“Probably some frustrations, probably not training as hard as I should have in some ways,” [Russell Martin] said in explaining his 2009 and ’10 seasons. “That’s always been my strength, is training my butt off, doing all those things in the best way possible. And I think I had some distractions that maybe led me not to have that same drive that I’ve had in the past. Really, that’s all it is, I trained hard, but before nobody trained as hard as I did.
“This year I feel like I’m back. Just mentally, I feel better.”
Asked about the distractions, he said, “there are some things that you keep for yourself, and those distractions are personal.”
Martin, who will turn 28 next month, made an immediate impact in the MLB. He won a Rookie of the Year Award, a Gold Glove, and was named to back-to-back All-Star teams. His OPS+ over his first three seasons was 109 and most people assumed that would go up and not down.
Unfortunately he struggled as he only managed to put up an OPS+ of 85 and 89 in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Add a hip injury to that and it was enough for the Dodgers to non-tender him.
We’ve already heard the cliche this offseason that he plans on working his butt off and showing up in the best shape of his life. Now he’s also adding this issue of distractions holding him back.
This all may be very well and good, or maybe it’s just BS. We’ll see during the season, but if it’s true that distractions caused his down years and he really can turn it around and re-focus his game the Yankees may have gotten themselves a nice pick-up here.
Martin is just entering his prime years now and if he’s healthy and motivated they may not only have a strong offensive catcher, but a good defensive one for the first time in over a decade.
At the same time the Yankees will be trying to break in a pair of strong catching prospects in Jesus Montero and Austin Romine over the next few years. If Martin really turns his career around the Yankees could suddenly have too many catchers which would be a problem, but a good one to have.
Look around the league and there really aren’t too many strong two-way catchers available. If the Yankees have one, two, or even three on the trading market they could have the potential to swing a nice deal with a unique piece like that.
The best thing about this, if it really is a bunch of cliches or excuses the Yankees still have a few very capable catching prospects that can step in and help fill the gap.