TORONTO — Once the pandemonium triggered by Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip homer in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Texas Rangers had started to settle, Russell Martin stood up in the Toronto Blue Jays dugout, clasped his hands together and raised them to the sky.
Given that in the preceding half-inning it was his return throw to the mound which struck Shin-Soo Choo’s bat and allowed Rougned Odor to score the go-ahead run, the Canadian catcher had ample reason to thank the heavens.
A freak error, on a play you may very well never see again, almost sullied his first season, and perhaps his entire tenure, with the Blue Jays. What an injustice that would have been for a player that was perhaps more instrumental than any other in ending the club’s post-season drought dating back to 1993.
Instead, Martin returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers (along with $16.4 million of his $20-million salary in 2019) following Friday’s trade for a pair of minor-leaguers having been the bedrock of the 2015-16 playoff teams that rekindled a love of baseball in this country.
Remember that it was his seventh-inning homer on Sept. 23, 2015 that sealed a 4-0 win over New York that effectively killed off the Yankees in the AL East. And though Josh Donaldson was the American League MVP that season, Martin’s steely determination was among the most pivotal and transformative forces as the Blue Jays evolved from underachieving also-rans to legit contenders.
“He was an integral part of the playoff runs,” pitching coach Pete Walker said via text. “Brought a combination of knowledge and grit that was contagious. Pitchers trusted him and he was all about winning, never personal stats. Will miss him.”
Added former first base coach Tim Leiper: “Winning was just part of who he was. It wasn’t OK to be just good enough. He brought a much higher expectation to who we were as a team.”
None of that should be lost as Martin becomes the latest member of those playoff teams to be jettisoned amid the club’s teardown to a new future.
The Toronto-born, Montreal-raised backstop’s signing to an $82-million, five-year deal as a free agent was a bold play by former GM Alex Anthopoulos, who after the 2014 season was determined to rewire his team’s heartbeat. After an initial pursuit of Victor Martinez, who ended up re-signing with …read more
Source:: Sportsnet.ca – Sports news