Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Yanks Are In Good Hands With Russell Martin Behind the Plate

Yanks Are In Good Hands With Russell Martin Behind the Plate

By Mike Silva ~ August 9th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees.

Jesus Montero has been a heated debate here (sort of like Joba Chamberlain in his heyday), because results on the field haven’t matched the fan hype. On Sunday, Tim Bontemps of the NY Post told us on the radio show how he hasn’t talked to a scout that believes Montero can catch. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, however, had this to say:

Whether he’s a full-time DH or can manage as a catcher eventually depends on the pair of eyes watching him. One scout believes the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Montero can manage behind the plate. He clocked his pop time – throws from behind the plate to second base – at around 1.95 seconds, which is slightly above average, and believes Montero’s body is more thick than fat. 

Perhaps in the long term Montero can become a more than adequate receiver. Many cite Mike Piazza as a comparison, and point out how Piazza was never gifted behind the plate. The truth is Piazza was bad at throwing runners out, but was respected for his game calling, blocking pitches, and blocking the plate. NYBD contributor Chuck Johnson told me a former Mets pitcher Shawn Estes said Piazza was the best catcher he ever threw to. Al Leiter had similar nice things to say on the MLB Network during the winter.

The point is defense and game calling come first when evaluating a catcher. I didn’t see anything of value cited in Passan’s quote about what matters with respect to defense behind the plate. Brian Cashman praised the defensive work of both Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli on WFAN last week. The veteran Yankees pitching staff loves throwing to Martin. Did you ever think the quality work behind the plate has something to do with the success of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia?

If Montero could handle the job behind the plate, don’t you think he would have come north in April? He was literally handed the backup catching position, and didn’t hit or field throughout the spring. He subsequently has struggled in Triple-A, making many wonder about his character, attitude, and makeup.

With a powerful offense they can afford to carry the weak bat of Russell Martin. He is there to manage a pitching staff, similar to the role his manager played with the ’96 World Series Champs.

You need to look past the offense when it comes to the catching position. Martin is providing the Yankees with the defensive intangibles that can’t be replicated by a prospect this late in the season. Unless Montero’s bat is of the caliber of a Piazza, Bench, Berra, or Campanella - and right now there are doubts whether that will ever be the case- he belongs at the glorified pinch hitting position called the Designated Hitter.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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2 Responses to Yanks Are In Good Hands With Russell Martin Behind the Plate

  1. Nat King Kong

    The problem, Mike, is that this “powerful” offense you talk about doesn’t belong to the Yankees. It belongs to the Red Sox. The Yankees offense is mind-bogglingly inconsistent, and gets shut down at the drop of a hat. And not just by really good pitchers, like Felix Hernandez and Josh “The Jerk” Beckett, but by anonymous no-names who are used as pinatas by the rest of the league. You have a #3 hitter in Teixeira hitting below .250. You have a #5 hitter, Cano, who disappears in clutch situations and has reverted to a swing-at-anything mentality that has regressed his game. An aging ARod, aging Jeter, a dh in Posada who is done and is not even playing anymore, an inconsistent Swisher…. this lineup NEEDS an infusion of something — energy, something! And Russell Martin and his .225 average are not it. But yes, you can afford to carry Martin — who is pretty close to being an automatic out — IF you have, say, a dh who can carry his weight. But not when you have a dh who is at the bottom of the league in production and is hitting .230, a slump-prone, Dave Kingmanesque Teixeira, a flail at everything, clutchless and clueless Cano (the amazing disappearing all star!), and the rest.

  2. Nat King Kong

    And by the way, don’t bother reciting all their wonderful stats, acumulated by bashing the likes of the White Sox and the Orioles. They won’t be facing the White Sox or Orioles in the postseason. They will be getting shut down — again — by Texas and/or Boston. Hopefully, the embarrassment will cause them to sign Prince Fielder in the offseason to dh. And no, they don’t need to “hold” the dh spot open for Jeter and ARod to “rest.” Jeter is not dh-quality. You want to rest him, rest him. And ARod is no longer the type of power hitter who you can’t take out of the lineup for even a day. You want to rest ARod, maybe sit Kingman — I mean Teixeira — one day. Or just sit ARod and let him rest a day. Or Fielder. Mix and match. This team needs another bat, desperately!

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