Russell Martin's sad fade to black as a Dodger: catcher reportedly signs with Yankees
And then he was gone. No fanfare, no ceremony, not a single shred of confetti.
Once, everything seemed possible for Russell Martin as a Dodger. A long career in blue, going down with the L.A. greats behind the plate, honors and love and a team almost built around him.
Instead, he quietly moved on Tuesday, reportedly signing with the New York Yankees.
Martin heads out after consecutive poor seasons. The faithful, once so enamored with him when he was a two-time All-Star, had begun to moan about his regression at the plate and behind it.
All this before his hip gave out on him, ending his season Aug. 3.
His final numbers for 2010: a .248 batting average, five home runs, 26 RBI. Numbers very similar to his production the previous season.
From All-Star to mystery, from a player who looked like he could be the face of the team for years to come to puzzling disappointment.
All for a player who is only 27, who should still have his best years ahead of him.
The Dodgers were as confused by his downturn as anyone. Despite that and his hip injury, the team still wanted him back enough to offer him $4.2 million for next season.
Martin, either out of a desire to test the market or out of simply pride, spurned the proposal, refusing to sign for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Terms of his agreement with the Yankees have yet to be disclosed.
So he leaves the Dodgers without a true successor. They now plan to go to camp with 35-year-old Rod Barajas as their starter, and A.J. Ellis and Dioner Navarro vying for the backup spot.
That’s a far cry from an All-Star catcher, but then Martin has been far from an All-Star performer the last two seasons.
There is a certain sadness, a feeling of what could have been, to Martin’s unceremonious departure. Greatness as a Dodger was once so clearly within reach.
For his sake, I hope he recaptures his groove in New York. He was well-liked by teammates and the media in Los Angeles. He was a gamer who wanted to play every day. He worked well with the pitching staff. Gave the Dodgers three memorable years.
And, then, was gone, mystery and all.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Russell Martin. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times