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Martinez ready to call the shots

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / March 23, 2008

Buck Martinez will never forget the first time he angered players during his transition from being a catcher to a broadcaster. He was working for a team he had played for - the Toronto Blue Jays - in 1987 and rumors were swirling about personnel moves. Martinez weighed in and his former teammates weren't happy.

"It was about a potential trade involving Ernie Whitt to the Philadelphia Phillies for Lance Parrish," said Martinez. "At the time, Parrish was a 30 home run, everyday catcher. Lloyd Moseby was moving to left field to make room for a young defensive center fielder.

"I had made the statement that if the Blue Jays can get Lance Parrish, they should make the trade and if Moseby has to move to left field, he's never been a top-tier defensive center fielder. For that, they stopped talking to me."

The kerfuffle lasted just a couple of days but it really stung Martinez.

"It was my first year of broadcasting," he said. "A beat writer came up to me and asked me how I felt about the Blue Jays not talking to me and I said, 'I didn't realize they weren't talking to me.' He said, 'Oh yeah, they're very mad about what you said.'

"I was very depressed. I wasn't really thinking as a broadcaster in those early days to begin with. I felt like I was an ex-player and I was very, very down because I was not playing any longer.

"[Veteran broadcaster] Tony Kubek came to me and said, 'As long as you said what's in your heart and it's honest and if it's not anything about a player's personality or something off the field and it's always in a baseball context, you have the experience and you have the expertise to make comments based solely on your opinion so don't sweat it.' "

Martinez played 17 seasons for the Royals, Brewers, and Jays, finishing his career in 1986. He left broadcasting to manage Toronto in 2001 and '02 before returning to the booth. He also managed Team USA during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.

He serves as an analyst for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network's broadcasts of Orioles games and co-hosts "MLB This Morning" on XM Satellite Radio (which will air three live broadcasts of Tuesday's Red Sox game against the A's, including one in Japanese; the Sox broadcast can be heard on Channel 177). He said his experience in the game has made him a better analyst.

"I went from being a player to a broadcaster to a manager and back to a broadcaster so it's been a full circle," said Martinez. "When I managed and then went back to the broadcast booth, I had the added knowledge of just how quickly the game speeds up when you're in the dugout. It probably tempered my judgment as a broadcaster an awful lot, understanding how much more goes into managerial decisions than I knew before I went back and sat in the dugout again.

"I think when managers go into the broadcast booth, they have dealt with all of the things that occur during the course of nine innings and the preparation before that. So they understand that there's not one particular way to address a particular situation. A manager doesn't have one or two choices, he has a multitude of choices. So a manager basically can never make the wrong move according to his resources because he understands those resources better than anybody else."

Martinez said it was very difficult to criticize anyone early in his broadcasting career because he was still thinking like a player.

"It took a few years as a player because I was broadcasting for the team I'd most recently played for," he said. "It took me a while as the Blue Jays' announcer but one thing I'm very blessed with is I've never had anybody give me direction as to how I should temper my broadcast. Nobody has ever edited me or caused me to be concerned about what I say.

"You have to be honest. The fans are so sophisticated nowadays. They really appreciate Johnny Miller [and his candor about golf]. They really appreciate the guys who are critical. They are knowledgeable and they can see what is on the air. They can see what you are talking about and if you are covering up something that's very obvious, you're going to lose your credibility.

"I'm so much removed from being a player that I don't have any reservations about stating the obvious and I think my experience allows me to express my opinion."

With the advent of new technology, Martinez thinks coverage has reached a saturation point.

"I think we might have too much access," he said. "I can remember the day when it was a special game because a TV crew was coming to televise the game. When we played in the playoffs in 1976, it was an honor to be interviewed by a TV broadcaster.

"Nowadays there are so many different outlets and so many different media requests, it's just a burden in the everyday regimen of a baseball player."

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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