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How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

Good things come to those who wait. And while it’s hard to knock the results of the Houston Astros’ “process,” a new piece from Sports Illustrated details how J.D. Martinez has them wishing they waited a little longer.

Coming off an age-25 season that saw him hit just .250 with a .650 OPS, Martinez was desperate to change in 2013. After all, with limited speed and a below-average glove, Martinez’s bat was his livelihood.

“J.D., you’re not even a career .700 OPS hitter,” said then-Astros hitting coach John Mallee. “You don’t steal bags. You’re not a Gold Glover. You have to hit… You can make enough money to live off of, at least until you become too expensive to keep around. But that’s it. Unless you change something.”

After studying perennial All-Stars like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun, Martinez realized his entire swing needed an overhaul, and turned to Astros teammate Jason Castro for advice. Martinez’s journey with Castro is a long one, taking him from Houston to California to Venezuela and, finally, to Kissimmee, Florida, home of the Astros’ Spring Training complex.  

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With a new swing in his toolbox, a revamped enthusiasm and energy, and a desperation to prove himself, all Martinez needed was an opportunity. But the Astros didn't oblige. Houston -- coming off a 111-loss season -- released Martinez after just 18 exhibition at-bats, not even seeking anything in return. Martinez couldn't make the worst team in the league.

Instead of sulking, however, Martinez was motivated -- driven to make the Astros' lack of confidence in his adjustments haunt them.

"You guys are going to see me," Martinez told Houston teammates José Altuve and Dallas Keuchel after being released. "Don't worry about it. I'll be good. I promise you."

Martinez caught on with the Detroit Tigers and the rest, as they say, is history. He used his new swing to slug his way to the top of a myriad of offensive categories and now, four years after being released, there is perhaps no more feared slugger in baseball than Martinez, who has two more home runs (37) than his team has losses (35).

Martinez’s road to the top has been long, but serves as a reminder that in a sport increasingly driven by data, the game is played by humans, and not even the most thorough algorithms can compute a human’s drive to succeed.

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Relive Manny Ramirez's greatest moments on Red Sox legend's 48th birthday

Relive Manny Ramirez's greatest moments on Red Sox legend's 48th birthday

One of the most entertaining players ever to don a Boston Red Sox uniform was born 48 years ago today.

That would be Manny Ramirez, who celebrates his birthday on May 30. In honor of the special occasion, Major League Baseball tweeted an awesome video that includes some of Ramirez's greatest moments:

Watch below:

That cutoff of Johnny Damon's throw never gets old.

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Ramirez joined the Red Sox in 2001 after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Cleveland Indians. From there, he became a key contributor to two World Series titles (2004 and 2007) and furthered his legacy as one of the best right-handed hitters of all time.

He isn't done yet, either. Ramirez announced just a couple of months ago he is hoping to find a roster spot in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League. More "Manny Being Manny"? That sounds great to us.

We wish a very happy birthday to one of the greatest (and most interesting) players in Red Sox history.

Ever Wonder Series: Why did the distance of Fenway Park's Green Monster change?

Ever Wonder Series: Why did the distance of Fenway Park's Green Monster change?

Of all of Fenway Park's quirks, my favorite might be how the 315-foot sign on the Green Monster suddenly became 310.

It's possible I love this story because the sportswriter gets to be the hero.

In 1995, the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy decided to settle one of the most persistent rumors of his career. He remembers hearing it as a cub reporter during the 1975 World Series, when the Reds insisted to a man that Fenway's famed left field fence couldn't possibly be 315 down the line.

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They all believed it was closer, but no one could prove it, because the Red Sox resisted periodic efforts to measure and answer the question once and for all.

That didn't stop the Globe from accessing the park's original 1912 blueprints, which showed the wall at 308 feet. They enlisted a World War II reconnaissance pilot to examine aerial photos, and he pegged it at 304. The author George Sullivan crawled up the foul line with a yardstick and settled on 309-5.

None of those numbers ever became official, though, because 315 by that point had been well-established as part of the park's lore. Fenway opened in 1912, was extensively renovated in 1934, and added bullpens in 1940, giving us the dimensions we essentially recognize today. For more than 60 years, the 315 sign at the base of the foul pole beckoned right-handed sluggers, terrified pitchers, and lived in what felt like perfect accuracy.

But Shaughnessy had other ideas. He finally decided to take matters into his own hands in March of 1995. His friends on the grounds crew looked the other way as he hopped a fence in an empty Fenway and unfurled a 100-foot Stanley SteelMaster tape measure.

It only took a matter of minutes to prove his hunch correct: 315 wasn't 315 at all.

It was 310, or 309-3, to be precise. Shaughnessy wrote about his findings in late April, and within a month, the Red Sox had quietly changed the sign to 310, which it remains to this day.

"My whole life looking at that wall, it was 315," Shaughnessy said. "Shortly after the story appeared, they changed it to 310, which surprised me. It was very un-Red Sox like in those days, and these days.

"Now when I see 310, I take some pride in that."