Cast off by Yankees, Russell Martin is early postseason hero for Pirates

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Russell Martin may have hit a mere .226 for the Pirates this season, but there’s little doubt he was a difference maker. On Tuesday, he showed the Yankees what they were missing my hitting two homers and catching another gem from Francisco Liriano as the Pirates advanced to the ALDS.

After a successful first year in pinstripes in 2011, Martin and the Yankees discussed a three-year deal without ever getting anything done. He avoided arbitration for the 2012 season by signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal, but he wanted more than that annually to do the long-term pact. The Yankees were thinking something closer to $20 million for three years.

Martin’s average ended up tumbling from .237 to .211 in his second year in New York, and while there was still some talk of a multiyear contract when he hit free agency, indications are that the Yankees never submitted an offer. The Pirates made him two offers: $17 million for two years or $21 million for three. He was also reportedly offered $13 million for two years by the Rangers. He chose the two-year contract from the Pirates.

Martin went on to hit .226/.327/.377 with 15 homers and 55 RBI in his first year for the Pirates. It was the best season the Pirates got from a catcher since Jason Kendall’s heyday. Despite the modest average, Baseball-reference says he was worth 4.3 WAR. It’s actually the ninth-highest total for a sub-.230 hitter in their database.

5.2 – Gene Tenace (1978 Padres)
5.0 – Ozzie Smith (1980 Padres)
5.0 – Mark Belanger (1975 Orioles)
4.9 – Gene Tenace (1974 Athletics)
4.9 – George McBride (1910 Senators)
4.7 – Darryl Strawberry (1989 Mets)
4.6 – Ron Hansen (1963 White Sox)
4.5 – Mark Belanger (1974 Orioles)
4.3 – Russell Martin (2013 Pirates)
4.3 – Roy Cullenbine (1947 Tigers)

That’s an interesting mix of defensive whizzes (Smith, Belanger) and homers-and-walks guys (Tenace, Cullenbine). Martin is a little of both there, getting equal credit for his offense and defense in rWAR. It rated him as the NL’s 23rd best position player this year.

The Yankees, meanwhile, suffered through the season with Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine doing the catching. In all, their catchers hit .213/.289/.298 with eight homers.

If not for the Yankees’ desire to get under the luxury tax in 2014, there’s a good chance they and Martin would have worked something out. The Pirates, though, are thrilled they didn’t. Expect to see Martin behind the plate for every one of their games until their postseason run is complete.

Wanna see Yasiel Puig and Dallas Keuchel naked?

Associated Press
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On the one hand, the ESPN Magazine “Body Issue” is a transparent attempt by ESPN to sell magazines via the objectification of the human form in a time of the year when only one major team sport — the one ESPN seems to care about the least, baseball — is active and people are generally not buying a ton of magazines.

On the other hand, unlike “Sports Illustrated’s” swimsuit issue, ESPN objectifies men as well as women, at least making things putatively fair. Oh, and they also, on occasion, put people like Prince Fielder in the thing so as to not exclusively promote unrealistic body standards.

So, on balance: not great and still cynical, but it’s better than its antecedent, and I suppose that’s not nothing.

If you can make your way through the moral and ethical implications of all of this unscathed, feel free to gawk at Yasiel Puig and Dallas Keuchel naked. Here is the link to Puig’s spread, here is the link to Keuchel’s. For what it’s worth, Puig looks like he’s having more fun. Shocker.

A taste, from Puig’s Twitter feed:

Keuchel didn’t tweet out pics of himself in the all together. Like I said: he didn’t seem to have quite as much fun with it.