thing missing from the collapse and immolation of the New York Mets was an easy-to-digest metaphor -- something that could explain the whole mess in a single sentence.

Well, other than "Jose Reyes went to the Marlins because the Mets couldn't afford him." Yeah, because that one's pretty much perfect. Lemme try again.

The only thing missing from the collapse and immolation of the New York Mets was a second easy-to-digest metaphor -- one more thing that could explain the whole mess in a single sentence. This one will do nicely, then. From Adam Rubin of ESPN New York: Fernando Martinez is on waivers because the Mets needed to make room for Scott Hairston.

That's the sentence that makes you drop your coffee mug, dash out to the street, and look for a long-gone Kevin Spacey. It's the intersection where dreams and reality meet, and those punk teenagers cut down one of the stop signs as a joke. Fernando Martinez was something. He was going to be something more. He was going to be something impossibly big. Then the Mets needed to make room for the closest available Hairston and, well, best of luck.

There's a chance that Fernando Martinez clears waivers, but let's be honest, there are teams that just live for players like this to come on waivers. Some of them may or may not be named after people who attack and plunder ships at sea. It's pretty unlikely that Martinez will make his way back into the Mets' system. And as a reminder, here's what Baseball America thought of him:

Pre-2007: Rated #22 Prospect (age 18)
Pre-2008: Rated #20 Prospect (age 19)
Pre-2009: Rated #30 Prospect (age 20)
Pre-2010: Rated #77 Prospect (age 21)
Pre-2011: Not ranked (age 22)
Pre-2012: Cut to make room for Scott Hairston (age 23)

That's one fierce decline. Martinez was an example of a team that was trying to do that most delicate of balancing acts -- contending and building from within at the same time. From 2006 through 2008, the Mets were a Yadier Molina home run away from making the World Series. And at the same time, they were a team that could dream big about the future, steadfastly refusing to move Martinez.

In both 2007 and 2008, the team suffered a famous collapse in September. Both times, it was reasonable to think that one extra player might have made the difference. That player was Martinez, but only when you consider the Mets' refusal to trade him, which was a perfectly reasonable decision to make at the time.

He represented the unfettered hope that only the purest of prospects can give to a fan base.

2/15/06 - I saw one article comparing (Fernando Martinez) to ted williams. Does anyone have more info on him.

2/6/09 - "(Martinez) looks to me like he can be a young Bobby Abreu," the scout said. "His discipline at the plate is good. He worked counts. He hung in against left-handers. He did a lot of good things. He may be 20 years old, but he doesn't look like it, the way he handles himself. He really plays under control."

Martinez represented the faith his team had in the strength of their current roster, weighed against the faith they had in him to develop:

11/29/07 - Billy Beane is happy to field offers on Dan Haren and Joe Blanton … The Mets would have to pony up Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez.
7/7/2008 - According to Minaya, Shapiro felt the Mets had the necessary players to make such a deal (for CC Sabathia), but he declined. …from what i understand, Shapiro would have required Fernando Martinez and a pitcher like Jon Niese or Eddie Kunz, as well as another mid-level pitching prospect…

And then one day Mets fans woke up, and he represented Scott Hairston.

When Martinez was a guy who made the scouts swoon, the Mets were one of the best teams in the NL East. They did what most teams try to do -- they wanted to keep their best prospect, regardless of the trade proposals that came their way. That is, the Mets tried to have their cake and eat it too. Then the night dragged on, things got a little crazy, and then one of their friends double-dog dared them to snort the cake. The next thing they knew, they were on a gurney, speeding through the E.R. and wondering how it is that they ruined the cake without even getting a chance to taste it. The cake was a lie.

When things are going right, you have a team in the playoff hunt and one of the best prospects in baseball. When things are going wrong, you have Scott Hairston looking at you sheepishly, wondering what he did wrong. A lot of teams have prospects that don't work out. The way it worked out for the Mets and Martinez, though, just feels so much more meaningful for some reason.

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