Every athlete that plays at a professional level does so because of focus. The list of players who squandered potential because of a loss of focus, a lack of discipline, or a limited desire to put in the work grows longer every year.
It still pales in comparison to the number of athletes that put in the work for years — even decades in some cases - and only manage to make it to the highest level for a few moments.
I know this: if we combined the number of hits that any reader of this article would accumulate if given the same number of plate appearances in the MLB as Michael Martinez, it would still be less than 111, his current career total. And before you pull out the jokes, no, we would not have a higher batting average or fielding percentage.
I bring this up because I think it puts the following into better context.
A bit of news today...— Tribeinsider (@tribeinsider) January 31, 2018
INF Michael Martinez underwent surgery @ClevelandClinic to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Will require a 6-month rehab. Michael, 35, suffered the injury last week in the Dominican Republic performing agility exercises in advance of spring.
This is a guy who, at age 35, despite never being a major league regular, still finds the passion to work in the off-season to improve and make a major league roster. It’s unfortunate that the injury occurred during this preparation; it’s upsetting that it is this severe. According to a 2015 Sports Illustrated article, it is probable that this is the end of Martinez’s career.
Once the tendon ruptures, it is usually never back to 100% again. Even in professional sports, 36% of NFL or NBA players sustaining an Achilles tendon rupture never return to pro sports, and those who do usually take about a year before they are playing competitively. Additionally, players who do return typically have a decrease in their power of about 50% and only play for an average of 3-4 more seasons. These injuries also seem to be on the rise, with more than 16 NFL players rupturing their Achilles tendons in the 2014 season.
There are notable exceptions to this dire prognosis. While Martinez is indeed a professional athlete, however, I think we’ll all agree he may not be as advanced as Kobe Bryant, and his reliance on speed and agility is greater than Ryan Howard or Jason Grilli. Grilli also recovered from Tommy John surgery and a torn quadriceps in his career, so we can’t rule out that he’s actually named James Howlett.
Do I think it’s likely that Michael Martinez would have made an positive impact on a team this season? No, but I still feel terrible for him, and can’t imagine how he feels knowing that he might be staring down the end of his career after a lifetime of work. I hope he stays determined and is able to make it back at least one more time.