Martinez bids Tribe a tearful goodbye
Veteran catcher's professionalism, emotion on display
CLEVELAND -- Victor Martinez sat in front of his locker one last time in the Indians' clubhouse Friday afternoon, with his 4-year-old son, Victor Jose, in his lap.Martinez sobbed as he explained to his son that he had just been traded to the Red Sox.
"My wife has been talking to him a little bit," Martinez told reporters soon after. "He woke up this morning, and the first thing he said was, 'Daddy, are we still an Indian?'"I told him, 'So far, yes,' and he started screaming, 'Yes! Yes!'" But around noon ET on Friday, talks between the Red Sox and Indians heated up. And around 3 p.m., an hour before baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the swap sending Martinez to Boston for Major League right-hander Justin Masterson and prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price was consummated. It was obvious, particularly after Wednesday's trade that sent reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies, that Martinez was on the block, especially considering the Lee trade brought the Indians a Triple-A catching prospect in Lou Marson. Still, Martinez and his family held out hope that the Tribe would hold onto him. This was, after all, the organization that plucked him out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old shortstop and groomed him to become a three-time All-Star behind the plate. Plenty of players talk about loving the team and the fans they play for, but Martinez lived it. And that was evident in the wake of the trade, as he spoke to reporters while wearing black sunglasses that hid red eyes. "This is my house," he said. "I'm leaving my house." It was general manager Mark Shapiro who informed Martinez he is leaving. In recent weeks, Shapiro has said goodbye to Lee, Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Rafael Betancourt and Mark DeRosa. But the trades of CC Sabathia last summer and Martinez now seemed the most difficult for him, on a personal level. "I expressed something to [Martinez] that I truly feel," Shapiro said. "In my 18 years in this game, I have not had the privilege to be around a finer person, a finer teammate, a finer father, husband and friend than Vic. ... I know that he will be a friend long after his playing days and my GM days." On the business side of the equation, the Indians have a wealth of young talent at catcher and first base and a need to cut costs for 2010. Martinez and his $7.1 million option for next year -- an option that increases to $7.6 million, now that he's been traded -- were no longer deemed to fit in. But in trading the 30-year-old Martinez, the Indians are losing a field general, a clubhouse leader, a mentor to their young Latin players and, really, the closest thing they had to a team captain. "Not even 'the closest thing,'" said Kelly Shoppach, who figures to take over the primary catching duties. "He was [the captain]. You don't have to wear a 'C' on your chest to be a captain." Martinez's professionalism was on display as he addressed the trade. Though emotional, he spoke optimistically about joining a Red Sox team in the thick of the postseason race. He learned quite a bit about what it's like to be in a playoff atmosphere at Fenway Park when the Indians were bounced from the American League Championship Series in 2007. "You know, I've heard a lot of great things about the Boston organization," Martinez said. "I'm excited to go to a team that gives everything on the field and is pretty tough to beat." Martinez certainly had those attributes in his eight seasons with the Indians. He leaves not only with a career average of .297 with 103 homers and 518 RBIs but with a reputation as the type of player who picks his teammates up, through thick and thin. "I always play hard," he said. "You don't want to be the only one on the field playing hard. You don't want to look around and see a lot of lazy players." As Martinez looked around at his teammates Friday, he knew the goodbyes would be difficult. And telling his son about the trade was difficult, as well. "He didn't know what to say," Martinez said of Victor Jose. "The only thing he said is, 'What number are you going to wear?'" Martinez, who told reporters at the All-Star Game that he wanted to retire with the Indians, will continue to wear No. 41, but it will be on a different uniform. "I thought that I was only going to wear one uniform," he said. "It's not going to happen. I want to thank the Cleveland Indians for the opportunity and the fans. They were always there for me and the rest of my teammates, cheering for us."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.