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Is Masahiro Tanaka The Next Young International Superstar Pitcher?

Mashahiro Tanaka was 24 - 0, with a 1.27 ERA in with his team in the NPBL last year.  He has followed countrymen Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda and of course the 1st man from Japan, Hideo Nomo as superstars to take their talents to North America.

Mashahiro Tanaka was 24 – 0, with a 1.27 ERA in with his team in the NPBL last year. He has followed countrymen Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda and of course the 1st man from Japan, Hideo Nomo as superstars to take their talents to North America.  Tanaka has pitched with the whole world watching him, as part of the 2013 WBC team for Japan.  He will be counted on at the top of the New York Yankees rotation for years to come.  Fans in New York can only pray this guy is much more like the guys aforementioned in this caption – rather than former Yankees Starting Pitcher Kei Igawa, who never panned out in his time with New York.

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner):

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Today we are talking about young International Phenom pitchers.  I picked 5 former and current pitchers that hailed from other places other than the USA to concentrate the story on. 

I came up with Fernando Valenzuela from Mexico, Hideo Nomo and Yu Darvish from Japan, Eric Gagne from Canada and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic. 

The 5 baseball players all flashed onto the scene as young pitchers, 3 of them dominating their peers from the get go. 

Eric Gagne, the 5th member of this study, only started to dominate when the Los Angeles Dodgers sent him to the bullpen.  

Speaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers, three of these five pitchers were both with the club when they started out.  It is a credit to their scouting staff. 

There is a reason why no other team has turned out more ‘Rookie of the Year’ players in the last 30 years than the Dodgers.

Hideo Nomo’s No – Hitter Game

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World Baseball Classic Week One Update

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Saturday, March 10th, 2013

Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop has turned helped the Netherlands become the most exciting team in the tournament.

Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop has helped the Netherlands become the most exciting team in the tournament.

By Sam Evans (Baseball Writer): 

So far, the World Baseball Classic has been a great way for those of us drooling for baseball to take in some familiar sights. Even though some of the teams look very rusty and not exactly in mid-season form, others look primed to bring a championship home to their country. Group A and B have both finished their first round and have already moved on to Round 2, but Group C and D have yet to concluded their first round. Overall, the first week of the 2013 World Baseball Classic couldn’t have gone much better.

Complete World Baseball Classic Brawl – Canada VS Mexico March 9 2013

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Will Jose Bautista Get Back To His Hank Aaron Award Winning Ways in 2013?

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Friday, February. 08/2013

Jose Bautista with fellow Hank Aaron Award winner Joey Votto in 2010. In 2010 Bautista became the 26th player to ever hit 50+ HRs in a single season, eclipsing the mark with 54.

Jose Bautista with fellow Hank Aaron Award winner Joey Votto in 2010. In 2010 Bautista became the 26th player to ever hit 50+ HRs in a single season, eclipsing the mark with 54.

By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Intern):

Who is Jose Bautista? He is a 32-Year Old, Dominican, Major League Baseball player. He is the starting Right Fielder and number 3 hitter in the Toronto Blue Jays lineup. He is a 3x All-Star (’10-’12), 2x Silver Slugger Award winner (’10-’11), and 2x Hank Aaron Award winner (’10-’11). Bautista is a former 20th round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirate s- who struggled to make any significant impact for a Major League team into his late 20’s. He arose from baseball obscurity and launched into the spotlight seemingly overnight. Bautista’s breakout campaign in 2010 was followed with an even better 2011, which was all foreshadowed by a promising September in ’09 – where he tapped into a power surge hitting 10 HRs in the month.

This was especially surprising since his career high for HRs in a season to that point was only 16 in ‘06. Modifications Bautista made in his swing were career changing. He completely reinvented the system he was using to time pitching, and it paid big dividends. Bautista’s success forced the Rogers Center to keep their roof open for all home games due to the amount of moonshots he was hitting. I’m only joking, but he did hit an MLB high 54 HRs in 2010 and 43 HRs in 2011.

Jose Bautista 2012 Highlights Mix:

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ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: September 23rd, 2012

Sunday September 23rd, 2012



Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets! We love to hear from you- so keep the questions coming every week!

Jonathan Hacohen: I am in a GREAT mood this weekend! Can you blame me? The MLB season is nearing the playoffs and the WBC qualifiers are well under way! While I love watching MLB action, my heart still favors the World Baseball Classic. If you have ever watched a game involving a team…say like Cuba, Venezuela or the Dominican Republic, you would understand why. In my book, nothing beats international baseball action. The passion of the fans and players simply cannot be beat. To have ones country advance in the tournament is one of the highest levels of joy that a baseball fan can experience.

Going into this week, I was keeping a special eye on Israel and Canada. As I am Jewish (check the last name), I will always root for anything and everything involving Israel. I almost fell out of my seat with excitement when I first heard that Israel was invited to the WBC qualifiers. Now watching this team in action, they certainly have a great chance to qualify for March. I have enjoyed speaking with Cody Decker, Padres prospect and a member of Team Israel over the past few days. To say that Cody is excited to be playing for Israel is an understatement. He spoke very highly of the atmosphere, the level of talent on the team and the feeling of playing with “Israel” across his chest. As Israel plays Spain today for the right to advance to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, I wish my fellow countrymen the best of luck. Behind ya 110%!

Canada has also advanced to the finals of its group, awaiting the winner of the Germany and Great Britain today. Canada will meet the winner on Monday afternoon. Due to its poor play in the 2009 edition of the WBC, Canada was forced to qualify for the upcoming tournament. After 2 strong games on its resume, Canada looks good to advance (will likely play Germany in the finals). As my family and I live in Canada, we have the bias of wanting to see a good showing from the northern squad. Hopefully my wish comes true, and both Canada and Israel end up qualifying. The fact of the matter is that the countries are in different positions. This is Israel’s first try at WBC action, and the team came in with little pressure and everything to gain. Israel will be thrilled to qualify, while Canada must qualify. Canada is known internationally as a strong baseball market and anything less than a victory on Monday for it would be a huge disappointment. To qualify, both Israel and Canada will need defeat strong opponents. Hopefully it will all work out at the end.

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week: Read the rest of this entry

2013 World Baseball Classic: Preview of the Upcoming Qualifying Tournament Starting in September- Qualifier Group 2

Wednesday September 5th, 2012

Sam Evans: With more international talent than ever before, this year’s World Baseball Classic should be the best one in the short history of the tournament. The qualifying tournaments feature countries that wouldn’t strike you as baseball factories, but the talent is surprisingly impressive. Earlier, I previewed the qualifier group one, with this being the second group qualifier.

This round is scheduled to take place from September 20th to September 24th in Regensburg, Germany. The games will all be played at Armin-Wolf Baseball Arena. Regensburg, which is located where the Danube and Regen rivers come together, has a population of just under 150,000 people. Single-game tickets for this tournament will cost 15 to 75 euros. Personally, that seems like a lot to me, but I guess Germany should be able to charge more when they are hosting this kind of talent.

Armin-Wolf Arena is the premier baseball stadium in Germany. It has a seating capacity of 10,000 people, and when the local German team plays, they consistently draw around 3,000 fans per game. Don’t expect all of these games to be played in a sold-out arena. However, at the 2009 Baseball World Cup, 10,000 fans filled the stadium when Germany played. Armin-Wolf is a beautiful stadium that rivals any ballpark in Europe. Read the rest of this entry

John Farrell for Bobby Valentine: The Second Managerial Trade Ever?

Thursday August 23rd, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  After the Red Sox cut ties with longtime manager Terry Francona, there were a few options for his replacement. Among those options were former pitching coach for the 2007 World Series Champion team John Farrell, and high-profile former-manager Bobby Valentine. Both seemed to be good options, and the Red Sox signed Valentine. Farrell won the managerial job with the Blue Jays after the retirement of Cito Gaston (Brian Butterfield, DeMarlo Hale, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. were also rumored to be vying for the position). Each team was poised to finish atop or close to the top of the AL East standings. This wasn’t the case for either team.

First I’ll cover the Red Sox. Their main problem was the lack of production. Adrian Gonzalez—who the Sox acquired to help carry the offense failed to produce at the beginning of the season. At the All Star Break, he had less than ten home runs. Jacoby Ellsbury was injured after only a few games, and the pitching was absolutely awful. Carl Crawford took a while to come back from his wrist and elbow injuries, and recently shut his season down to undergo Tommy John surgery. Jon Lester, the number one starter was up and down, and has had an off-year. Josh Beckett received boos after being accused of playing golf in between starts. There was obviously something wrong. The Red Sox fell out of contention fairly early—something that wasn’t expected. A lot of the criticism fell on the manager. Bobby Valentine was accused of demeaning the players, saying something along the lines of “nice inning, kid” to rookie Will Middlebrooks after he made an error. Another of Valentine’s slip-ups was calling into question Kevin Youkilis’ effort. This ultimately led to Youk being traded to the White Sox, ending his successful Red Sox career. Veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez didn’t take kindly to this and sent a text to management, spurring a meeting between front office officials and players. The situation in Boston is not good; players are divided into players versus manager and players versus players that support the manager. A change in Boston seems necessary; the pitching coach has already been relieved, and it seems like Bobby Valentine may be next.

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Justin Morneau: Twins Trade Bait or Damaged Goods?

 

Thursday July 12th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: Over the past few years, Twins fans have been disappointed with Justin Morneau’s performance. He’s been plagued by a concussion he sustained in Toronto two years ago after sliding into the leg of Aaron Hill. Before the injury, Morneau was hitting .345 through 81 games, hit .274 in the year before that (2009), finished second in MVP voting in 2008 after hitting .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBIs, and won the AL MVP award in 2006 after hitting .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBIs. The big question is: Can he return to his original form? Read the rest of this entry

The Montreal Expos Draft And Signing Record Was Outstanding: Part 1-Hitters

Friday June.22/2012

Note from Chuck Booth:  I am attempting to bring the history for each of the 30 MLB Franchises into a 5 part series that will focus on 1. The teams history. 2. The hitters 3. The pitchers. 4.  The Team’s Payroll going into in 2013 and 5. (The stadium articles will all be done next summer when I go to all of the parks in under a month again.)  To follow all of the updates, be sure to check my author page with a list of all archived articles here.

Andre Dawson and Tim Raines were perennial ALL-Stars and always had the Montreal Expos in contention every year they played for the Canadian Club.

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)-I recently saw a bunch of old Montreal Expos had a celebration dinner to honor the late Gary Carter at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.  This brought me back to when I was a little kid watching the Expos on the French Channel in Canada.  I followed this team before any other in MLB.  I was a catcher in little league because of Gary Carter.  My friends and I all would ask for Montreal Expos hats and jerseys for Christmas.  I would later move on to like the Yankees when Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson joined the club, but I always liked the Expos in the National League as my team.  They were a consistent club from 1979-1995.  They drafted extremely well and were above .500 for pretty much the entire time.  At the end of this article today be sure to watch the documentary from youtube on the Expos Franchise that the Reports has linked for you.

It was unfortunate they had the 2 billion dollar monstrosity of what was Olympic Stadium as their home venue.  It was a mistake from the beginning  to build a baseball park so far away from the downtown core.  The 1994 strike killed the franchises hopes to make their 1st World Series appearance.  The team was leading the NL East with a 74-40 record and featured the outfield of Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou.  They had traded away their ALL-Star second basemen Delino DeShields prior to that year for some pitcher named Pedro Martinez.  The economics of baseball were starting to catch up on the baseball club.  When the lockout was lifted in 1995, gone were Walker, Grissom and great pitchers Ken Hill and John Wetteland.  It began a constant cycle of Montreal grooming awesome talent, only to trade the players away before they had to pay them big money.  The one constant of the team was an incredible draft record from 1985-2004.  Today is part 1 of a 3 part article series in which we will look at the history of the Montreal Expos.  I have listed 30 hitters drafted by the Expos Scouting Staff that went onto nice baseball careers.  Next week I will look at the pitchers and the third week I will cover the dissection of the proud franchise before the move to Washington. Read the rest of this entry

Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – June 16th, 2012

Saturday June 16th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

JH:  Happy Father’s Day one and all!  Yes, Father’s Day is technically tomorrow. But being a dad myself to two amazing boys, I say let’s make it a Father’s Weekend! Heck, I already got my gift and breakfast this morning…a whole day early. Off to watch baseball all weekend, as the Toronto Tommy Johns face the Philadelphia Disabled List. Yes, I am being a tad sarcastic this morning. But can you blame me? The Blue Jays are 6.5 out of 1st, 1 game out of the AL East basement. The Phillies are already 9 games out, firmly at the bottom of the NL East. I was hoping to see Roy Halladay this weekend, but that dream is dead. At least I get to see Cliff Lee vs. Ricky Romero. Lee is 0-3 in the middle of June? Romero is 7-1? I predict Lee will dominate the Jays and grab his first win of the year, while Romero will get lit up like a Christmas tree. Or so the crystal ball says.

Which brings me to the two points of discussion before we get to your baseball questions. 2012 in my book will go down as the year of the Tommy John surgeries and no-hitters. On MLB reports, we have been keeping track of all the baseball Tommy John surgeries, in 2012 and in the history of the game. We have a dedicated TJ Surgery Tracker page devoted to the latest Tommy John news. Seemingly every week we have a new name to the list. Since the start of March, there have been on the average 2 players per week (mostly pitchers) requiring the surgery. In Toronto, it appears that Kyle Drabek may be the next candidate as he heads off to meet with Dr. James Andrews next week. Joining him on the flight to Florida could be Drew Hutchinson, as the young pitcher left his start last night after 9 pitches with “elbow soreness”. He felt a pop in his elbow, just as Kyle Drabek had said. If I had to estimate the stats, 999/1000 elbow pops are not good. If Drabek/Hutchinson both require Tommy John surgery, they may become the first teammates to require the surgery on the same week. Heck, probably the first starting pitchers on the same team for sure.

This has been a year of Tommy Johns. Joakim Soria. Ryan Madson. The list goes on and on. Bookmark the TJ Tracker and please e-mail/message us if you have any names that we missed. The page is getting updated daily, including surgeries from the past. We intend to have the most complete baseball Tommy John surgery list.  So thank you all for your assistance!

A big shoutout to Matt Cain for his perfecto this week. Living on the East Coast, it was tough to stay up for that one. Wish I did. Matt Cain has always been a fave of mine. One of the most underrated pitchers in the game. Now he has a place in baseball history. Considering all the no-nos this year (Weaver, Humber, Santana, Mariners combined no-no) and this year is really shaping up to be the year of the No-Hitter. Ironic isn’t it. The year that so many pitchers are going down to TJ surgery, happens to be the same year that so many pitchers are achieving pitching perfection in the number of no-hitters. Irony in baseball. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Now on to our regularly scheduled baseball questions:

Q:  If Canada does not qualify (for the 2012 WBC), is there still a chance of games being played in Toronto?  The Bull

JH:  Howdy Bull! I get asked this one quite a bit. Here is what I will lay down for you. I attended every single opening round game played in Toronto back in the 2009 WBC tournament. Aside from the first two opening games, the attendance and interest in the games was minimal at best. Even with team Venezuela in the pool and having its energetic fans dancing in the stands, Toronto did not show well in the WBC. I recall Kevin Youkilis for example, indicating that it was embarrassing how bad the vibe was in Toronto for the WBC games. I will say this about Canada. They head to Germany in September to face off against Germany, Great Britain and the Czech Republic. Not exactly baseball powerhouses. One of these countries will advance to the 2013 World Baseball Classic tournament. I think Germany will be scarier than most people realize, given the amount of players with German descent. But this pool is being played at a difficult time. In September, few teams will release players for the tournament. Thus Canada may not be able to send most of its stars and fall behind the 8-ball so to speak for the qualifiers. With or without its top players, Canada will be in touch to make the 2013 WBC. Whether they qualify or not, based on the poor attendance and atmosphere in Toronto for the previous WBC, I say there is a 0% chance that you will see another WBC game played in Toronto for a LONG TIME. With so many hopeful excited countries begging to host WBC games, I don’t see the tournament organizers feeling the love for picking Toronto as another destination. If you love the World Baseball Classic as much as I do, invest in the television package or get ready to buy some airplane tickets. Read the rest of this entry

Canadian Residents May help USA Residents with Free Car Rental Days via Air Miles

Friday, May.25/2012

Its Travel Blog Friday:

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)-Renting cars in all 27 MLB cities is an expensive proposition.   Some of the bigger cities can charge from $50-$90 per weekday for just your run of the mill economy car.  Throughout my travels in the last 5 years I have discovered many new ways to combat such prices.  Earlier this year, I stumbled upon the latest nugget that I will share for you here.  Air Miles is a Canadian reward that people have been collecting up here since 1991.  It is designated with many of sponsors in order to collect Miles to redeem them for various redemptions.  Most of the time these rewards are personalized to the cardholder themselves.  I found a rare exception.

I learned that Canadians can transfer Air Miles, (in exchange for car rental redemptions towards USA Residents in any of the USA Airports.)  Not only that, but the Canadian cardholder doesn’t even need be present as part of the rental.  The rates are start at 230 Air Miles for an economy car, 250 Air Miles for a compact and 310 for a Full-Size Car.  The only state that the rental rates are cheaper belong in Florida where the economy car rental goes for only 175 Air Miles for an economy car, 200 for a compact rental and 250 for Full-Size Car.  The daily rate of the car rental in each airport is covered, the only thing that you would be responsible for are the taxes.  I will give you an example.  I rented a car in San Francisco Airport that carried a daily rate of $49.99, but was about $77 after taxes.  I used 230 Air Miles to redeem for the free day, all that was left was about $27 in taxes once the redemption was made. Read the rest of this entry

Using Pay As You Go Phones in Canada or the USA for Vacation

Friday, May.18/2012

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter) Fridays are Travel Article Days:- After several years of traveling across the United States of America as a Canadian, I finally have a livable cell phone bill to come home to after being gone for 6 weeks.  How did I do this you ask?  I bought a prepaid cellphone from 7-Eleven (From T-Mobile) and bought a one month unlimited Talk-Text and Web phone.  Sure I took some ribbing on how ancient the phone looked and worked (It still has the abc-1 buttons to press in order to send out messages,) but I pressed on.  Having unlimited domestic(USA) talking minutes was actually the best feature of the whole deal.  I also used this phone for texting, Facebooking and tweeting.  I also took numerous pictures from each baseball park and sent them to my Gmail account.  This made it easier to post on social media outlets.  On a couple of different occasions I was able to reserve hotel rooms online directly from surfing the web in different cities. Read the rest of this entry

Is Yu Darvish the Next Young International Baseball Superstar?


Monday, February 13th, 2012

Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer)- One of the first names I forgot in my blog about ‘young phenom pitchers’ taking the league, plus a city by storm was Fernando Valenzuela.  I immediately thought of another blog right after.  That is young International Phenom pitchers.  I picked 4 pitchers that hail from other places other than the USA to concentrate the story on.  I came up with Valenzuela from Mexico, Hideo Nomo from Japan, Eric Gagne from Canada and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic.  The 4 baseball players all flashed onto the scene as young pitchers, 3 of them dominating their peers from the get go.  Eric Gagne, the 4th member of this study, only started to dominate when the Los Angeles Dodgers sent him to the bullpen.   Speaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers, three of these four pitchers were both with the club when they started out.  It is a credit to their scouting staff.  There is a reason why no other team has turned out more ‘Rookie of the Year’ players in the last 30 years than the Dodgers. (more…)

RUSSELL MARTIN- THE INSIDE STORY

MLB reports:  Imagine living the life of Russell Martin.  The starting catcher for the New York Yankees.  Nine games into the 2011 season, having a .300 batting average, three home runs, eight RBIs, two stolen bases and a .977 OPS.  At the tender age of twenty-eight years older, with two all-star game appearances, a gold glove and silver slugger award under this belt, the world should be at Martin’s feet.  Any person that had not followed baseball for the last couple of years and saw these statistics would be in awe of Martin.  The second coming of Munson or Berra they may ask?  Certainly would seem so, as Martin’s star appears to have been rekindled to its peak levels from 2006 and 2007.  However the road for Martin from baseball obscurity to stardom, to bottoming out and a rebirth is a rocky and fascinating one to say the least.  I present to you an inside look into Russell Martin, catcher for the New York Yankees.

My first real exposure to Russell Martin was in March 2006.  As Major League Baseball was gearing up for it’s ever World Baseball Classic (“WBC”), all of the countries involved finalizing and tweaking their rosters in anticipation of the inaugural event.  Residing in Toronto, I was reading a great deal of information and stories on the Canadian contingent.  News travelled that the expected starting catcher for Canada, a relatively unknown 17th round draft pick in 2002 for the Los Angeles Dodgers by name of Russell Martin had declined his roster spot at the last minute.  Reports indicated that Martin felt that going into spring training he had a strong chance of winning a spot on the Dodgers roster and did not want to hurt his chances by camp and auditioning for his spot in front of the Dodgers’ brass.  Dioner Navarro, the catching incumbent, was seen as a declining player and the chance to unseat him was too great for Martin to pass up.  Max St. Pierre and Pete LaForest were the catching tandem for Canada in 2006 that came within a hair of advancing to the second round (only the runs allowed to South Africa in a blowout win sealed their fate).  Martin ended up making his major league debut on May 5, 2006 and took a stranglehold of the starting catching position for the next five years in LA. 

While Canadian fans were clearly disappointed with his decision, Martin obviously made the right choice for his career.  While representing one’s country in international play is an honor and somewhat of an obligation, fighting for one’s livelihood and paycheque when it is unsettled takes the ultimate priority.  In the 2009 edition of the WBC, Martin kept his word to play for his country and finally suited up for Canada for the first round in Toronto in front of his hometown crowd.  After almost upsetting the United States in game one, Martin and his Canadian teammates went down fairly quietly in another WBC first round exit.  But with his Dodgers catching role firmly secure, it was a thrill to watch Martin play in the 2009 WBC and perform at a high level.  Having attended all the first round games in Toronto personally, my scouting report is that Martin played an excellent series.  He showed tremendous hustle and heart, playing solid defense behind the plate and grinding out at-bats.  Russell Martin left a tremendous impression on me during that series has lasted with me to this date.

Before getting into Martin’s playing career with the Dodgers, I wanted to share several interesting inside perspectives on Russell Martin, the person.  Born in Ontario, Martin grew up in Quebec and lived for a period in France.  Coming from talented bloodlines, his mother is an actress and singer while his father is a saxophone player.  Martin’s full name is actually Russell Nathan Jeans on Coltrane Martin Junior.  His father named him after the famous jazz musician John Coltrane.  Martin for the 2009 season changed the name on the back of his jersey from “Martin” to “J. Martin”.  Hailed as a classy move, Martin was paying homage to his mother as an inspiration and force in his life.  From honoring his mother and country, to playing with heart and inspiration to win both a gold glove and silver slugger in 2007, Martin appeared to have everything on his side.  That is where the move from Los Angeles to New York is a confusing and unsettled story, even to-date. 

From all accounts, Russell Martin, the baseball player, was on top of the world in 2006 and 2007.  From earning the starting catching job on the Dodgers to become one of the top two-way catchers in the game in 2007, Martin appeared to be able to do no wrong.  2008 appeared to be a blip for Martin, as his OPS dropped from .843 to .781.  Going into the 2009 season, Martin was seen at 26 to be a player just coming into his own and due for a huge rebound.  Looking back at 2009 and 2010, everything that had gone so right for Martin quickly soured.  Somehow in the span of two years Martin became a scapegoat and noted malcontent in Los Angeles.  From a gold glove catcher, Martin began to be known through baseball circles as lazy and unmotivated behind the plate.  While previously seen as a growing leader on his team, Martin and the other younger stars on the Dodgers were labeled as disrespectful and cancerous in the clubhouse.  While playing nearly full seasons and being durable from 2007-2009, Martin tore the labrum in right hip in 2010 and cast a doubt over his future in the game.  From a catcher that was walk ninety times in 2008 and steal twenty-one and eighteen bases respectively in 2007 and 2008, the Russell Martin of the last two seasons appeared to have little pop or spark in his game.  At 5’10” and 230 lbs, Martin went from a stocky and agile catcher to an out-of-shape player on the decline.  All at the tender age of twenty-eight.  Clearly a change was in order.

The Dodgers, not always known for protecting their prized prospects well, had traded away highly regarded up-and-coming catcher Carlos Santana to the Cleveland Indians for the seasoned veteran third baseman Casey Blake.  The logic at the time?  The Indians gave the Dodgers the choice of absorbing salary or giving up a top prospect.  The Dodgers chose to sacrifice Santana and save a couple of dollars.  Having had the loss of Santana still fresh in fans’ minds, the Dodgers chose not to tender Martin a contract after the 2010 season in the fear that his hip had not recovered and to save approximately six million dollars in salary.  Now a free agent in the last offseason, Martin had the choice of signing with any team of his liking.

The top noted suitors for Martin’s services all lied in the AL East:  The Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees.  Reports had indicated that other suitors were calling on Martin but looking at him at third base rather than catcher.  After being drafted at the hot corner and moved to catcher early in his career, some teams apparently were nervous about Martin’s abilities behind the plate.  The three finalist teams for Martin were apparently comfortable enough the former gold glover still had abilities to catch in the majors and all offered him apparently deals in the one year, four million dollar range.  Toronto was Martin’s hometown but had a strong up-and-coming catcher themselves by the name of J.P. Arencebia.  Sensing apparently the roadblock in Toronto, Martin from all accounts narrowed his choice to his best opportunity at a full-time catching gig and to win, the Red Sox and the Yankees.  A tough decision I’m sure, the lure of the big apple and pinstripes was too much for Martin to turn down.  With Jorge Posada newly installed as the designated hitter and the Yankees have catching prospects themselves that were not seen as ready, Martin finally with the Yankees in December, 2010.  The baseball world had no idea what to expect from Martin and anticipated his debut in the Bronx in 2011.

Off to a solid start to the year, all reports have been solid thus far on Martin.  Showing a strong presence behind the plate and with the Yankee sluggers protecting him in the lineup, his bat has been reborn.  I see Martin’s keys to success as keeping quiet, playing hard and going back to the basics that led to his successes back in 2006 and 2007.  In an environment filled with hundreds of reporters, Martin will need to be careful of what he says in New York.  It was one thing to be a confident rookie in Los Angeles, as that type of attitude quickly became seen as cocky and arrogant in later years and would be no different in New York.  As long as Martin plays hard and lets the Yankee veterans police the clubhouse, we could see Martin reinvigorate himself back to being one of the top catchers in the game.  With a track record like Martin’s, it is difficult to predict where Martin will be in the next year or two, let alone ten years.  But given what has been seen so far, I am confident to say that I see good things happening for him.  It has been a wild ride for Russell Martin; let’s hope for his sake that consistency becomes his new calling card. 

 

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