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Dodgers need shrinking Russell Martin to step it back up

Russell What do you make of Russell Martin?

Once so marvelously promising and now … what?

Martin looked like he’d be a rock in the Dodgers lineup for years to come when he put together that exciting second season (.293, 19 home runs, 87 RBI, 21 stolen bases) in 2007.

He was an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger award and a Gold Glove. He was only 24.

His production began to slip the following season, both at the plate and behind it. He vowed last spring he was prepared to rebound, but instead continued his mysterious decline.

His batting average fell to .250, his home runs and RBI dropped to seven and 53 -- all career lows. His slugging percentage, at .469 in ’07, plummeted all the way to .329.

No one can seem to explain it, not Martin, not the club, not anyone. In this age, a power falloff inevitably leads to speculation about steroids. Martin has flatly denied he’s taken PEDs and noted drug testing was already in effect when he was called up in 2006.

But Martin’s rebound this season is a key to the team success. The Dodgers will continue to show patience for someone still so young -- he turns only 27 on Monday -- and talented, while scrambling for answers.

Manager Joe Torre talks about giving him more time off to avoid his annual late-season fade (he hit .207 last September/October and was 1 for 11 in the postseason) but Martin still logged over 500 at-bats last season.

If Martin’s decline continues, the team’s options are limited. Martin’s backup is Brad Ausmus, who played well in spot duty last year but will be 41 in April.

The prospect in waiting is A.J. Ellis, a contact hitter who has looked excellent behind the plate in the minors.

But Ellis has spent seven seasons in the minors and is actually two years older than Martin. Still, Ellis figures to get a strong look in spring just so the team can get a better feel of where he’s at.

What the Dodgers really need is for Martin to return to form. It figures to be one of the most interesting team story lines in the spring and early into the season.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Russell Martin. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (19)

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I remember word being that prior to last season Russ was doing flexibility training and trying to lose some weight, I would blame this on the power loss.
I also think from season to season he had been shuffled around in the lineup a bit so he didn't find a comfort spot where he was batting.
In regards to his defense, you can't blame it all on him, I saw many games last season where curveball after curveball was bounced in the dirt. I think another year of maturity and gaining control from the pitches could help eliminate this.

Martin said he'd quit dipping last year. His struggles so apparent late towards the season caused him to pack lippers again. Trying to quit myself I realize how tough it is, though I can't imagine stopping while going 1 for 12 in the post season.

I completely agree!! Martin needs to get back into his old form.........we kid around that ever since he stopped eating meat and practicing yoga with his girlfriend he has gone soft!! So if I ever see him in the street, Iam gonna shove a Tommys burger down his throat! and hope for the best

Although it's against my religion, I would suggest that Russell has a long talk with his mother and then remove the "J" from Martin on his uniform.
I may be condemned for this but I think my suggestion is worth it.

How can you blame Martin for having too much playing time and wearing out in September? Who puts the name on the lineup card? I keep reading that Martin just doesn't want to rest. Neither did Pierre, but he sat out all those games. All Joe has to say is "Russell, you will only play 115-120 games and thats that!!!!.

Why not ask Russell himself?
I think it was in the LA Times last year during Spring Training (?) that Russell Martin admitted that drinking was affecting his game. He admitted to coming to the park right from partying and that in order to deal with it he was giving up his house in the Hollywood Hills and moving down around Huntington Beach somewhere to avoid the bright lights of Tinsel Town. AKA - a geographic.
I also remember him saying he was going out almost every night and he was extremely tired from it. I also recall him being stopped by police in Pittsburgh while driving with Nyger Morgan of the Pirates very, very late one night. As I recall, we had some problems in Pittsburgh.

Oh, here are the quotes ....

“I was having a couple drinks to help me go to bed at night, and it became a vicious cycle,” he says. “This whole L.A. thing, well, you’ve got young guys like Clayton Kershaw, and it’s like they’re immune to it. But I wasn’t one of those guys.

“I liked having a good time when I was a kid, and now that I’m 26, I was having a good time, but I wasn’t recovering like I’d like to recover. I thought going out with the guys, listening to music and having a few drinks — that was fine for me.

“I thought I could tell myself, ‘I’m feeling pretty good,’ and everything will be OK when I get to the yard even though I was really feeling banged up. I was lying to myself.”

Yes, for whatever reason(s), Russell Martin was a disappointment last season. Well, for one thing, he played too many games and was worn out by September. That obviously would affect one's hitting. It's admirable that he wants to be in there for, say, 150 games, but it's not reasonable. Joe Torre is the manager. It's his job to tell Martin that he'll be sitting once or twice a week...of course, he could be used as a pinch-hitter.

Ellis?
Really?
C'mon

Juice?

Russell probably went on the famous clubhouse fad diet that caused former Dodgers Paul LoDuca, Eric Gagne, and Todd Hundley to mysteriously shrink and lose their All-Star form.

I'm sure that if he spends a little more time in the Dodger Stadium food court he'll rebound back to form.

More pressing than an improved Martin is a new owner who is stable and has a clue.

Fame and fortune are tough to handle, apparently.

You would think this to be a hot topic for shrinks, but it seems the damage is done before the symptoms become obvious. Didn't The Times just run a piece on the young actor who hit big in "American Beauty," only to succumb to drug addition shortly, thereafter?

Why aren't young rockets helped to understand and to withstand fame and its spoils early in their trajectories, when presumably simpler adjustments can help them to stay the course?

Well, there's a possibility that we overestimated Russell's potential. Perhaps he's just a .250 hitter. Every player seems to have that one "fluke" season where they look like a Hall-Of-Famer, then reality sets in. Maybe that's the case here. It's not a sin to be a .250 hitter at his position. His defense is solid. Here's hoping I'm wrong and we see the player we all thought we saw,

I will take Martin over most catchers in MLB. If he hits 10+ bombs 60+ RBI's with an OBP of 350 or better he is Golden. Dodgers need him to be effective not a star. Ellis should be the back up.

Steve, what's the word on Lucas May? I saw him hitting BP at Camelback last year and was really impressed. He is never mentioned in the Dodgers future catching plans, though. Defensive problems? Was my scouting flawed?

Doug: Lucas May is still a catching prospect, but last year he lost six weeks of his season after breaking his right wrist. He hit .306 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 68 games at Double-A Chattanooga. His most exciting power season was two years ago when he had 25 home runs 89 RBI, while batting only .256, at Single-A Inland Empire.

Honestly martin is a good catcher. He had some trouble blocking balls but overall defensively he is getting bette. Martin catch aroun 130-140 games. He gets criticize because of his salary and people thinkin he should be around 15 to 20 Hr with 80+rbis. No more realistic numbers would be aroung .265 and around 10 Hr with 65-75 rbis. This lineup is dangerous and Martin just need to find some consistency. Lucas May really isnt in there plans for the future. Defensively he has major problems but for a catcher he can hit

I watched in horror again last year where Russell Martin succeeded in advancing more of the opposition's runners than those on his own team. His lackadaisical attempts to block pitches in the dirt led to too many runs being allowed by the Dodgers; and many of his feeble at bats were down right embarrassing. The joke in the stands became, 'Take one for the team, Dorn" or "Please don't swing." This year he needs to shape up or get his party butt elsewhere. His inability to produce on offense or defense leaves a huge gap in the lineup and on the field. And oh yes, how about someone teach him to also block the plate instead of swiping his mit at the runner as they pass by to score - or should all now chant, OLE?


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