Russell Martin: At What Point Will Yankees Stop Overlooking His Dead Bat?

Bill FordCorrespondent IIIApril 24, 2012

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 04: Catcher Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees stands for the National Anthem before play against the New York Mets in a spring training game April 4, 2012  at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin has been considered to be one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball with his excellent defensive skills, but he has had a difficult time producing in the batter's box.

Martin had a similar issue at the plate when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did suffer from an injury, but his production had declined to the point where the Dodgers did not give him a new contract for the 2011 season, allowing him to become a free agent.

The Yankees signed Martin to a one-year deal in 2011 for $4 million, with an incentive that could increase the contract to $5.4 million if he caught 120 games in the season.

Replacing Jorge Posada as the everyday catcher, he began the 2011 season in that position.

Martin achieved some success in 2011, being named to the American League All-Star team, and he was one of the three Yankees who hit a grand slam in a single game on Aug. 25, 2011 against the Oakland Athletics.

Playing for the Yankees in 2011, Martin played in 125 games with 99 hits, 17 doubles, 18 home runs and 65 RBI with a batting average of .237 and a slugging percentage of .408.

In the 14 games that he has played in so far in 2012, he has seven hits, one double, one home run and four RBI with a batting average of .179 and a slugging percentage of .282.

What's going on with Martin?

After 16 at-bats, he finally got a home run on April 20 against the Red Sox, and pitchers have walked him a fair amount, leading to a .385 OBP.

Martin's bat, other than that home run, has been dead this year. As good as he has been defensively, the Yankees can't win without scoring runs. To score runs, they need base-runners. Yes, he gets on base fairly often by being walked, but he doesn't get paid to walk.

How long will the Yankees organization wait until they take steps to rectify his batting issues? It is imperative that they take corrective actions now before his slump drags any further and causes the Yankees to drop games that they should have won.

Batting coaches must work with Martin now on his batting mechanics. His stance, his swing and his hand/eye coordination need to be tweaked immediately.

It's time to make a move, even if it means benching Martin and bringing up someone else. In my opinion, Brian Cashman made a mistake sending Francisco Cervelli down to Triple-A. This would be an excellent opportunity for Cervelli to prove that he deserves it and has what it takes to be on the major league team.

We'd all love to see Austin Romine get the chance, but there have been no significant updates regarding his rehabilitation from his back injury.

The acquisition of catcher Chris Stewart was probably good timing with Martin's slump. In 10 at-bats in four games, he has three hits, one double and three RBI with a batting average of .300. It's too early to know if Stewart can be consistent with the Yankees, but he looks good so far.

Martin must make a dramatic positive change to begin to produce consistently, or the Yankees should bench him and replace him with someone who can.

Cervelli may not have been hot, but with his demotion to the minor leagues, he has strong motivation to improve and produce consistently.

The time for a change is right now, whether it's time to bench Martin, or time to hand him over to batting coaches to alter his mechanics.

Martin can't ride on the success of the rest of the team for much longer.