On Wednesday we learned that Russell Martin will not be participating in the World Baseball Classic after all, due to an issue with his contract insurance.
As we approach spring training, one of the under-the-radar topics for the Blue Jays has been the players participating in the World Baseball Classic. In particular their expensive investment, Russell Martin, planned on suiting up for Team Canada. As much as you don’t like to see a catcher putting on extra mileage, the idea of Martin waving the Canadian flag prior to the Blue Jays season opener wasn’t all bad.
Except that Martin wasn’t going to catch at all. Martin was going to be the starting shortstop.
That is, until Wednesday when news broke that Martin was not cleared to play in the tournament, thus rendering any controversy about the decision to allow it, moot.
So, he’s hurt? What the heck? As it turns out, Martin (likely?) had knee surgery over the offseason. A very quiet, knee surgery.
Back at the end of the season, GM Ross Atkins mentioned the possibility that Martin, Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar may all face a minor procedure, if the need arose. However, we haven’t heard a peep about it since, so Wednesday’s news comes with some surprise.
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You may recall that Martin hurt his knee in July in a freak accident slipping in a sauna. That said, his numbers didn’t crater until September, so it’s not a given that any knee trouble could be related to that incident. He did look worn down by the stretch run, but pundits have called for a smaller workload for the 4 time All-Star as the more likely culprit for his weak finish.
Despite the fact that Martin has always been in peak physical condition, the reality is he’ll be 34 later this month, and he’s caught more than 1400 games in the major leagues. It’s not terribly surprising that something showed up in a medical exam, but hopefully it’s something minor, or the remnants of what happened in July.
Assuming there is no major issue with Martin’s knee, the Blue Jays front office is likely breathing a sigh of relief that their star catcher won’t be playing. Martin’s excitement to play shortstop was well documented, but it’s hard to imagine Ross Atkins or Mark Shapiro being thrilled with the idea. When one of your crucial team leaders and highest paid players is playing an unfamiliar position in an intense environment, it would have been hard to blame them.
For now, we’ll have to wait to see if there is an update on the status of Martin’s knee, and we’ll have to lament that there is one less Blue Jay playing in the WBC (or celebrate, depending on your outlook).
For Martin, he’s hoping he’s 100% healthy on opening day. The Blue Jays are going to need him.