When the Tigers signed Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50 million contract this offseason the assumption was that he’d split time between designated hitter and catcher, at least in the first couple seasons of the deal.
Alex Avila’s emergence means the Tigers haven’t really needed Martinez at catcher much and now a sprained left knee is keeping him from even being an option behind the plate. Martinez last caught on August 4 and has logged time behind the plate in just three of the Tigers’ past 50 games.
Avila at catcher and Martinez at designated hitter is the Tigers’ best alignment, so the impact is minimal for this season, but owing another $38 million to a good but not great DH who may not be more than an emergency option at catcher is far from ideal. Martinez is a very good hitter and his bat has consistently been elite compared to catchers, but the standard for offense at DH is considerably higher.
Consider that the average catcher has a .699 OPS this season, while the average DH has a .769 OPS. That may not seem like a huge difference, but Martinez’s current OPS is .816 and his career mark is .836, so the transition from regular catcher to full-time DH has taken him from 20-25 percent above average to 5-10 percent above average. Of course, most Indians and Red Sox fans would probably point out that not having to count on Martinez defensively could be worth that difference and then some.
A new website has launched. It’s called “La Vida Baseball,” and it’s all about celebrating the past, present and future of Latino baseball from a Latino perspective.
The site, produced in partnership with the Hall of Fame, has four general areas of focus:
- Who’s Now: Focusing on current Latino players;
- Who’s Next: Focusing on top prospects here, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America;
- Our Life: Off-the-Field stuff, including player’s lives, lifestyles and hobbies; and
- Our Legends: Focusing on Latino baseball history, Hall of Famers and overlooked players.
As the site has just launched there aren’t yet a ton of stories up there, but there is one about Roberto Clemente, another about Felix Hernandez and some other stuff.
The site is much-needed. Baseball reporters for American outlets are overwhelmingly white, non-Spanish speakers. Reporters, who, generally, gravitate to the players who are the most like they are. Which is understandable on some level. When you’re writing stories about people you need to be able to communicate with them and relate to them on more than a mere perfunctory level. As such, no matter how good the intentions of baseball media, we tend to see the clubhouse and the culture of baseball from a distinctly American perspective. And we tend to paint Latino players with a broad, broad brush.
La Vida Baseball will, hopefully, remedy all of that and will, hopefully, give us a fresh and insightful depiction Latino players and their culture.
Do you miss David Ross? I miss David Ross. The season hasn’t even started yet and I miss David Ross. There’s something comforting about having a likable graybeard catcher in the game with bonus points for being bald. His loss will be felt.
But while we won’t have David Ross in baseball all this year — at least on the field; he’s a special assistant with the Cubs — we’ll still have David Ross someplace:
Johnny Damon did “Celebrity Apprentice” — Trump fired him, sadly — but we’ve never had a ballplayer on “Dancing With The Stars.” There have been several football players and some Olympians, but no baseball guys. Which makes some amount of sense as, outside of the middle infielders and first basemen, footwork isn’t necessarily the most important tool.
Catchers are particularly plodding for athletes, so good luck, David. Unless you have some moves you haven’t flashed in the past, you’ll probably need it.