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Many of you know Russell Martin to be one of the best young catcher’s in baseball. He constantly gets praised for his defensive abilities and his arm behind the plate but I have another opinion. He is LAZY!!!!
He receives well and he has a quality arm but there is another aspect of his defensive ability that is SEVERELY lacking and it’s something that can EASILY be changed if he put the time in to work on it. This aspect of catching also plays a HUGE role in your pitchers success, as well as whether or not your pitchers want to throw to you. I am talking about his blocking ability.
As a catching instructor one of the most important aspects of catching I teach to my students is the ability to block a ball in the dirt. The first thing I give them, is an understanding of is HOW to block a ball in the dirt. I teach them how to lead with the glove and gain ground to cut the distance on the hop. I teach them how to be soft while attacking the ball to deaden it in front of the plate. Most importantly I teach them how to block the ball back into the plate because most of the balls they will be blocking are offspeed pitches and predominantly curveball/sliders. Due to the rotation of the ball, when a pitcher throws a curveball or slider, after hitting the ground the ball will bounce back to the arm side of the pitcher. This is not negotiable, it is a fact. Due to the ball bouncing on an angle back toward the arm side of the pitcher, not only must the catcher slide to the ball, he must adjust his body by angling his hips and shoulders towards the plate. Due to all pitcher’s having different degrees of breaking stuff, the catcher must get to know his pitcher so he has an idea of how much “kick” the ball will have. Knowing how much “kick” the ball will have, helps the catcher to know how much to angle his body. If the catcher just shifts and does not angle his body, the ball will bounce off of his chest projector and kick off to the side and the harder the spin, the farther the ball will go.
Earlier this year I was watching a game in which the Dodgers were playing the Cincinnati Reds and I believe it was the 6th inning of a 1 run ball game with a runner on 3rd. Clayton Kershaw was on the mound and it was a two strike count to the hitter. He threw a curveball in the dirt which Martin shifted for, but did not angle his body properly, resulting in the ball going in the dugout and the run scoring. Now Kershaw has an absolute HAMMER!!!! After catching him all season and in spring training Martin should know the break, ANTICIPATE the ball in the dirt every time and get his body angled properly to block it. To make matters worse, 2 days later against the Reds in the 6th or 7th inning of a tie game with a runner on 3rd and 2 outs with Billingsley on the bump, HE DID IT AGAIN. Billingsley threw a curveball in the dirt and Martin failed to block it properly by not angling his body AGAIN, resulting in the ball going into the other dugout and the run scoring. Billingsley is another guy with an absolute HAMMER and again, Martin had caught him more than enough times to get to know the break.
The reason this is so important is that as a catcher, if your pitchers don’t have confidence in fact that in the bottom of the 9th in a tie game with a runner on 3rd and a 2-2 count with Albert Pujols at the dish in game 7 of the NLCS that their catcher will block the ball, the pitcher will be AFRAID to throw the ball in the dirt. This lack of confidence will result in a hanger and we all know what happens to those, YAHTZEE!!!!!!!
The bottom line is that players should always be striving to get better and if you have the opportunity to be a catcher in the Major Leagues, PUT IN THE TIME TO MAKE YOURSELF THE BEST YOU CAN BE. Martin has been in the league for a few years now and there is just no excuse for his inability to block balls in the dirt. I literally have 14 year old catchers who do a better job than Martin at this aspect of catching and it’s a shame to see a guy with that much potential, not put in the time to make himself better. Maybe Matt Kemp is rubbing off on him too much, but I’ll get into my issues with Matt Kemp in another article. Until Martin learns how to block balls in the dirt properly, he will be hurting his pitching staff tremendously. With the Dodgers having such a talented team we will most likely see them in the playoffs, or at least playing in important games for the next few years. Let’s see if he makes an adjustment, or he ends up costing his team an important game because of his laziness!!!!

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Wow. That's a little HARSH don't you think. I mean calling an MLB catcher lazy. How do you know what work he puts in and how much time he spends doing things? I mean obviously he puts in some work and effort somewhere because he made it to the big leagues for the Dodgers. I just think it's a little wrong to call a pro ballplayer lazy because they aren't that good at a certain aspect of the game. I'm a catcher have been for 13 years and played at the college level briefly and I have trouble with blocking at times. I work at it but sometimes certain things happen beyond our control and that doesn't mean I'm lazy.
Anthony,

Your acting like calling an MLB player LAZY is some CRAZY thing. There are lazy catchers, lazy pitchers, lazy outfielders and basically lazy everything else you can think of. There are lazy people in ALL walks of life and professional sports. Just because he made it to the MLB doesn't mean he worked as hard as he could, it means he was a very talented athlete that had enough skill in other areas to get by.
Anthony are you a coach?? What do you do for a living?? Blocking a baseball is like learning how to type. At first, you must learn technique and the proper way to do it, but the more you work on it, the better you get. When I said I have 14 year olds who are better at this than Russell Martin I wasn't joking. These athletes of mine were not BORN with the ability to block a baseball properly, they learned through hard work and dedication. MY POINT Anthony is that if Russell Martin wanted to get better at it he could and he has chosen not to. My assesment is right on and 100% truthfull.
If you are or were a catcher you should understand this, but you obviously never had catching instruction did you. ASK ANY CATCHING COACH!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm a coach for not only an adult league team but also for a junior high team and just because someone doesn't do something right doesn't mean they're lazy. That's the only point I'm trying to make.
The point that I am trying to make is that blocking a baseball properly is a fundamental technique that is learned and NOT DIFFICULT to learn either. He certainly has the athleticism, time and the knowledgeable coaches around him to learn how to block the baseball properly so why doesn't he???????? He is obviously not working hard enough because all it would take is 2 months of training to fix this problem and it would make him a better player, not to mention making his TEAM better.
When you have an opportunity to play a sport at that level I think it is your duty to put in the time to perfect your craft. People always talk about not only how good Lebron James is, but the fact that each off-season he dedicates his time towards becoming better at certain aspects of his game.
Russell Martin is obviously complacent with his abilites and therefore I consider him lazy because blocking is a HUGE part of a catcher's defensive game. The better you block baseballs the better your TEAM will be. It should be every players concern to make the team as good as it possibly can be and if you know you are responsible for a weak link, then you should fix it!!
By the way did you ever have a catching instructor??
By the way, the people you coach in your adult league may all do things improperly and that doesn't make them lazy because they are just having fun and don't need to put in the time to learn the correct techniques. Those people you coach have other jobs. Professional players are paid and it is their job to learn how to do those things properly.
Your junior high team is another story and it is your job as a coach to teach them those fundamentals of the game. As a coach, if you know you don't have the information and you get paid to coach, then you have to go out and get it.
You said you were a catcher so let me give you some advice on some information you can get that will make you better, as well as your teams. Learn the 5 different types of footwork used to throw to 2nd and learn the proper technique to throw to 1st and 3rd as well. There are tons of drills to make these steps not only quicker but automatic. Learn proper blocking fundamentals and drills to help enhance them. Learn the proper fielding technique for bunts and drills to enhance them. Learn the three primary positions we as catchers set up in. Learn proper receiving technique and drills to enhance those abilities. Learn the proper technique to catching a pop-up behind the dish and gain an understanding of spin and how the ball travels differently with Right and Left handed hitters.
Each position on the baseball field has it's own set of these skills I was just mentioning. Make it your business to get all of this information to truly provide your teams and players with an opportunity at success.
If you want any of this information in depth you can email me at Eugene@ProGripBaseball.com

I also put together practice plans, conditioning plans, plyometric and strength training plans and anything else you could possibly think of. If you want to take your teams to the next level and you as a coach want to take your knowledge to the next level let me know.
By the way, in regards to catching I just scratched the surface with the things I mentioned but that is a good base of information to get you started.
You don't know what he puts in to his game. You aren't working out with him so my point is you just don't know. It's hard to call somebody lazy and you aren't the guy instructing him. For all you or I know he could be working at it but he just sucks at it. Or he could be not working at it. My point is unless you know don't just call some player lazy. That's not helping the situation for anybody and it's people that make statements like that who cause professionals to be butt heads towards fans and the like. They get tired of being criticized when you don't know for sure what you are talking about. Now if you have witnessed his workouts firsthand and he just will not work on improving himself you can say whatever you want.
Also I know the techinques you discussed briefly. I caught at the college level until my grades slipped. I may not be the greatest baseball mind in the world but I don't claim to be. I help teach my players what I know and help them learn the game the right way.
You just don't seem to get it do you. Blocking is a learned technique like the proper footwork to fielding a ground ball. Martin has been in the Major Leagues now for 4 years now and he still hasn't learned which says to me that he is lazy and hurting his team. It is MY opinion based upon MY observations and the fact that I have GREATER knowledge of the position and I have every right to it. I don't have to be the guy working with him to KNOW he's not working on it because I have taught 14 year olds proper technique in 2 months so if your telling me my 14 year olds have more ability than Russell Martin than that's just a bit crazy.

You do know those techniques huh, why don't you explain to me the 5 different throwing techniques every catcher should know about throwng to 2nd base?? Look, it's ok that you don't know these things but you should know when someone else obviously knows more than you do. I learned catching from personal instruction with Major League catching instructors. I began around 7 and did so for 10 years. I have now been giving private catching instruction for 9 years. If you knew as much as you claim to thatn you would undersand what I was talking about.
Easy fellas. No reason to turn this discussion so nasty.
Reading this, I think you guys have the same objective.... to see catchers improve and have solid fundamentals.

In MLB today, Joe Mauer is the exception. You either have an offensive catcher or a defensive catcher. Russell Martin is not alone. Look at the two most popular/successful teams in recent history, The Yankees and Red Sox. Jorge Posada has been catching in the big leagues for 15 years and has won 4 WS rings. He is not a good defensive catcher. He like Martin was converted to C from the IF. If you think Martin is weak behind the dish, watch Posada... bad receiver of pitches and poorly blocks balls. he always has.
In Boston, Victor Martinez is the same way. Similar defensive skill set as Posada. These guys play everyday behind the plate because they are adequate and can flat out RAKE. That's it. Their teams can live with the defensive shortcomings in exchange for the offenise production. martin is in the same boat, but hasn't hit as well the past two seasons and that draws more attention to his defensive.

Eugene says- "Blocking is a learned technique like the proper footwork to fielding a ground ball." This is 100% true, but big league veterans still struggle, still make errors. Some guys just can't master certain skills even though they put in the extra work.

I actually think Russell Martin doesn't want to catch. You hear comments all the time from Larry Bowa of the Dodgers that Martin is good enough to play SS or 3B. Who knows if this is true? Is Martin lazy? Maybe?
Look at the starting catchers for all 30 MLB teams and how many are perfectly blocking balls, have perfect footwork and perfect throwing techniques? Very few. Russell Martin is not alone.
Not only is Mauer an exception but the last catcher that could do it all behind the plate was Pudge. Catchers today like to backhand the ball instead of blocking with their body, Molina caught Burnett because he did'nt like the way Posada called the game and he could'nt handle that nasty curve to me Molina is the better of the 2 defensively.
That's my point exactly. Not everybody is GREAT at everything. And as far as this guy here saying I don't know anything and he knows more that's fine. I never argued what you did or did not know. All I said is that it's a little extreme to call a major league catcher lazy just because he can't block some balls. You are claiming he doesn't put in the work but do you really know what he does and doesn't do? That's the only question I asked. There's no need for you to be a JA sir.

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