Tino Martinez Reincarnate: Mark Teixeira Has Bright Future in Pinstripes

Stephen MeyerDeputy MLB EditorApril 9, 2009

Mainstream media and Yankees dissenters have made much ado about nothing with regards to Mark Teixeira’s slow start in Baltimore.


Some question his ability to embrace the spotlight of New York City after he seemed to be shaken by a boisterous Orioles fanbase.


Others worry that his idolization of Yankees immortal Don Mattingly will create unfair comparisons between the two players and expectations that he will not live up to.


Does this story sound at all familiar to fans in New York and across baseball?


It should cause fans to recall a story about a special season in 1996 involving this same Yankees franchise and their newly acquired first baseman.


During a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Seattle Mariners in the league’s first-ever ALDS, New York noticed a slick-fielding first baseman in the opposing dugout.


The Yankees knew that Mattingly’s days in the Bronx were numbered, even after a heroic playoff performance.


How could they replace their captain and undeniable face of the franchise? 


In December of 1995, the Yankees traded highly-touted prospects Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis for Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, and quirky reliever Jeff Nelson.


Martinez experienced a wave of negative publicity in the midst of a horrendous start to the season. He was constantly compared to a Yankees hero, and the daily pressure was getting to him.


Through the first nine games of the 1996 season, Martinez was hitting .088 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, and a .118 slugging percentage.


We all know what happened next, as Martinez dove, scooped, and mashed his way into Yankees lore.


Perhaps his greatest moment in pinstripes occurred during the 1998 World Series. Martinez launched a grand slam into Yankee Stadium’s upper deck off Padres pitcher Mark Langston.


There can be many parallels constructed between the “rookie” seasons of Martinez and Teixeira in pinstripes.


Both were Gold Glove-caliber first basemen coming to New York at the age of 28. Each has an inescapable connection to legend Don Mattingly, who ultimately played their position.


Media personnel are scrambling to write stories about Teixeira’s 1-for-9 start, but he has a long way to go in order to amass Martinez’s 3-for-34 debut.


Teixeira and Martinez were also arriving after successful appearances in their first-ever postseasons the year before.


Martinez posted 1 HR, 5 RBI, and a .360 OBP in the 1995 postseason, while Teixeira had 7 H, 4 R, and a .550 OBP in his first series.


Teixeira is unquestionably the more highly skilled of the two players, but they posted similar statistics in the season prior to becoming a Yankee.


Martinez hit .293 with 31 HR and 111 RBI, and “Big Tex” produced .308 with 33 HR and 121 RBI.


While Teixeira has had a slightly disappointing start to his Yankees career, it is by no means time to compare him to chokers of the past.


He can handle the spotlight, and he will produce monster numbers by season’s end.


The absence of Alex Rodriguez may help to fuel the fire of his annually dreadful Aprils, but his bat will begin to smolder along with the “dog days of summer.”


Teixeira may be wearing No. 25, but do not confuse him with the 2007 version of Jason Giambi.