Perhaps it would benefit Russell Martin if he arrived a bit more prepared and thought his words out before speaking to the media.
In his latest brush with reporters, Martin explained that during his past two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers he had been bothered by distractions and he just hasn't been trying very hard, resulting in subpar performances on the diamond.
“I had some distractions that maybe led me not to have that same drive that I’ve had in the past,” he said.
Martin refused to elaborate on the extent of the distractions, but he did include: "There's some things that you keep for yourself. Those distractions, they're personal—personal issues in my life that not everybody needs to know about."
Regardless of what was affecting his play on the field, it may have been better for Martin if he said nothing at all.
Just hours before the non-tender deadline on December 2, general manager Ned Colletti put his final offer on the table—a one-year, $4.2 million contract that would have been worth as much as $5.3 million with incentives. Martin declined the deal and was ultimately non-tendered, allowing him to become a free agent. Two weeks later he accepted a nearly identical contract offer from the New York Yankees.
"They [the Dodgers] kind of gave me the answer I wanted," Martin told Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times just days after joining the Yankees. "The only way to find out how much a team wants you is to take a risk."
Martin indeed took the risk, knowing that he had been under-performing for two full seasons. In the process, he still attempted to milk the Dodgers for every dime he possibly could.
Many fans across Dodgertown feel just plain cheated.
During his benchmark season in 2007, Martin hit .293 with 19 home runs and 87 RBI, and earned a Silver Slugger award as well as a trip to the All-Star Game.
He hasn't been remotely close to those numbers since. Before injuring his hip in 2010, Martin appeared in 97 games for the Dodgers and batted .248 with five HRs and 26 RBI. In a full year in 2009, he posted a .250 average with seven home runs and 53 runs batted in while playing in 143 games.
While his statistics continued to suffer, his demands kept increasing. Seemingly, his main goal since 2008 was the prestigious multi-year, multi-million dollar deal when his priority should have been improving himself and having the desire to become a better player.
A rewarding salary is a legitimate goal for any player in baseball, but those ambitions need to be backed up with skill first—Martin didn't do that over the course of two full years.
Had he made it to the arbitration process with Los Angeles, Martin would have stood to earn in excess of $6 million for the 2011 campaign.
Needless to say, Colletti's decision was indeed the proper one. Still, most of Martin's fan faithful were extremely disappointed when he packed his bags and headed to the Big Apple without any type of remembrance or ceremony. Now, much of that disappointment has deteriorated as a result of his most recent comments to reporters.
Some irate fans who fell off the Russell Martin bandwagon years ago have unjustifiably linked him to the use of PEDs, citing his plummeting stats and his close relationship with former Dodgers fireman Eric Gagne as proof to the allegations. Strong supporters of Matt Kemp are baffled as to why Kemp took the brunt of the blame for a poor 2010 while Martin cruised through two years without being criticized at all.
Regardless, any genuine fan of the game wouldn't wish misfortune on any player in Major League Baseball. Maybe a change of scenery is exactly what Martin needs to resurrect a career which was very promising only a few years ago.
The problem is that in New York the baseball experience is much more intensified—it's a place where drama is at a premium and fans actually stay for nine full innings of baseball. If Russell Martin couldn't handle situations in his personal life while in Los Angeles, he's certainly in the wrong place now.
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