Padres History: Forgotten Friars-Carmelo Martinez


When I think about the 1984 San Diego Padres team, a lot of key position players come to mind. Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn, Craig Nettles and Kevin McReynolds get all the accolades, but it was players like Carmelo Martinez that were the unsung heroes of that first Padres postseason run. Carmelo Martinez played nine interesting, drama-filled seasons for the San Diego Padres. He seemed to always be in the center of trade rumors, despite his long stay in San Diego. Not often in our thoughts, let’s take a closer look at this true member of the Forgotten Friars.

Carmelo Martinez began his career on the North side of Chicago, playing for the Chicago Cubs. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1978 at the age of 18, and made his debut with the Cubs in 1983 at the age of 23. He would be an end of the season call-up as the Cubs had already fallen out of playoff contention. On August 22nd, 1983 he hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, a fifth inning blast into the Wrigley Field stands off the Cincinnati Reds Frank Pastore. He went on to slug six home runs in only 89 at-bats, while compiling a . 258 batting average. Not too bad for a 23-year old, in his first “cup of coffee” in the big leagues. 

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The San Diego Padres came knocking on the Cubs’ door looking for some major league-ready outfield talent in the winter of 1983. On December 7th, 1983 Carmelo Martinez, Al Newman and Craig Lefferts  were dealt to the Padres in a three-team, five-player deal with the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos. On that day the west coast version of the Yankees famed M and M boys was born. Martinez was to be teamed up with Padres first round draft pick, and fellow rookie, Kevin McReynolds.

The team also had a young, talented left-handed hitting outfielder named Tony Gwynn. The young trio was set to patrol the outfield grass of Jack Murphy Stadium for years to come. With that outfield and a few additions here and there, the 1984 Padres’ team was set up to finally make a run at the postseason. Something that had been ever so elusive the team’s first 15 years of existence.

The 1984 Padres team was a scrappy, all-out hustle team that captured the hearts of many fans here and around the nation. Carmelo Martinez went on to hit .250 with 13 home runs and 66 runs batted in that year. However in this day of baseball analytics, let’s take a look at his modern day equivalent stats. He had a .340 on-base percentage, which was very good. He walked 68 times that year in 570 plate appearances. Most surprising was his WAR or wins above replacement. That is the new measure of a player’s overall talent both defensively and offensively. He put up a respectable 3.6 WAR his rookie year (Hunter Pence‘s 2014 WAR 3.57) and he finished 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting (Dwight Gooden 1984 Rookie of the Year N.L.).

Although the 1984 team failed to win it all, it was an absolute joy to see a San Diego team make it all the way to the big show. The following year was much of the same for Martinez, as he hit .253 with 21 home runs and 72 runs batted in to go with a .362 on-base percentage and a WAR of 4.1. The Padres themselves, failed to live up to expectations of defending their National League title, and the team ended up finishing 4th in the standings.

It was now the 1986 season, and hopes were high but, Padres manager Dick Williams suddenly stepped down from the manager’s position during Spring Training. That left the Padres clamoring for a replacement, and with the season starting in a matter of weeks, they hired within. Steve Boros was the director of minor league scouting at the time for the Padres. He had experience managing the Oakland Athletics so he seemed a natural fit. Carmelo came into the 1986 season with the starting left field job his, no doubt.

After an early April trade for speedy young defensive outfielder Marvelle Wynne, the outfield situation started to cloud up. That culminated with a nagging knee injury (tendinitis) that plagued him early in the season, which started a downward spiral that ruined the whole season for the Padres young left-fielder. After starting 80 of the first 81 games that year, he earned a spot in Boros’ doghouse and appeared in 33 of the last 83 games for the Padres that year. Steve Boros aka Mr. Moves for his propensity to change the lineup constantly, was gone after one year and a 74-88 record.

1987 proved to be a bit of a comeback year for Carmelo, as he played in 139 games that year. He hit .273 with 15 home runs and 70 runs knocked in. His final three years as a Padre were less than stellar and it seemed he was always just about to get traded. Spring Training is when Carmelo Marshmellow Martinez tore it up. He had some great Spring Training numbers, and seemed to always lead the spring in home runs. Defensively, he seemed lost and unfocused from time to time. That seemed to bother a lot of fans, however despite drawing the occasional boos from the crowd at Jack Murphy Stadium, he stayed the ever-most professional.

When it was all said and done, he amassed .248 batting average as a Padre with 82 home runs and 337 runs batted in. He was a more suitable first baseman, but was always blocked by Steve Garvey and John Kruk at the position. After the 1989 season, Carmelo Martinez signed a two-year, $1.75 million dollar contract to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. He also played for the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds. These days Carmelo Martinez works for the Chicago Cubs as the team’s Latin American field coordinator. Despite all the trade rumors, Carmelo Martinez was never traded by the Padres. I guess the Padres never felt anyone came close to paying the price for this Forgotten Friar.

Next: The All-Star Game Was Always Special To Tony Gwynn

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