A valuable 35-year-old full-time designated hitter may not be a priority for Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, an executive who prizes defensive versatility.
“I want to keep playing at least two more years,” Martinez said. Hopefully I’ll be in a position where I know I can be successful. A team that wins and gets the best out of me.
It was an unusual season for Martinez. When the Sox took the field Sunday, he was fourth in the American League with 40 doubles.
But Martinez had just 12 home runs, his fewest in a full season since he played part-time for the Astros in 2013, and a pedestrian .766 OPS.
Although the Sox have compensated somewhat by keeping him with a designated hitter all season, some of that is a result of his aging.
Martinez believes the baseball merger is his cause. The league average slugging percentage was .396 through Saturday. He was .411 last season.
Martinez, who has built a sparkling career on opposite field power, averaged 18 home runs from 2017-21 (not including the shortened 2020 season) to right in dead center. This season he has three.
According to the information BaseballSavant.comRight-handers have 388 fewer home runs to the opposite field this season than they did in 2019.
The belief among many players is that Major League Baseball has killed the ball to reduce home runs and create more doubles and triples in the field.
“It hurts,” Martinez said. “You hit the ball and expect it to go out and when you don’t think something is going to happen. You can’t measure that.
“Then you’re working on your swing and adjusting and you probably don’t even need to do that. That blew my mind. Now you have guys trying to pull the ball more.
Martinez pulled a fastball from Nestor Cortes in Sunday’s first inning. With an exit velocity of 99.4 miles per hour, the ball traveled 388 feet — and was caught under the wall.
Sox manager Alex Cora pointed out that the “expected” stats, which reflect bat speed and other factors, are better than Martinez’s actual stats.
“He was hitting the ball hard and then he struggled a little bit,” Cora said. But you start looking at the expected numbers – and people take that into account – he continues to work on it. I see him looking until the last day of the season to get something.”
There are other reasons as well. It was a league-wide expectation that Martinez would be dealt to a contender before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
The Sox instead tried a concerted move that ended up making the team worse. Martinez, who welcomes his move to contention, is hitting .229 since the deadline.
“It’s been a strange year,” he said.
If this is the case for Martinez, does he feel he left a good legacy in Boston?
“I don’t know,” he said. “You tell me.”
That’s easy. Martinez was a four-time All-Star with a 1.005 OPS in 23 regular season games, never spent a day on the injured list and has been one of the best run producers in the game so far this season. Dave Dombrowski made a wise move when he signed Martinez 18 seasons ago.
“I’m proud of the numbers in the game,” Martinez said. “I tried to help my teammates and set a good example.
“Now it’s a different game with young players. I love baseball. I love being in the park and thinking about baseball when I go home. that’s me. That’s what I do. I will be like that wherever I am.”
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter. @PeteAbe.