J.D. Martinez is a star.
He was a star in Detroit, he was a star in Arizona, and contrary to the expectations of some casual baseball fans and sports talk radio hosts, he is a star in Boston.
At the conclusion of the 2017 season came Giancarlo Stanton-mania. It wasn't unwarranted. There wasn't a more exciting, marketable player in baseball after Stanton blasted a league-leading 59 homers. When it was clear he was on his way out of Miami and ready to join a contender, Sox fans and media drooled over the thought of him calling Fenway Park home, and rightfully so.
But while they were swooning over Stanton, they overlooked the more reasonable alternative: Martinez. Sure, his name was brought up as the "backup plan", but for whatever reason, the possibility of Boston choosing him over the almighty Stanton was scoffed at.
Red Sox said to have "tepid" interest in Giancarlo Stanton, which explains why I have "tepid" interest in the Red Sox.— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) November 26, 2017
Somehow Martinez, who already had a 38-homer season on his resumé (Stanton's career-high was 37 prior to his outlier 2017) and had 29 homers in 62 games with the Diamondbacks was getting the cold shoulder. It never made any sense.
Eventually, once Stanton was off the market (to the rival Yankees of course) those lobbying for the Red Sox to snag him went through the five stages of grief. When they finally reached the acceptance stage, the narrative became “sigh, I guess that means they have to sign Martinez now...". It was almost always a pessimistic discussion when Martinez was involved.
Well, it turns out Dave Dombrowski really never had an overwhelming interest in Stanton, meaning the Red Sox likely had their minds set on Martinez the entire time. And they got their guy, much to the chagrin of Stanton lovers everywhere.
It definitely wasn't the smoothest start for J.D. It took him eight games to notch his first homer in a Red Sox uniform. That doesn't seem too bad, but patience wears thin in Boston where flashbacks of Pablo Sandoval and Carl Crawford are impossible to avoid whenever an expensive free agent comes to town. On April 12, Martinez was batting only .227 with two homers and a measly .726 OPS. Not what fans wanted out of their "big bat".
Then suddenly, Martinez got hot and he hasn't looked back. He's tallied seven homers, raised that batting average to .342, and his OPS has skyrocketed back up to .986, where he's accustomed to seeing it. Plus Martinez has proven to be a force with runners in scoring position (11-for-31) and already has seven doubles under his belt, plus a triple for good measure. He's currently tenth in the majors with 25 RBI and leads the Red Sox in hits (40) even with Mookie Betts raking.
Meanwhile, Stanton has struggled in the Bronx. A little more than one month into the season, he's slashing .234/.317/.469 with seven homers and 19 RBI, plus an MLB-leading 51 K's to boot. It's worth noting the ex-Marlins slugger is beginning to break out of the slump and it looks like he's returning to being the monster we're all accustomed to seeing. Still, it just goes to show how the hype machine tricked people into believing that trading for Stanton would be a significantly better move than signing Martinez. In the end, it's not really even about comparing the two, it's about giving Martinez the credit he so very much deserves for being a premier hitter.
It's still early and a lot can change between now and October. That should go without saying. I just hope what we've seen so far in 2018 has helped the naysayers come to their senses and finally recognize Martinez for the legitimate star he is.