Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez believes that playing in Boston is a significant reason for why he leads All-Star voting at his position.
J.D. Martinez has been among the best hitters in baseball over the last handful of years but hasn’t always received the proper recognition when it comes to voting for the MLB All-Star Game. That trend is shifting in his favor this year, as the Boston Red Sox DH currently leads fan voting at his position.
Martinez has voiced his frustrations in the past with the fan ballot process. It’s a popularity contest that overlooks worthy candidates who don’t benefit from playing in a large market or receiving a push from MLB’s social media campaigns. Martinez has made only one All-Star appearance in his career, which came in 2015. He was selected as a reserve based on the player voting, not the fans who vote for the starters.
The most recent ballot update revealed by MLB shows Martinez has received over 2.2 million votes. That more than doubles any other designated hitter on the ballot. He’s having an outstanding season that warrants a starting spot but Martinez has put up numbers before without the same recognition. What’s changed?
As far as Martinez is concerned, playing in Boston has been a significant factor.
"“It’s all of where you play, really. It has a lot to do with it,” Martinez told WEEI’s Rob Bradford."
While it’s true that playing in a large market with a passionate fan base can help, donning a Red Sox uniform is hardly the only reason why Martinez is in line to start in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
Why Martinez will be an All-Star
Martinez is hitting .327 with a 1.034 OPS. He leads the majors with 26 home runs and 71 RBI. You would have to be completely oblivious or an unabashed homer of another team to not vote for Martinez.
What was expected to be a tight race for the DH spot in the fan voting has turned into a landslide. A slow start soured Giancarlo Stanton‘s introduction to Yankees fans. An injury took rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani out of the running. The spotlight of the New York market basking upon Stanton and the wave of Japanese voters supporting Ohtani was supposed to make it a challenge for Martinez. That hasn’t been the case.
With the season he’s having, Martinez would be an All-Star starter no matter what market he played in. Red Sox fans have shown plenty of support for their new slugger but being in Boston is not the primary factor driving these results.
Playing for smaller market teams wasn’t what held him back in previous years either. In the age of social media, YouTube clips and more nationally televised games, where you play doesn’t matter as much. If you’re a great player, fans everywhere will know about it.
Have fans snubbed Martinez in the past?
Last year, Martinez put up an MVP caliber performance. He hit .303 with a 1.066 OPS, 45 home runs, and 104 RBI. How was that guy not an All-Star?
Well, most of that run production came during a torrid second half following a trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Martinez hit 29 homers after the break, which can’t be factored into All-Star voting results. An injury delayed his season debut until mid-May. It appears asinine in retrospect given where he finished the season but Martinez was not All-Star worthy at the time the voting was done.
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2016 was another strong year. Martinz hit .307 with a .908 OPS for the Detroit Tigers. He only hit 22 home runs because of injuries limiting him to 120 games. He fractured his elbow running into the wall in right field in June of that season and would not return until August. His absence from the All-Star Game was due to him landing on the disabled list, not based on the votes of uninformed fans.
The beef Martinez has with the voting process stems from 2015 when Kansas City Royals fans hijacked the ballot in the wake of their World Series title. Four Royals players started for the American League that year, while several others finished suspiciously high on the ballots. Martinez, who blasted 25 homers before the break that season, was eighth among outfielders. Behind all three Royals outfielders!
Martinez made the All-Star team as a reserve that year anyway. It’s clear he still holds a grudge over being snubbed by the fans but that was more about Royals fans exploiting a flawed system. MLB has since implemented changes to the process to limit the chances of that happening again. The fans may not always get it right yet there’s little evidence to suggest mistakes were made at Martinez’ expense aside from the oddity in 2015.
There should be no complaints from the Red Sox DH regarding how the fan vote turns out this year. He’s going to run away with the starting spot. Martinez may feel that he’s been kept in the shadows of more popular players in the past. That’s clearly no longer the case. Playing in Boston might help a bit. Putting up MVP-caliber numbers while staying healthy helps a lot more.