Since he shaved his beard off at the start of May, the Toronto Blue Jays have seen a mild rebound in Russell Martin’s otherwise forgettable start to the new season
Since shaving his mandatory winter-weather gear at the close of April, the now disturbingly moustachioed Martin has begun to halt one of the worst starts in all of baseball this year. He entered May with 31 strikeouts and a paltry nine hits across 67 largely forgettable plate appearances. Over his last 12 games and 48 plate appearances, however, Martin has pushed that hit total up to 17 and has only found himself spinning his heels in the dust on nine occasions (what a change!).
This is (sort of) the Russell Martin that the Jays wanted and thought they signed to a five-year, $82-million deal in the off-season of 2014, but it’s a welcome change and hopefully a sign of even better things to come.
Martin’s early-season troubles at the plate reflect those of the team in the general. After leading the Majors in runs last season, the Jays now find themselves mired in the middle of the flock. Sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion just aren’t hitting the ball with the same sense of authority these days while shortstop Troy Tulowitzki continues to confound Jays fans with whatever that’s called when he’s at the plate – a problem that stretches all the way back to his acquisition from Colorado Rockies last season.
You can add Ryan Goins and Josh Donaldson to this mix as well, but no player has put himself in a deeper hole to start the new season than Martin (it’s not worth reflecting on the self-inflicted (and entirely unacceptable) wounds of Chris Colabello). Martin remains among the team leaders in all of the wrong offensive categories – most strikeouts, fewest hits, lowest batting average, worst facial hair, etc. – but he’s finally taken the first noticeable step to escaping his self-dug grave.
What happened? Things were looking pretty ugly for the Jays and Martin in particular, but then the beard came off and everything changed direction. Martin even got to play hero on May 4th when he drove home the winning run in a 4-3 walk-off victory against the visiting Texas Rangers. It doesn’t get much better than that when your club is seemingly incapable of climbing above .500.
With the struggles of April and the beard behind him, the hope is that Martin can continue to rebound as May turns to June and beyond. He’s certainly due for it. (The team’s due for it, too.) Of course, he still has the moustache to shave for another needed boost, but it gets risqué after that.