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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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MLB rumors: Mets have talked to Red Sox about trade for a catcher

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MLB rumors: Mets have talked to Red Sox about trade for a catcher

The Boston Red Sox have great depth at catcher with three Major League-caliber players at the position, so it's not surprising that at least one team has contacted the 2018 World Series champions about a potential trade.

The New York Mets are one such team, as reported Wednesday by MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.

DiComo also was asked about the Mets' possible interest in other Red Sox players, and he gave the following response:

The Mets haven't had the best success with catchers since Mike Piazza left the franchise after the 2005 season.

Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez are good behind the plate, but neither of them are quality hitters. Leon batted .177 over 89 regular season games in 2018, while Vazquez batted .207 in 80 games. Swihart isn't as good defensively, but he's a slightly better hitter. He batted .229 in 82 games but is a career .256 hitter.

The Red Sox lost reliever Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency and could lose closer Craig Kimbrel, too. Trading one of these catchers could clear some salary for a free-agent bullpen arm or be enough to get a Major League reliever in return. Either way, catcher is a position of depth the Red Sox should consider using to address some of their roster weaknesses.

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Red Sox fans give great replies to MLB tweet on Yankees' Manny Machado meeting

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Red Sox fans give great replies to MLB tweet on Yankees' Manny Machado meeting

The New York Yankees will meet with third baseman Manny Machado this week, and Major League Baseball's official Twitter account asked fans for their best free-agent pitch. 

As you might expect, many Red Sox fans, fresh off a World Series celebration, chimed in with responses. Several of them were pretty funny. Here's a round up of the best ones.

Machado, of course, was the final out of the 2018 World Series when Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale struck out the Dodgers star on a nasty breaking ball in Game 5. Machado didn't play well in the Fall Classic and was accused of dirty play when he was seen stepping on Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce in Game 4. It certainly wasn't the best show he could have put on for potential free-agent suitors.

Still, Machado is expected to get a massive long-term contract as an elite player in the prime of his career. The Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry was reinvigorated last season when Boston eliminated New York in the American League Division Series, and the tensions between these teams only will increase if Machado takes his talents to the Bronx in free agency. 

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