The Boston Red Sox have won a free agent prize in J.D. Martinez. Just how does Martinez measure up to another first-year slugger – Jimmie Foxx?
The J.D. Martinez saga continues as the Boston Red Sox designated hitter just rips apart pitchers in an ongoing Most Valuable Player battle with teammate Mookie Betts. The historic lines are a nightly snapshot during the game as Martinez’ first year Boston performance is documented with others. I certainly will avoid any comparisons to the execrable Dick Stuart.
One other player arrived with a noted history of being a right-handed power hitter and through similar circumstance – money. Jimmie Foxx, otherwise known as “The Beast,” had already been a two-time MVP and a Triple-Crown winner for the Philadelphia Athletics. Just as Martinez became available via free agency, Foxx became available via the Great Depression.
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Connie Mack was the owner-manager of the Athletics and payroll was an adventure for the cash-strapped Mack. The great A’s team of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s was being dismantled piecemeal by Mack to those who had the one player Mack needed most – Mr. Greenback.
Tom Yawkey was loaded and some would say with both money and alcohol as Yawkey attempted checkbook franchise building. Lefty Grove was already in Boston “traded” for a few players and a $125,000 sent to the A’s. For Foxx, it was a similar move by Mack with the key being $150,000.
In his first Boston season (1936), Foxx led the American League in just two categories – games played (155) and strikeouts (119). That, however, was scratching the statistical surface as Foxx was third in the AL in home runs (41), third in RBI (143), third in ISO (.292), fourth in wRC+ (150), third in BABIP (.369), second in OPS (1.071), and hit .338.
Despite the addition of Foxx to the lineup the Red Sox still finished a very distant sixth and six games below .500. The pre-Foxx 1935 Red Sox finished fourth in the AL in offense and the Foxx led 1936 offense finished seventh among the eight teams.
If you look at the individual performance of Foxx and Martinez in their inaugural Red Sox season it is very similar in production and how they will match up with their peers. The dividing line is impacted upon the team. Foxx’s was negligible, but Martinez’ is clearly more significant based on how team production in 2018 compares with 2017. The Red Sox produce runs like a Boston driver produces parking tickets.
Foxx was 28-years-old when he arrived in Boston and that is generally regarded as the beginning of the peak years for player performance. In 1938, Foxx set a team record for home runs in a season (50) that was later broken by David Ortiz. That season Foxx also won his third MVP Award and bagged 175 RBI, but the end was a few seasons away. By age 34 Foxx was a shell of his former talent with alcohol, nagging injuries, and conditioning being prime factors.
Martinez just may top that 50 home run total – a Red Sox right-hand hitter record – and will certainly lead the AL in RBI if he stays healthy. The impact factor is quite clear and that means Martinez. And defensively there is nothing that would set Foxx – primarily a first baseman – apart from Martinez. By all accounts, Foxx was a good, but not an excellent defensive player with a -1 TZ in 1936 and the same could apply to Martinez who certainly is not gifted in the outfield.
For their first Boston season, the outcome is clear – Martinez. Martinez will top Foxx’s 41 home run total and may even top the 143 RBI Foxx had. Then comes the axillary component and that may be determined in the fall with a World Series and that ring was absent in Foxx’s Boston career and certainly his first year. Martinez may get one and hopefully a few more.