On this day where I celebrate the eighteenth anniversary with my ultimate life teammate, it is time for some audience participation. Readers, show us what you have. How do you define a teammate? Is the ultimate teammate one who always comes through in the clutch when the game is on the line? Or is the ultimate teammate one who consistently does the dirty work – that player who makes all the little plays that contribute to the common good? Is the ultimate teammate the player who takes the pressure off the rest of the team? How does that player deflect the pressure? Pick one player and define the ultimate teammate.
At the risk of stunning everyone on the Clipboard – Tino Martinez fits my description of the ultimate teammate. Constantino went from the player who hurt the opposition when they ‘least expected it,’ to the guy his teammates could rely on to make the play his team needed. In ’95 Martinez led the Mariners over the Yanks in the ALDS. He hit .409 with a round-tripper and 5 RBI. Those numbers didn’t make Tino the next Mr. October, but his efforts earned a contract with the dreaded Bronx Bombers. There Martinez anchored a lineup that won four World Series’ rings.
Tino never won a batting title, never led the league in HR’s or RBI, never won a Gold Glove. He did lead the league in sac flies in 1997 and finished second in MVP voting that year (others have been able to parlay a second place in MVP voting to a contract worthy of a hall-of-famer). Not Tino. He just went about his business winning chan’ships. As a Sock fan I was happy when the Yanks’ front office decided to let the thirty-three-year-old first baseman go. Tino always managed to keep a rally going whether with a single, walk, or HBP. He did what the team needed. Tino never won a Gold Glove, but he always made the late-inning stab of a hit destined for a double.
Since Tino’s departure from NYC, the Yanks have been counting the days ‘til #27. Sure other bigger names have left the Bronx. Headline grabbing free agents have come to the Bronx, but none have been able to bring a title. The Yanks brought Martinez back for a swan song in ’05. It was a case of a ‘little too little; little too late.’ The Yanks have tried to find a first baseman who can field his position AND hit like Tino, the ultimate teammate.
Who is your ultimate teammate?