Not many would argue that Mookie Betts is the best all-around player on the Red Sox and one of the best in the entire league. Some have even begun to elevate him to the level of Angels’ All-Star outfielder, Mike Trout. However, J.D. Martinez is the team’s and the league’s Most Valuable Player. And it’s not really close.
For the most part, the core of this Red Sox team returned from a year ago. That team won a second consecutive A.L. East crown with a 93-69 record. However, it was a team that lacked a power bat in the middle of the lineup. Evident by their near bottom ranking in team home runs. They ranked above only the Pirates, Giants, and Braves. This led to a first-round ouster against the Astros in the playoffs and the departure of manager John Farrell.
Alex Cora was hired to replace Farrell and he certainly has played a role in the team’s success this season. However, Martinez has transformed this team overnight from pretty good to on-pace to be one of the best Red Sox teams ever. And, quite possibly, one of the best TEAMS ever.
Martinez slugged two more home runs in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader with the Orioles on Saturday. A sweep of the A.L. East bottom dwellers. This increased his home run his total to 37 on the year. Tops in all of baseball. In addition, his 104 RBI’s leads both leagues by a wide margin. Khris Davis of Oakland is the next closest with 90. On top of that, only Betts’ .351 average is standing in the way of Martinez leading all the Triple Crown categories in mid-August. With 47 games remaining, he is on pace to slug 51 home runs and 144 RBI’s.
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In just a short period of time, Martinez has already established himself as the best Red Sox hitter since David Ortiz retired. If he plays like this throughout his contract he may rival Ortiz’ run with the Sox. An idea unfathomable just a few months ago. Even to the most optimistic fan. However, it’s not just the personal success, it’s how the team has played around him. The sweep of Orioles on Saturday brought the Sox record up to 84-35. On pace for 117 wins which would top the Mariners record of 116 set in 2001. That team saw the likes of Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr.
This year, the team is second only to the Yankees in home runs, nearly surpassing their total from last year. In addition, they lead the league in runs with 655 with the Yankees (601) being their closest competition. Their 625 RBI’s also leads the majors and they are the only team to have surpassed the 600 RBI mark to this point.
Whether or not they can keep that pace (or want to for that matter) remains to be seen. Ultimately, it will mean nothing if they can’t do it in the playoffs. Just ask that 2001 Mariners team which saw their record-breaking season get wasted in an early playoff exit.
This Red Sox team doesn’t seem like it’s built to allow an end like that Mariners team. Similar to their lightning-in-a-bottle run in 2013, this team has yet to lose more than two consecutive games. This is despite being in some dicey situations early in games at times including a 2-0 deficit they faced against the Orioles. That is a good indication of some staying power. Of course, Betts, Chris Sale, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Boegarts, and everyone else deserves credit for the Red Sox being the best team in baseball.
With that said, it was J.D. Martinez that transformed this team on the field from a contender to a juggernaut. He is the American League MVP.