The Cardinals were lucky enough to possess two titans at the cold corner for the better part of 13 years from 1997 to 2011. But in 2002 and 2003, the vacancy at first base left by Mark McGwire was primarily filled not by up-and-coming star Albert Pujols, who mostly played third base and the outfield, but by former New York Yankee Tino Martinez.
A .279 hitter with 175 home runs with the Yankees from 1996 to 2001 and a second-place finisher in the American League MVP voting in 1997, Martinez arrived in St. Louis after signing a free agent contract worth $20.75 million over two years. He ended up another casualty of failing to meet his previous success.
In his two years with the Cardinals, Martinez hit .267 with 36 home runs and often failed to deliver in clutch situations, hitting .210 with runners in scoring position in 2003. Fans became disgruntled with Martinez, who didn't make a secret of longing for his time with the Yankees. According to Martinez in 2002, while Cardinals fans welcomed him and made him comfortable, Yankees fans' expectation for players to deliver was what brought out the best in players.
Additionally, reports from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested that Martinez was not well liked in the clubhouse, with columnist Bryan Burwell calling him a "pebble lodged in the Cardinals' shoes." With Martinez not reaching expectations that were perhaps unfair given that he was 34 in his first season in St. Louis, the Cardinals traded him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for minor leaguer John-Paul Davis after the 2003 season.