Buck Martinez was hired today to be manager of the Toronto Blue Jays after spending the last 14 seasons analyzing the team’s performance on television.
Martinez, who turns 52 on Nov. 7, played for the Blue Jays from 1981-86 and has been the team’s color commentator since 1987. He’s also worked for ESPN since 1992.
Martinez is the latest manager to go directly from a team’s broadcast booth to the dugout. Larry Dierker has won three division titles in four years since being hired in Houston, and Arizona hired analyst Bob Brenly last month to replace Buck Showalter.
Martinez, like Dierker and Brenly, had no managing experience before being hired. Martinez, who almost got the job in 1997 when Tim Johnson was hired, also has no coaching experience.
“Obviously Buck is familiar to this team, and that is a big thing,” catcher Darrin Fletcher said Wednesday.
Former Big League Catcher
Toronto general manager Gord Ash approached Martinez about the job before Jim Fregosi was fired after the season.
Oakland bench coach Ken Macha was the other finalist. The Blue Jays also interviewed former Blue Jays players Ernie Whitt and Willie Upshaw, Milwaukee bench coach Jerry Royster and former Kansas City Royals manager Hal McRae.
As a former catcher, Martinez will no doubt also be able to help the development of young Blue Jays pitchers like Chris Carpenter, Kelvim Escobar and Roy Halladay.
Martinez takes over a team that went 83-79, finishing third in the AL East. But attendance was 1,819,886, the lowest since 1982.
A native of Redding, Calif., Martinez was a career .225 hitter with 58 homers in 1,049 major league games.
“I was a player who had to maximize my time,” Martinez said recently. “I had to study other players, I had to really do my homework on the pitching staff. I had to really work hard at it.”
Martinez, who also played with Kansas City and Milwaukee, had hit best season in 1984, setting career highs in games (102) and RBIs (37). But he broke a leg the following season during a home-plate collision with Milwaukee’s Phil Bradley.
Martinez attempted a comeback the following year but retired after hitting just .181 in 81 games.