That says a lot when you consider the Los Angeles history of the Dodgers includes a number of notable catchers including current Angels manager Mike Scioscia, sure future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, solid John Roseboro and Steve Yeager as well as the immensely popular Paul Lo Duca.
Scioscia was a combination of big, bulky and cerebral. But on the downside he was painfully slow, never hit for the power that his bulky frame suggested and for more than half of his career covered up his surgically repaired throwing arm with his head and brainy play. Mike Piazza could and did hit with anybody but his fielding woes were legendary. LoDuca did everything pretty good - but not great.
But Martin in his early play catches great like Scioscia, throws better, can steal bases, is becoming a master of the clutch hit, is easily on pace for a 100 plus RBI year. He has hit in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth spots in the batting order and well in each.
Martin may never hit homers like Piazza, but he does hit for power, seldom strikes out and he is an all around catcher not merely a one dimensional one. Piazza may have done better behind the plate had he spent only a fraction of the time on his defensive skills that he did in batting cages, but he never did.
Already, Russell Martin is demonstrably better than the popular Paul LoDuca is every facet of the game - running, throwing, hitting for power, hitting in the key 3,4,5 spots (which Lo Duca seldom did).
Minor league coach and former big league catcher Steve Yeager, who had perhaps the best throwing arm of any of them, coached Martin at both double and triple A and Martin got to the big leagues fundamentally sound.
His pitchers, both young and old, are amazed at his feel for the game and his game calling skills (he's already gotten more praise for his behind the plate skills than Piazza has in his long and glorious career -- and there will never be the whispers Piazza long accummulated).
While Russell Martin will probably lose some of his foot speed (due to the ravages of so many catchers squats over time), the other components of his game can only get better with more and more experience. Dodgers fans already would be more than happy just to get what they are getting now.
One of the Dodgers biggest prayers to the baseball gots surely has to be "Please dont let Russ Martin have a major injury."
After only 8 major league months of play behind him, Russell Martin has become the indespensable Dodgers player,so far its most valuable. While he lost out in rookie of the year balloting a year ago, many thought he was the most valuable rookie. This year, he is on a pace to surely make the top 10 in MVP balloting (higher and higher if the Dodgers can team-wise
go farther than before).
GM Ned Colletti didn't trade for him and Russ Martin has never played in a Giants or Red Sox uniform. He came up as a rookie as a temporary fill-in, but neither Colletti or Manager Grady Little were dumb enough not to recognize the jewel they had found right away. (They did not make the James Loney mistake that time and for that all Dodgers fans rejoice.)
Russell Martin is a premier baseball player fans come to watch. They allready appreciate what he does on the field.
For the uninitiated, check the Dodgers won loss record with Russell Martin and without Russell Martin. (Ed. Note: Through the Milwaukee series, L.A. is 26-16 with Martin starting and 1-4 with Liebenthal starting behind the plate).