J.D. Martinez

Andrew Benintendi is struggling for Red Sox, and J.D. Martinez can't help him

Andrew Benintendi is struggling for Red Sox, and J.D. Martinez can't help him

Not even J.D. Martinez can save Andrew Benintendi at the moment.

Martinez, the veteran Red Sox DH, is known as the clubhouse swing doctor. He loves breaking down mechanics and offering tips, and preaching the gospel of launch angle helped Mookie Betts become an MVP and Xander Bogaerts a force.

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Changes to both the gameday routine as well as the availability of in-game video have curtailed Martinez's influence, however, which means slumping hitters like Benintendi have one fewer resource when the going gets tough.

"I mean, honestly, years in the past, I probably already would've been able to get in the video room, break his swing down, look at it, do some comparisons," Martinez said after Benintendi struck out with the bases loaded to end Tuesday's 5-1 defeat in Tampa. "It's kind of what I do for most of the guys on the team. Anytime they're going through some stuff, I kind of dedicate some time after the game, before the game, or something, during the game, if I just hit or something like that, I can kind of throw them a bone. As you guys know, we don't have access to any of that stuff anymore. It's kind of everyone on their own. Survivor."

There's no question that Benintendi is mired in a hellacious slump. Tuesday's 0 for 5 dropped him to .069 (2 for 29). He has struck out 12 times and rarely puts the ball in play. After fouling off a pair of good Nick Anderson fastballs in the ninth, Benintendi took a curveball for strike three, starting his walk back to the dugout before he had even officially been rung up.

A year ago, Martinez might've offered real-time advice between innings, but players no longer have access to in-game video, a change necessitated by the Astros and Red Sox stealing signs. He also could've helped well before a game, but players may no longer arrive more than five hours early, and teammates must socially distance amidst the pandemic.

"Guys are struggling and trying to work," Martinez said. "It's tough when you don't know what to work on or what to do, so everyone is feeling for stuff and it's a tough situation. We're only allowed to be here five hours before game time. That doesn't leave a lot of time for guys to go in the cage and grind it out and figure it out with the hitting coach. It's a tough hand. We've got to find a way to make it work, though. I told my guys, anytime they have anything, they know they can come up to me and ask me questions. It's just different. I don't have that time to go in and break down guys' swings and look at guys' stuff and really dive into it."

One of the players struggling most acutely is Benintendi, whose days not only in the leadoff spot, but in the lineup, period, will be in jeopardy if he doesn't start producing.

"Hard to say if he's trying to do too much," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I think he's just trying to find his -- I don't want to say his swing, because his swing is actually pretty good. I think he's trying to find his recognition of where that zone is when he does a lot of damage. Then also making sure he lays off the pitches. Usually when he's not going good, he's chasing. He's chasing down, chasing up. If he can narrow those pitches and get them back into the zone where we know he can hit, I think that's more of it than where he is in the lineup."

10 things I hate about the Red Sox through 10 games

10 things I hate about the Red Sox through 10 games

The Red Sox wanted to restore a bit of joy to our lives, but it looks like we'll have to settle for being mad about something other than the state of the world, which is its own form of escapism, I suppose.

Better than nothing.

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Anyway, 10 games into the season, they haven't given us much to cheer, but they've provided plenty of reason to grimace.

From a mix of bad starting pitching to being forced to use openers, from seeing the team's vaunted offense not deliver out of the starting gates to the continuing slog of marathon games, there's no shortage of issues that the Sox are dealing with a sixth of the way through their schedule.

Here are 10 of the worst aspects of the Red Sox season through 10 games.

Mookie Betts contract just made J.D. Martinez's opt-out decision a lot more complicated

Mookie Betts contract just made J.D. Martinez's opt-out decision a lot more complicated

Here's the question J.D. Martinez is undoubtedly asking right now: was Mookie a one-off?

The Dodgers' decision to sign Mookie Betts to a record 12-year, $365 million contract extension suggests that perhaps the cash spigot isn't as dry as baseball's owners had led us to believe during contentious return-to-play negotiations.

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What's unclear is if Betts represents a special case as a generational talent in his prime, or if there will still be money for players like Martinez, who can opt out of the final two years of his Red Sox contract this fall.

While baseball is only implementing the universal DH in both leagues this season for safety reasons — a proposal to add it in 2021 collapsed when the owners imposed a 60-game season — there's no reason the sides couldn't revisit the issue this winter. That makes the timing of Martinez's opt-out trickier, since he must decide within five days of the World Series ending, and baseball's players and owners can't agree on anything without a protracted fight.

Prior to Betts signing his extension, Martinez's safest course of action appeared to be remaining in Boston for two years at just under $40 million.

But if there is indeed money out there, and if the NL is able to add the DH beyond 2020, there would suddenly be 15 new markets vying for the services of the best DH in baseball, who has averaged .318-40-118 with the Red Sox while making two All-Star teams and winning a Silver Slugger.

Is that kind of production worth more than two years and $40 million for a 33-year-old? In the old days, a case could've been made for yes. In baseball's new economic landscape, it's hard to say.

What we do know is that the old money is still out there. Whether it's there for anyone other than Betts is a question that Martinez, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Houston center fielder George Springer, among many other potential free agents, will be contemplating for the next two months.