For the longest time, the DH position has been excluded from the MVP discussion. Red Sox star J.D. Martinez could be the one to change that.
The designated hitter is often forgotten when it comes time to vote for the MVP awards. Some of the best hitters in the history of the game have been DH specialists. It may be looked down on to be a DH as it could mean your fielding is subpar. The Red Sox have felt the sting of a DH not getting their due respect come MVP time more than once.
But why should that be a penalty against the player? Look no further than this past season and Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez. J.D. recently spoke with media while at the Fort Myers complex and Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston was able to gather it all.
Martinez had a ridiculous year at the plate for the Red Sox in 2018. Seriously, it was freakin ridiculous. Martinez posted an MVP worthy stat line of .330/43 HR/130 RBI with only 146 strikeouts. He would lead the league in both RBI and Total Bases (358). If that isn’t MVP worthy, I don’t know what is.
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It was still a great year for J.D. as he did clean up on several individual awards and that shiny new World Series ring is pretty nice. But the real issue here is that he posted a year most players would kill for and yet he finished fourth in MVP voting. FOURTH. All season long Red Sox Nation was abuzz with the thought of Martinez and eventual winner Mookie Betts having a photo finish for the MVP.
Betts won the MVP pretty handily and rightfully so, he dominated at the plate and in the field all season long. But Martinez’ efforts should have placed him far higher in the voting than fourth. And now we’re back to the original argument, should a DH be punished for not spending more time in the field? I can’t come up with an argument that they should be and yet we have plenty of evidence that there is a bias against the DH.
Let’s take a look at the recently announced Hall of Fame Class. Edgar Martinez will find his way to Cooperstown and be forever enshrined in the hallowed halls. But throughout his career, he only ever sniffed the MVP once. One of the greatest and most consistent hitters of all-time, never once up for consideration.
J.D. Martinez is one of the best to step into the batter’s box but because he only truly focuses on one side of the game, he finds himself on the outside looking in. That’s what really bothers me when all is said and done. Everyone watching from fans to announces and pundits can see his skill and what he brings to the Red Sox, but when it comes time for the writers to vote, he’s an afterthought.
J.D. spoke to the media while at Spring Training recently and was very honest with how he felt about the situation:
"“I was like, ‘Guys, there’s no way the analytic guys are going to ever let that happen,’” Martinez told reporters Sunday at JetBlue Park. “For a DH to win MVP they’re going to have to walk on water.”"
That may seem a bit dramatic but he’s also not wrong. For a DH to win the MVP they would have to sweep every single batting category possible and do so while obliterating the competition. Martinez realized that very thing if he ever wants to win the MVP.
"“It became the talk in the clubhouse last year,” Martinez said. “Everybody’s like, ‘The only way you’re going to win it is to win the Triple Crown.’ I was like, ’100 percent. That’s the only chance.’ So when it came out, I kind of expected it.”"
J.D. isn’t just some guy who only bats, he takes to batting like a surgeon to the operating room. This is his craft and his science and he takes the measures necessary to constantly get better and evolve. He records his batting practices, uses the latest metrics and tools to monitor his motions, he’s a damn machine. But the extra work and effort that he puts in seemingly go underappreciated from the voting body.
The baseball world is changing and the voting for MVP will have to evolve as well. With the focus being placed more and more on the offensive side of the game, the DH will have to get more respect than it does now. Hopefully, that change will happen soon and J.D. Martinez can be the face of it.