The Yankees are close to landing Russell Martin

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I can’t remember the last time so much has been said so early in the offseason about so minor a free agent as Russell Martin, but I guess that’s what happens when Boston and New York get involved.  The latest: Buster Olney says that he believes the Yankees will soon reach an agreement with Russell Martin.*

Martin retains some on-base skills, but his average and power have dissipated in recent years. Last year he hit .248/.347/.332 before going out with a hip injury.

In New York he’d be Jesus Montero insurance. At least that would be the hope, because it would mean that Montero won the starting job.  If he’s starting it means that things haven’t gone according to plan. Or I guess it could mean that Montero has been traded for some pitching in the wake of Cliff Lee signing with the Mystery Mastodons of Midland, Michigan in the Midwestern League.

In other news: Francisco Cervelli: call your agent.

*Note: in an early version of this I said that Buster reported that the Yankees and Martin would “soon announce an agreement.”  That was obviously me reading Buster’s tweet too quickly and sloppily. Apologies.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.