Did you know that Dave Martinez, current Washington Nationals manager, was a Texas Ranger once upon a time?
Its true. And its one of those things that I’ve not been able to help but think about when I see him or read about the goings-on with the Nationals the last couple of years.
The year was 2000. We had just survived the Y2K scare, Aaliyah and N*SYNC were dominating the radio waves, and your intrepid blogger had just finished his first year of law school and had discovered the ESPN team message boards, a discovery that ultimately led to me ending up running Lone Star Ball.
On the heels of a disappointing 3 game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees in the 1999 ALDS, new owner Tom Hicks had demanded changes, and Doug Melvin pulled the trigger on a massive deal that offseason that sent Juan Gonzalez, along with Danny Patterson (he of the Vulcan changeup) and Gregg Zaun to the Detroit Tigers for Justin Thompson, Gabe Kapler, Francisco Cordero, Frank Catalanotto, Bill Haselman and Alan Webb. A revamped Rangers team headed into the 2000 season with high hopes.
There were mixed results early on, but the Rangers were 30-28 and coming off an offday on June 9, 2019, when they were starting a 9 game road trip in Colorado. Ruben Mateo had just broken his leg a week earlier in a gruesome episode that ended a promising 2000 season (and essentially wrecked his career), and the Rangers were in need of outfield depth.
To address the issue, they made what is essentially a three way deal, although B-R and other sources have it as two separate transactions. 30 year old minor league righthander Chuck Smith was sent to the Florida Marlins for outfielder Brant Brown. The Rangers then sent Brown to the Chicago Cubs for 35 year old outfielder Dave Martinez.
Martinez took over as the semi-regular rightfielder upon arriving, starting against the Rockies in a 12-6 loss on June 10, and logging 33 starts and slashing .269/.351/.370 in 134 plate appearances through early August. That sounds respectable to us now, but back then, in the era of inflated offense, that wasn’t good — it translated to an 83 OPS+.
The Rangers fell out of the race over the summer, and were in fourth place and 10.5 games out of first place in the American League West in early August when they dealt Martinez, on August 4, 2000, to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, who ended up being named four days later as Peter Munro.
Texas lost on August 4 to drop to 51-56 on the year, and kept on losing over the final two months, going 20-35 the rest of the way and ending the season with a 71-91 record, which was bad enough to get Texas the #5 overall pick in the 2001 draft. Because the top two prospects in the 2001 draft, Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira, had aggressively high demands to sign, Prior dropped to the Cubs at #2, and Teixeira, as you know, went to Texas at #5.
In typical Rangers fashion, the journeyman pitcher they shipped off, Chuck Smith, was terrific for the Marlins once they called him up post-trade, as he posted a 3.23 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in 122.2 IP over 19 starts, leading to much anger on the ESPN Rangers boards over the Rangers giving away a solid starting pitcher for a backup outfielder. Smith started 2001 on the disabled list, put up a 4.70 ERA in 15 starts, then went back on the disabled list, ultimately needing Tommy John surgery. He never pitched in the majors again after 2001.
Brant Brown put up a .157/.248/.270 slash line for the Cubs after being acquired, became a free agent after the season, and never played in the majors again.
Pete Munro was non-tendered in December, 2000, by the Rangers, was re-signed to a minor league deal, never made it to the big leagues with Texas, but had a decent 2002 seaosn for the Astros, putting up a 1.5 bWAR in 80.2 IP, before putting in a couple of replacement-level seasons for Houston in 2003 and 2004.
Martinez finished his career in 2001 with the Atlanta Braves, though his 2000 was memorable because he ended up playing for four teams that year. He started the year with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, was traded to the Chicago Cubs in May, 2000, for Mark Guthrie, then was traded to the Rangers, who later traded him to the Blue Jays. That’s kind of impressive, if you think about it.
And now, 19 years later, Martinez will be managing Game 7 of the World Series for the Nationals.