For Sale: One Slightly Awful Russell Martin

He's not here to hit.

Not being able to find any redeeming qualities in a Yankee player I may not be totally fond of is out of my comfort zone. I'm not used to being speechless when trying to find one nice thing to say about anyone who plays for my favorite team. I may have thought the Rafael Soriano contract was(is) beyond ridiculous, but he has done a good job of filling in for the impossible to replace Mariano Rivera. Raul Ibanez is a living, breathing baseball .gif, but at least he's signed for the Yankee equivalent of peanuts.

Whether fairly or not, I have never really managed to like Russell Martin. Martin got off to a fairly good start last year before completely falling off a cliff. He was blocking my favorite prospect since ever in Jesus Montero and the Yankees didn't seem to care how badly he was doing because of his magical pitch framing. Brian Cashman presumably watched the same games I did, but compared Russ to Thurman Munson and offered him a contract extension this offseason despite his offensive shortcomings in all but two months of 2011. Thank goodness he didn't accept.

At least Russell Martin was taking walks when 2012 started. The guy was an on-base machine at the beginning of the year. Sure, he wasn't hitting, but he was getting on base and that matters. Somewhere along the way, he stopped doing even that. His OBP in June was only .270, down from .338 through the end of April. His highest batting average for a month came in May at .203. It's the only time he's been over the Mendoza line for an entire month so far this year. During March and April, Martin was walking 16.2% of the time, which fell to 13.4% in May, and fell further to 8.1% in June. All this while being, as always, in the best shape of his life, mind you. We were so very spoiled with Jorge Posada's hitting relative to the average catcher, but is this really the best we can do?

For this year, it really might be. Austin Romine's bat is almost certainly not ready for the majors and Gary Sanchez seems lightyears away. Maybe the Yankees call up Francisco Cervelli to try and be a spark plug of some kind, but he throws his fair share of baseballs into centerfield and hasn't exactly lit up AAA pitching since his banishment to the traveling circus for Chris Stewart. Trading for someone else's catcher would likely cost you one of the prospects we shouldn't be willing to part with. I'd settle for John Jaso. I'd walk to Seattle and carry John Jaso back to the Bronx on piggyback if it meant not having to watch Russell Martin flail around at the plate for the rest of the season.

But what about the pitch framing! He's so good with the staff! I will grant you that Martin seems to be better than the average guy at buying strikes for his pitchers, but so is Jose Molina, and I wouldn't want him starting for the Yankees either. Is pitch framing alone enough to save a catcher? By dWAR standards, he hasn't been special in any other way defensively. Not bad, just not special. Isn't that what we've been hanging our hats on with him? That he's the answer to the defense that Jorge Posada didn't have? We were supposed to live with the lack of bat because of what he could do better than so many others behind the plate. It's not that he's been bad, it's just that I haven't noticed him being good enough to match the reputation he seems to have in the eyes of the front office. Not good enough that he should get a pass for not hitting.

There is no Jesus Montero silver lining this year. There is no "just make it until rosters expand in September". Unless Cashman has some 180 degree change of heart at the trade deadline, this is what we are stuck with until at least the end of the season. They can't possibly justify giving him a multi-year deal after all this, knowing their limited budget, right? We were promised a defensive stud as a backup in Chris Stewart, but even that's been highly debatable to this point. Stewart has no power and never walks, so it's not like he's much of an upgrade over Martin, if at all. Austin Romine hasn't played any sort of game since the 2012 season began, and is at least a few weeks away from doing so. When you start pining over what Romine's bat may be able to do, you've reached critical mass. Glad I held off on my apology.

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