USA Today Sports

Ready or not, J.D. Martinez has become a superstar

Rob Bradford
August 08, 2018 - 1:13 pm

TORONTO -- Life has been full of the unexpected when it comes to J.D. Martinez.

Ask a teammate if Martinez is better than they thought and you'll get a shockingly honest answer.

"Definitely," said Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland. "I knew he was a great player and a great hitter, but the stuff that he sees and picks up on, that he’s able to take to the plate and put it into motion is pretty special."

Ask Martinez about his biggest surprise when it comes to this season and the theme will be constant.

"The media is a lot," he noted. "That’s probably the most overwhelming part. There’s no ducking or dodging them. You know you’re going to have to talk to them every day. ... For me, it’s just not getting caught up in all of it. I feel like when you play for a big market team it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and all the publicity that you get. And for me, I don’t care about any of that. You see me, I’m just doing my stuff to prepare for the games and just staying focused and having that tunnel vision."

Now comes the next eyebrow-raiser: Martinez has to now officially be viewed as a card-carrying superstar in this town.

For a guy who thrives on his preparation, bracing himself for what his world has evolved into is no easy task. It takes something to be classified in the same conversation of professional athletes such as Rob Gronkowski, Patrice Bergeron, Kyrie Irving and Mookie Betts. This isn't about personality, it's about production, and at this point -- with the Red Sox rolling over the rest of baseball -- Martinez has officially earned his place among New England's best.

And it's not just the numbers or the wins. It's how he's doing it. That's always part of the equation. The latest example? Two outs in the eighth inning and the Red Sox are trailing by a run. Martinez hits a three-run homer. It was almost expected, which is the highest compliment. It was when Larry Bird had the ball in his hands with time running down. It is when Tom Brady needs to drive the length field for a game-winning score. And it was Sunday night when the Red Sox needed Martinez to keep the rally going against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

There is that hesitancy -- particularly coming from Martinez -- to offer a comparison to the last middle-of-the-order presence possessed by the Red Sox, David Ortiz. But, as we sit here, there is undeniably that same expectation now as there was two seasons ago when the game's biggest moment rolls around.

Martinez has been at-bat 10 times with the bases loaded this season. On eight of those occasions, he has come away with a hit. There's just one example.

He also hits home runs. A lot of them. That never hurts the Q-rating, either.

So with proof that the unassuming 30-year-old has achieved the aforementioned status, next comes the realities that come with it. Martinez loves talking hitting. He doesn't like talking about his own hitting. He seemingly hates doing the prerequisite media scrums after moments like the one at Rogers Centre Tuesday night. And as he pointed out at the All-Star Game, if it was up to him his existence would consist of waking up late in the morning, eating something and then heading over to the ballpark for the great game of baseball.

"I was never a guy who wants the public attention. For me I’m waiting for the next challenge," he said. "Who am I facing next? Who is the next pitcher on the mound? Who do they have warming up? To me, in this game, it’s all about what’s next. The moment you settle, the moment you stop growing, you start dying. You start going backward and it doesn’t matter what you did last game, it’s all about what you do in the next game. If I had four home runs the day before and I come back and have five strikeouts they’re going to write bad about me. It’s all about continuing to go and not get caught up in what’s next."

He's right. It is going to be about what happens in the next game, the next month and the next postseason.

But whether or not Martinez is ready for it, or wants it, the slugger has dropped himself in a select group. Meet Boston sports' newest superstar.

More Red Sox content

- David Ortiz praises J.D. Martinez on OMF

- Jerry Remy thanks fans