USA Today Sports

J.D. Martinez offers telling reaction to Frank Thomas' proclamation that Sox' slugger is best hitter in baseball

Rob Bradford
May 19, 2018 - 6:58 pm

It would have been easy for J.D. Martinez to downplay Frank Thomas' statement, proclaiming the Red Sox' slugger has been the best hitter in baseball since 2017.

Martinez knows how high the bar is, how early it is in the season, and how many hitters could enter into the conversation.

But the identification from Thomas clearly hit home for Martinez, who explained his thoughts on the honor to prior to the Red Sox' Saturday night game against the Orioles.

"It was really cool," said Martinez of Thomas' ranking on FoxSports. "My whole career, even in the offseason, everyone is kind of like, ‘Who is this guy asking for all this money? Nobody knows who this guy is.’ I’ve always been living in the shadows of Miggy [Cabrera> and all these guys in Detroit. It’s cool to get some recognition for it.

"Me and Goldy (Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt) used to laugh about it in Arizona because whenever somebody would do something good, MLB would blow it up. They would put it on their Instagram. Put it on Twitter. Put it on MLB Network. ESPN would talk about it. Me and Goldy would be like, ‘Didn’t you do that two days ago and nobody said anything?’ We would just laugh about it. Goldy would hit three home runs a game and it would be like, ‘Oh, Goldy hit three home runs.’ But one of these other guys, it would be monumental. That’s kind of the way it’s always been."

Was it perceived as a small market thing, with Martinez having only excelled in Detroit and Arizona before coming to the Red Sox?

"I don’t know what it is," he said. "To me, baseball has their guys and they’re going to advertise them. If you’re not one of those you better walk on water. That’s what we always laughed about, saying, ‘Bro, you have to walk on water to make that show.’ It’s cool to at least get some recognition."

Martinez certainly has a strong case when it comes to the debate.

Since the beginning of last season, Martinez is a hair behind Mike Trout for best OPS (1.064 to 1.063), carrying the seventh-best batting average (.315; Trout is 22nd at .302), the seventh-most RBI (142), the seventh-most extra-base hits (100), with the very valued MLB's best weighted on-base average (.442).

As for this season goes, the righty hitter has positioned himself to make a run at the Holy Grail of statistical accomplishments, the Triple Crown.

Heading into Saturday, he was one back in the American League home run race (13), sitting second in the RBI chase (38) and carried .345 batting average, good for second the league.

So who does Martinez think is the best hitter in the big leagues?

"It’s kind of hard to beat [Cincinnati's Joey> Votto. He really goes under the radar," the outfielder/DH said. "He plays in a hitter’s ballpark, I get it. But what he does every day. The way he walks. The way he executes at-bats. He never gives an at-bat away. I admire that."