Martin: "No WBC for me"

* Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) is out of the WBC. ....  2012 Most Influential Canadians 2012 All-Canadian Team 2012 All-Canadian stats


2013 Top Canadians eligible for draft 2013 Canadians in College  Letters of Intent 2012 Canadians in the Minors  2012-13 Canadians at Canadian schools

By Bob Elliott

BRADENTON, Fla. _ Russell Martin will not play shortstop for Team Canada.

The catcher will not play at all in the World Baseball Classic.

Martin is picking up his shin guards, chest protector, jock and staying at McKechnie Field, spring home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“No WBC for me,” said Martin seated outside the Pirates clubhouse Sunday afternoon.

“I didn’t get the green light from Pittsburgh to play shortstop. I didn’t want to catch nine innings in back-to-back games. It’s too much too early.”

Martin caught four innings in the win over the Atlanta Braves Sunday and explained catchers need to build up to nine innings the way a pitcher’s workload is increased each time out. Why not catchers?

In the 2009 WBC he caught all 18 innings.

“I know I’ll be criticized, I’ve been booed before obviously,” Martin said. “I guess I don’t carry that sense of national pride.”

The WBC does not stand for Whatever-position-I-want-to-play Baseball Classic.

Imagine how thrilled Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan would be to turn on his TV and see Justin Morneau catching the tourney opener.

Would Blue Jays boss Alex Anthopoulos enjoy seeing Brett Lawrie behind the plate in the second game?

Or Cincinnati Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty sending Joey Votto off to wear the Maple Leaf and have him catch the finale.

All were drafted as catchers before switching to their current positions.

Would it be a good idea for Team Canada to experiment with Morneau, Lawrie or Votto behind the plate?

Of course not.

Yet, Martin wanted to try out a new old position: shortstop.

“The WBC is supposed to be fun, playing short would have been fun,” said Martin who has not played short since 2002 with rookie-class Gulf Coast Dodgers -- one game --  and before that with the Canadian National Junior Team. The Pirates signed the free agent to a two-year, $17 million contract to catch for them.

“I know people are going to be pissed, if Morneau is pissed he catch, I’ll play first base.”

The fact is Canada, ranked No. 6 in world rankings, should have its best team on the field -- players owe that to the other players, as well as Canadian fans -- and that includes it’s best catcher.

Martin is wrong on this.

Dead wrong.

He says he was “not ready to play in a post-season baseball atmosphere in March.”

Well, he seemed ready a week ago -- on his terms, as a shortstop.

When stats guru Neil Munro compiled his all-time Canadian 25-man roster last year he had George Gibson and Martin as the two catchers.

Losing Martin is not only losing a starting catcher. If you go off the barometer of games started in 2012 Canada has lost its fourth mot important player.

Of those in the lineup, Michael Saunders and Morneau each made 133 starts, followed by Lawrie with 123.

Martin made 114 starts for the New York Yankees. Next was Votto (109) and Peter Orr (11).

Would Martin have go into Joe Girardi’s office before the post-season began and asked to play third?

In 2009 Team Canada played Team USA at the Rogers Centre. Pictures of Canadian greats were shown on the Jumbtoron: Fergie Jenkins and the fans cheered. Same for John Hiller, Ron Taylor, Terry Puhl and others.

When an image of Ryan Dempster was shown the fans booed.

That night coach Larry Walker send Dempster a text which read something like “45,000 people booed your picture this afternoon.”

Dempster is not pitching for Canada again this season. He was up front about it.

Martin cancelled days days before Canadian players were supposed to fly into Phoenix on March 3.

Martin is wrong on this.

Dead wrong.

“I’ll be watching this, cheering for Canada, when Dempster didn’t pitch in 2009 we tried to win in spite of him, we used it as motivation,” Martin said. “I hope these guys win without me.”

Martin is wrong on this.

Dead wrong.

There is no “I” in team, there is one in Martin.

The next Russell Martin Baseball Classic goes in 2017.


Time line

Nov. 22 _ Russell Martin tells writers in Montreal he wants to play in the WBC as a shortstop, since Canada does not have a major-league shortstop and Canada has depth behind the plate with Markham catcher George Kottaras.

Jan. 11 _ Martin attends the 10th annual Baseball Canada fund raiser in Toronto. He looks at the roster and says he’ll catch. Chris Robinson is the only other catcher listed on the initial provisional roster. Kottaras will try to win a job as a back-up with the Kansas City Royals.

Feb. 18 _ Martin again tells writers he wants to play short.

Feb. 22 _ The Pirates say he can’t play short. Martin tells Baseball Canada he’s “not ready to catch in a post-season baseball atmosphere in March.”