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Yankees first-half disappointment: Russell Martin

Posted By Chad Jennings On July 11, 2012 @ 12:35 pm In Misc | 356 Comments

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You could go a lot of ways with this one. The injuries to Michael Pineda and Mariano Rivera were massive disappointments, but of a different sort. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have been disappointing, but that might be because of outdated expectations (Teixeira’s been trending this way for a while, and Rodriguez is 36 and coming off a series of injuries).

Instead, the disappointment that stands out is Martin because of what it means for the short-term and long-term future of the Yankees.

Short term, the Yankees have an everyday catcher who isn’t hitting. He’s hit eight home runs, and early in the year he was still getting on base at a good rate, but Martin’s hitting .179 through 207 at-bats. That’s a large enough sample size to mean something. He finally snapped an 0-for-30 slide right before the all-star break, then Joe Girardi benched him on Sunday so that Martin could have an extra day to clear his head.

“I told him, ‘Come back after the break and be the player you’re capable of being,’” Girardi said. “‘Put the first half behind you.’”

What if he doesn’t come back as the player he’s capable of being?

This winter, the Yankees traded away top catching prospect Jesus Montero. During spring training, Austin Romine went down with a back injury and hasn’t played since. Gary Sanchez is a good young catcher in the system, but he’s at least two years away from the big leagues with several hurdles left to clear.

If Martin had produced this season, he might have solidified himself as the Yankees catcher of the near future. Give him a three-year deal after the season and let him bridge the gap to Sanchez or whoever comes next. Instead, his dismal offensive numbers — granted, he can still play defense — are leaving the Yankees in a tough spot at a position that seemed to be an overwhelming strength just seven months ago.

A great year from Martin could have made up for a lot of things. It could have made it easier to move on after the Montero deal and easier to stay patient with the Romine injury. Instead, the Yankees have a catcher who’s well below the Mendoza line with no replacement on deck.

Associated Press photo

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