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Former Miami Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez gave his first comments Monday night about the alleged incident that led to his resignation from the team, saying a dispute over picking up baseballs in the batting cage started everything.
Martinez told Fox Sports that the incident in which he grabbed rookie second baseman Derek Dietrich by the jersey in the batting cage occurred when he refused to help pick up baseballs in a batting cage after Martinez had thrown soft toss to another player.
"I go, 'Derek, help us pick the balls up,'" Martinez told Fox Sports. "He goes, 'Why, I didn't hit 'em.' I said, 'I don’t give a s--- if you didn't hit 'em, help us pick the balls up.' He walked toward me, not angrily, and said, 'Hey, I didn't hit the balls, why should I pick 'em up?'
"I grabbed his jersey and said, 'Because you’re f------- part of this team, pick the f------ balls up right now. Pick the f------ balls up. I’m tired of your s---.' I probably pushed him backwards. That was it."
Martinez had similar confrontations with other players over picking up balls, including Chris Valaika and Justin Ruggiano. He admitted to also cursing at Valaika.
The MLB players' union was notified of the incidents after Dietrich complained to the team last week. A Miami Herald report over the weekend quoted an anonymous player who said, "He uses intimidation. It's been a problem since Day One." The Marlins accepted Martinez' resignation on Sunday.
Martinez sounded incredulous that the incident led to him losing his job. He compared the young Marlins to his teammates when he played for the Yankees. "If Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill and Derek Jeter can pick balls up for everyone else, so can this guy here who has no time in the big leagues — that's what was in my mind," he said.
He continued, "Do you realize I'm out of baseball basically because a couple of players didn't pick up balls in the cage when I asked them to? As a coach, when I asked them to pick up the balls, why didn't they just say, 'Absolutely, no problem, I'll do it right now.'"
But Martinez is conflating the catalyst for his behavior with the behavior itself. His propensity to foster discord is what got him in trouble, not his opinion on batting practice protocol.
Martinez also admitted that earlier in the season he questioned the injury status of Casey Kotchman. A report from the Sun Sentinel over the weekend stated that he challenged Kotchman to a fight as well, which Martinez did not outright deny.
"I questioned his injury," he told Fox. "I shouldn’t have done that. I felt bad about doing that."
Martinez is taking great effort to present himself as the victim, but in reality his inability to keep his composure combined with the Marlins' poor hitting (they are at the bottom of MLB in batting average, home runs, runs, and slugging percentage) caused the front office to lose faith in him.