Could the Catching Actually Get Worse?

When it was announced on April 14th that Brad Ausmus was going to have back surgery after playing in just game, most of us expected that we’d seen the last of him, save for perhaps a few token appearances in September before he retires, as he’s widely expected to do. However, apparently he’s progressed more quickly than anyone thought, to the point where he’s looking to start a minor-league rehab stint after the All-Star break.

I have all the respect in the world for Ausmus, who’s known as a solid teammate and a future managerial candidate, but is that really going to be a good thing for the Dodgers? Ausmus (career .670 OPS) was obviously never much of an offensive force even in his prime, so you can imagine what he’s going to be like at 41 and coming off major back surgery.

There’s no point in considering that the Dodgers are going to do anything other than demote A.J. Ellis and activate Ausmus once he’s ready, so I won’t even waste my breath. It’s just that a backstop combo of Martin and Ausmus may be the most impotent in the big leagues. It’s been a little over a year since I took an in-depth look into Martin’s struggles, and he hasn’t shown any improvement; his .245/.351/.326 line this season nicely mirrors his 2009 of .250/.352/.329. Behind the plate, catcher defense is notoriously hard to quantify, though I doubt you’ll find many who will say he’s improved, as he’s already made more errors in 2010 than in all of 2009.

Whether or not Martin should be non-tendered before he gets an arbitration bump from his $5m 2010 salary is a conversation for the off-season, so the focus should be on what can be done right now. Steve Dilbeck in the LA Times notes what I’ve been saying since at least 2007, and that’s that Joe Torre should stop being so stubborn and rest Martin more often.

I agree, but not for the same reason. It might be too late to think that a few days of rest is going to make Martin turn back into what he was in 2007; I’m more inclined to believe that the damage is irreversible. No, I’d rather just see what A.J. Ellis can do if given the chance. I’m not pretending that Ellis is some sort of offensive force, of course – he’s very clearly not, and his .200 BA isn’t very impressive either.

Just remember, though. Martin’s been dreadful for nearly two full years, and Ellis gets to start about twice a month, making it hard to judge him. If you’re asking me if I don’t think he could manage to hit .245 with 18 RBI through half a season, with superior defense to Martin, well, that’s not a very high barrier to hurdle. I’m not even asking for a full-fledged job share, but is it really too much to ask that Martin start no more than five days a week?

Unfortunately, the ship has probably sailed regarding trading Martin for any sort of reasonable return. As much as I’d love to get some pitching back in return for some other team dealing with his salary, you really would have to get value back in order to offset the PR nightmare it would be, and it’s not very likely that any other team is eager to do that.

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If you’re wondering why I didn’t post about the All-Star game selections, it’s because they always are and have been a complete joke. I usually give the fans a pass for selecting big names who may not be the best choices, because for the fans it should be about who they want to watch – and even they did reasonably well this year. But it’s hard to put much stock into any process that allows Charlie Manuel to choose Jose Reyes, “his guy” Ryan Howard, and the completely baffling selection of Omar Infante while far more deserving players like Joey Votto, Rafael Furcal, Hong-Chih Kuo, and every San Diego pitcher watch from home. The process is broken, and the fact that this has any bearing on the games that count in the World Series is something of an atrocity.

Let me put it this way: I care about baseball more now, at 28, than I have at any other point in my life (clearly, since I waste so much of my time writing this blog every day), yet I found the All-Star game far more entertaining at 13. Now, I just see it as a firestorm of controversy that just interrupts the season.

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Jon Weisman with two great reads that I couldn’t possibly agree with more: that when Manny returns from the DL, Garret Anderson needs to leave while Xavier Paul stays; and that the greatness of Kuo is tempered only by the terrifying fact that Torre is using him more than ever.

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