Russell Martin is taking his mitt and going home.
The Pirates catcher, who had originally signed on to represent Team Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic, had a change of heart earlier this week, leaving a gaping whole in Canada’s lineup just days before the team’s first game.
According to the National Post, Martin backed out of his commitment because Team Canada was not going to allow him to play shortstop – a position he has not played at all during his major league career.
Per the report, Martin wanted to play shortstop – a position he played during his childhood – as a means of self preservation. Martin signed a new 2-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason, and wanted to man the middle infield for Canada to avoid any unneccessary wear and tear that might come with catching. According to the report, he also didn’t want the hassle of having to learn a staff of new pitchers he had never caught before.
If the report is accurate, Martin’s actions are disgraceful. Teammates and Team Canada were baffled by Martin’s insistence that he could suddenly transform himself from catcher to shortstop during the leadup to WBC competition. And because he’s not getting his way, Martin is turning his back on an opportunity to represent his country. His decision is the epitome of selfishness, and that selfishness was captured perfectly by the cold statement Martin had in response to questions on Monday.
“It wasn’t that hard of a decision,” Martin said. “There’s the feeling of I might be letting my teammates down, my Canadian teammates, but that’s something that I’m sure I’ll get over.”
Lucky for Team Canada, it appears that Reds first baseman Joey Votto will, in fact, be suiting up. Votto’s presence will help smooth the ripples created Martin’s departure. Team Canada opens WBC action on March 8 when they take on Italy.