I came across a fantastic Russell Martin lot recently and considered whether or not to take it down for the better part of a week. Though Russ is now on his second post-Dodger stop (Yankees, Pirates), he's still one of my favorite players and one of my favorite Dodgers of all-time.
I eventually decided to take the plunge on the free shipping auction and nabbed the four cards you'll see today, with the first three being new Martin additions. The first is a Buyback Autograph from 2006 Bowman Originals. The card was originally released as part of 2005 Bowman Draft and is the gold, non-numbered parallel.
With its re-release in '06 the card was hand-numbered out of 33 (33/33 for my copy) and signed by the former Blue Crew backstop. My copy was sent by someone to Beckett and slabbed an 8.5 with a 10 John Hancock. The card's biggest flaw - well, some would say the grading is the primary flaw, though it doesn't bother me - is a quite dinged back left corner. I've always loved this card due to Martin's stoic pose, as well as the combination of his Dodgers' cap and Futures Game World jersey with a prominently featured Canadian flag patch.
Speaking of Canada and baseball, Martin will likely be playing shortstop in the upcoming World Baseball Classic for our neighbors to the north. Martin laced 'em up at third on occasion (14 games between '08-'09) under Joe Torre - another of his bright baseball ideas, and what a way to rest your overworked catcher - but last played a position other than catcher regularly way, way back in 2002.
That year Russ was in Rookie Ball and spent 40 games at third and one at short. By 2006 nobody would think of Martin as anything but the catcher depicted on the above SP Authentic "Rookie Authentic Signatures" RC, numbered 326/399.
I've never watched the WBC and while it's clearly important to each country and probably the non-U.S. countries more so, it has that exhibition-y feel to it. If it wasn't at all gimmicky, I'm sure Canada could find somebody who had played shortstop more recently. Not that Russ is incapable of it in theory, as he's a really good athlete even as he just passed his 30th birthday. It just begs the question: is Canada really devoid of middle infield options with any non-Russ possibility being nothing more than a Turkey?
Terrible transition/tie-in? I know. Cool card? Definitely. From 2007 Topps Turkey Red comes my first Silk period, and it's numbered 88/99. The red hue is fantastic and the card feels pretty neat. More importantly, Martin is one of those rare guys who never has a bad picture on cardboard.
I'm rooting for my guy to succeed both in the WBC (on an individual level, obviously....'MERICA! 'MERICA! 'MERICA!) as well as with Pittsburgh in 2013 and beyond. He's one of the most successful catchers in franchise history, and though he wasn't Campanella or Piazza, he was tremendously better than a lot of your average fans will likely remember him being.
From the young man in Blue above to the 5-6 WAR player, Russ was the complete catching package for a few years, and his play was a joy to experience. The entire four-card lot ran me exactly the price of a blaster. In retrospect, I'm glad I decided to take the plunge and pull the trigger.