Michael Martinez didn't make it onto a lot of "former Phillies in the 2016 playoffs" lists, but not for the same reason that Dan Otero or Jeff Manship didn't, in that they were utterly forgotten. Martinez is remembered quite easily as the sometimes-replacement for a Chrondromalacia patella-riddled Chase Utley, whose offensive output wasn't much of an "output" at all and really more of a "downfall."
Martinez represents a time when the Phillies’ biggest problem was that they didn’t have an adequate utility infielder. He seemed like he would be fast, but he wasn’t that fast. His nicknames, "Mini Mart" and even "Little Piece," seemed to indicate a closeness to the fans that was not there. His fandom of Allen Iverson would presumably endear him to the city of Philadelphia, but it didn’t; mostly because who could have possibly known about that except the author of a Martinez profile that for no reason surfaced in October 2011 and included this dated passage:
It’s nothing short of miraculous that Martinez not only suits up in the big leagues these days, but that he’s doing it for arguably the best team in baseball.
Naturally, following a Phillies career in which he failed to ever hit above .196, Martinez scored the winning run in a World Series game several nights ago. It was quite the feat for a man known best to Phillies fans for a broken foot that eventually killed him. He slipped on base last Friday in classic "Mini Mart fashion;" by being used as a pinch runner, advancing on lame baseball things like a bunt and a pitching error, and scoring after Coco Crisp suddenly existed again and singled him home.
Phillies Twitter threw up in its mouth and came alive with all sorts of head-shaking sarcasm. But the truth is, Martinez's Phillies career was not comprised totally of incompetence. Just check this out - an RBI single against the Cubs!
Of course, that was the 2013 Cubs; a team that didn't have Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester and finished 63-99, a record far worse than even the 2013 Phillies. Still, Martinez was responsible for knocking in a runner from third with one out, which for this team that year was the same thing as seeing God.
But it wasn't all garbage time singles; Martinez once finished the season with the team lead for "headlines with the word 'doom' in them." His at-bats often ended with dejected return trips to the dugout and the mockery of unathletic viewers. Someone bothered to edit together a video meant to stir pity for him. And by his third season with the Phillies, his plate appearances were cut from 234 to 40.
In between that cut in playing time, the inverse of which being that the starting Phillies were healthy, Martinez attempted to shake his image with a few paltry efforts, which I will list here.
- Catching two of the three outs, including a long, long Joey Votto fly ball, of Wilson Valdez's legendary relief appearance.
- Hitting a three-run home run off Mike Pelfrey to the deepest part of Citi Field. It was his first MLB home run, which would lead to five additional homers in the years ahead, only one of which didn't come in a Phillies uniform.
- Mashing his last home run as a Phillie, 414 days before his last game as a Phillie, off former Phillie Randy Wolf in Milwaukee with former Phillie Domonic Brown on base.
- Never hitting a home run with less than one runner on base.
- Making a catch over a dugout railing recorded on footage grainy enough to consider it an urban legend,
- Waiting to drop this Texas leaguer until the out had been recorded, with all eleven of the people in Pro Player Stadium as witnesses.
- Interacting with Chase Utley.
- Scoring the only other post season run in his career prior to Friday's game-winner, which also involved entering the game as a pinch runner and moving up on a wild pitch.
So, you see? Your memories of Mini Mart may have been of a weak-hitting IF/OF who generated not quite enough WAR to power a light bulb, but there were moments when his weaknesses were outweighed by unthinkable results and/or, as always in baseball, sheer luck. Given the sport's nature as a vicious plinko game, into which players are dropped, bounce and careen off pegs, and wind up far from where many assumed they'd end up, it's no surprise that Mini Mart and his .495 OPS over three years in Philadelphia would be at the center of a key World Series moment this year.
In early October of 2013, the Phillies cut Martinez loose with a slash line nobody needed to look at to know it was bad. It became clear later on that Martinez's whole gag had been a cruel trick, leaving Philadelphia flabbergasted and quite tired.
Michael Martinez just blasted a HR to right field for The Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League! Outplaying Robinson Cano!— Rickie Ricardo (@R_RicardoFAN) January 16, 2015