Red Sox: 2019 could be the MVP year for J.D. Martinez
A fresh season kicks off in just a matter of days and all eyes will be on the Boston Red Sox. One man that will be key to their success in 2019 is powerhouse DH J.D. Martinez.
The Red Sox had a historic and memorable 2018 that was capped off by raising the Commissioner’s Trophy. A key gear in the Boston machine is designated hitter J.D. Martinez. That won’t be changing at all in 2019 in what could prove to be an important year for both the team and the player.
At the end of the 2020 season, Martinez will be able to opt-out of his current deal and see what may be available to him in the baseball world. The Red Sox will want to do everything possible to retain him but it doesn’t always work out that nicely. With that being said, he’ll be looking to make as big of an impact as he possibly can in 2019. That means another charge towards a possible MVP award for the righty slugger.
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Throughout the 2018 season, Red Sox Nation heard over and over from the pundits about the two-man race for the MVP between J.D. and Mookie Betts. When the voting was finally tallied at the end of the year it was Betts that would walk away with the accolade with Martinez finishing in a distant fourth.
That came as a bit of a shock to Sox fans as it seemed like Betts and Martinez were going to come down to the wire with who would walk away as the winner. But alas, it wasn’t in the stars for Martinez which was tough to understand as J.D. led the Majors in RBI (130) and also had .330/.402/.629 stat line while also smacking 43 homers. Those are some damn impressive numbers from the plate and I believe there lies the reason he wasn’t named MVP.
Martinez is primarily a DH and only spent 57 games in the field compared to Betts’ 131 games in the outfield. And thus we get to the argument at hand. Why aren’t designated hitters valued more in baseball? The counter you’ll always get is that they only hit, they don’t have to worry about fielding, which is fair. But what is never broached is the fact that by only batting they have fewer opportunities to make an impact and therefore must make their at-bats count even more.
The designated hitter role is one that often gets scoffed at by purists as something that is ruining the game as it allows teams to use the bat but not the glove of a possibly weak fielder. When the topic of adding the DH to the National League was approached again this winter there was some blowback as there has been in the past. But the proposed creation of a Universal DH wasn’t approved in the recent voting and looks like it may not come to fruition until 2022 at the earliest.
But there was a major swing in favor of the DH during this past offseason and that was the induction of legendary DH Edgar Martinez into the Hall of Fame. In what was his final opportunity to be voted into Cooperstown, Edgar is the most decorated DH to go into the Hall of Fame. His induction does two big things for the DH not only does it show that the position may be getting more appreciation but it also opens the door for other designated hitters such as David Ortiz to one day make it to Cooperstown.
So what does this mean for J.D. Martinez going forward? Well if it is a sign that those in power, the BBWAA, might be learning to appreciate the DH far more than in years’ past. Especially with the possibility of a Universal DH on the horizon, the position can no longer be scoffed at. As I said before, the DH has to be just as impactful in fewer opportunities than those that play the field and bat.
If he can come close to his 2018 or even somehow surpass the monster numbers he put up, I don’t see how J.D. isn’t a stronger contender for MVP. With the ability to opt-out and dip his toe in the new contract pool after 2020, I can see J.D. absolutely crushing this season. The best part of Martinez is that all he wants to do is win, play baseball with his friends, and have fun. Oh, and he wants to adopt a team dog as was greatly written by Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic. What’s not to like about this guy, that’s gotta get him an extra vote or two, right?
The bottom line is that the DH is an actual position, you have to work at being good at it and it should be valued like any other position come MVP voting time. J.D. is a master of his craft and puts countless hours into not only improving his hitting ability but the abilities of his teammates. If the Red Sox are hoping to achieve similar success in 2019 they’ll need Martinez to have that bat going from Opening Day until the end of October.