The Carlos Martinez Story: Talent, Extensions, and What Might Have Been

Can we talk about Carlos Martinez for a minute?

The 2017 Opening Night starter. The heir apparent to Adam Wainwright as the staff ace. The crazy kid whose home run celebrations are worthy of their own bobblehead night.

The young talent, whose potential stardom earned a five-year contract extension in the off season. The stud who, in a reverse-Samson move, sacrificed all his strength, all his might, and all his skill for a head full of hair (extensions).

…wait, that can’t be true. I must be thinking of that Twitter tale I read earlier:

Cmart Hair Tale

And then, to top it all off, a baseball legend, Frank Thomas, inserted himself into the story:

Amidst the laughter of his MLB Network cohorts, Thomas requests – no, begs – Carlos to save his career by “toning down” the hair.

“You’re an ace… You’re a winner… PLEASE. Tone down the hair… You’re special, young man. You don’t need that hair.”

What is happening here?

Why does anyone feel it’s within their purview to tell Carlos Martinez what to do with the hair on his own head?

I recall a situation last season where one Mr. Mozeliak (arguably the only person who would have some right to require a style change) reportedly requested a new ‘do for Martinez, and you’d have thought he’d asked the kid to cut off his own ear, by the way the baseball universe reacted. Yet, when it’s this particular hair style – one that undoubtedly took several hours to complete, which is apparently a big part of the perceived problem – and it’s this season – one in which Martinez has failed to match his Opening Night brilliance in the starts that followed – it’s no longer an affront to suggest that the young man acquiesce to the masses? Interesting.

It appears the point where the 2017 chapter of the Carlos Martinez Story diverges from the rest is at the precise moment where baseball superstition and personal preference collide.

What changed after the first, dazzling start? The hair.

Do people overwhelmingly like the style change? Nope.

THE HAIR MUST GO. WHAT GUY GETS EXTENSIONS? WHAT AN IMMATURE FOOL.

Look, I get it. I’m not particularly fond of the hair myself. I even joked that the hair was a jinx! And in the spirit of full disclosure, I even suggested that it would probably require some time to get used to the feel of pitching with all that extra hair.

There’s a limit, though, to the jokes and the opinions, even among friends.

Carlos has a job, the hours of which are unlike the hours most adults work. However, when he’s off the clock, it’s only fair to assume he uses his time as he pleases… like most adults do. He has teammates who used Monday’s off day to play golf. Many players spend time with their children. As for Carlos, if he chooses to spend a portion of those off hours in a salon, what difference does it make?

The assumption that he’s pitching poorly because he’s not spending every moment of his time off to “practice more,” ignores the reality that he’s just as human as the guy next door who works at a grocery store, or the woman across the street who is a college professor. Sometimes, you just need to leave work at work in order to maintain a sustainable life balance.

And, let’s be real: the hair took somewhere around five hours, in multiple sessions. 

If he can’t have five hours to himself, to do as he wants, over multiple days… isn’t that a problem?

Additionally, there’s this idea that his hair somehow defines him (or re-defines him, as those that played the masculinity card claimed). And this becomes another strange, disappointing piece of the narrative: a remarkable athlete, a superstar in the making, has been minimized by a hair style.

Hmmm…where have I seen that before? Ahhh, that’s right.

 

Jon’s right – this is a typical level of absurdity with female athletes. Surface-level judgements are made that become intrinsically tied to their success (or failure). A hair style, a body type, a skin tone, are all inexplicably correlated to skill, and indirectly linked to worth. Such cosmetic sentiment is not always so obviously directed toward male athletes, but here we are.

Suddenly, such shallow and overzealous conjecture constructs a plot twist that rewrites the middle of the Carlos Martinez Story as a tragedy, a tale of unrealized potential, all because a guy changed his hair.

Please tell me that’s not how this story ends…

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