100 Worst: No. 94 Jerry Martin

By Chris Rewers on Monday, November 15, 2010

Outfielder, 1979-80

.250 BA, 42 HR, 146 RBI with Cubs

(Editor's Note: Seventh in a series identifying the 100 worst Cubs of all-time.)

I remember watching the news on Feb. 23, 1979 when Johnny Morris led his sports report with the news that the Cubs had traded Manny Trillo, Greg Gross, and Dave Rader to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Jerry Martin, Barry Foote, and Ted Sizemore. I stopped whatever I was doing and stood in our family room in stunned silence. I was only an 8-year-old third grader, but I knew it was a rotten deal for the Cubs.

jerry-martin-80.jpg

How could Bob Kennedy trade the great Trillo who was a consistent hitter and fine fielder? Manny, good 'ol number 19, was one of my favorites. Do you remember how, after fielding a grounder, he would hesitate and stare at the ball in his glove before firing it to first? I can't recall a baserunner beating out one of his throws on a routine play.

The next morning, as I ate my breakfast, the Tribune and Sun-Times "experts" assured me that it was a "good trade for both teams," but I still wasn't buying it. I was positive that Cubs general manager Bob Kennedy had been fleeced out of the National League's best second baseman for three players that weren't good enough to start for the Phillies.

And I was proven to be right.

Trillo, who played four seasons in Philadelphia, helped the Phillies win the World Series in 1980 while the three principles the Cubs received in return were all playing elsewhere by the end of the 1981 season.

The centerpiece of the trade for the Cubs was Martin whose primary role with the Phillies was as a late-inning defensive replacement for their stationary left fielder, Greg Luzinski.

Martin played center field for the Cubs and hit .272 with 19 homers and 74 RBI in 150 games in 1979.

But what made Martin stand out as one of my least favorite Cubs was his miserable attitude. He was part of a clique of players who dogged it late in the 1979 season as the Cubs faded down the stretch and part of a group that never showed up in spirit on 1980's 98-loss last-place club.

Martin was the embodiment of the major leaguer I despise - the guy who takes his talents for granted, only hustles when he feels like it, who puts personal accomplishment ahead of the team's, who makes excuses, and when that fails blames others for his problems.

Martin hated playing for the Cubs and his demeanor made it clear throughout the '79 season. He made his feelings perfectly clear during the 1979-80 offseason.

"I want to be traded, I want to get away from the Cubs, and I want it right away," Martin said in a tirade on Jan.9, 1980. "I can't stand the Cubs' organization anymore. The whole situation stinks. They are in the Dark Ages, and they are never going to win anything unless they change. If the season started tomorrow, the Cubs would finish the same way they did last year -- fifth place. If the Mets weren't so bad, the Cubs would finish sixth.

"And the saddest thing is the organization doesn't care. The players on the Cubs want to win, but the organization doesn't care. As long as they draw people into the ballpark, it didn't matter whether we won or lost last year. I had heard what Ted Sizemore had said about the franchise, and what Bill Madlock said, but I was always willing to give the Cubs the benefit of the doubt.

"But no more. Everything they said was right. All the organization wants is for its players to show up every day. Then the crowds come and that's it. They're happy. I've never seen anything like it. When I was in Philadelphia, everybody from the clubhouse man to the owner wanted to win. With the Cubs, you see the owner once in spring training and you never see him again. Then all they do is sit back while the other clubs in the division try to improve themselves. What have the Cubs done since the season ended? They acquired one player, Mike Tyson. Well, they have to make more moves than that, and I hope that I'm in one of them. I want out."

Yes, the Cubs organization was in complete disarray in the final days of the Wrigley era, but Martin's job was to play ball. The front office should not have been his concern. And he certainly had no business ripping his employer in the media.

Amazingly, Kennedy did not grant Martin's trade request until after the 1980 campaign, and took a shot at his disgruntled employee by saying he "was not even a center fielder. He's a left fielder playing center."

It was no picnic watching a sulky Martin hit .227 with 23 homers and 73 RBI in 141 games.

Martin, as always, would show flashes of promise, but would ultimately disappoint.
His time with the Cubs was best exemplified by a game I attended between the Cubs and Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field on June 13, 1980. Martin hit a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. But he dropped a two-out fly ball by Bob Horner that allowed an unearned run to score in the seventh. Atlanta led 7-5, but the Cubs mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth. They had scored one run and had runners at the corners with two outs, but Gene Garber struck out Martin to end the game. He went from hero to goat in less than three hours.

In 1983 while playing for the Kansas City Royals, Martin, along with teammates Willie Wilson, Vida Blue and Willie Aikens, was arrested and charged with attempting to purchase cocaine. All four pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug charges and were sentenced to 180 days at a Florida minimum security prison, served time at Fort Worth, Texas, Federal Correctional Institution, becoming the first active major leaguers to serve jail time. The group was released from prison after serving only 90 days.

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