By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
This is almost a week late, so bear with me. But during a pandemic, amidst of flurry of sports leagues reactivating, the Red Sox played a game on Saturday night in which it certainly feels like J.D. Martinez refused to pinch hit in a situation where he would have represented the tying run.
If that doesn’t bother you, it should.
In fact, it’s the kind of thing that should send you into orbit.
Let’s back up here for minute.
In Monday’s Boston Globe, Red Sox beat reporter Pete Abraham reported the following:
Saturday night’s 5-2 loss against the Yankees was a good example. With J.D. Martinez available to pinch hit, Andrew Benintendi took his turn at the plate and struck out on four pitches to end the game. That left him 2 for 24 on the season.
Martinez at that point had hit .320 against the Yankees with a 1.022 OPS since joining the Red Sox.
But he was not available. Here was how manager Ron Roenicke explained it.
“He had been in the cages trying to get loose. It’s a little harder to get J.D. quickly loose. But we had given him a couple of innings before and talked to him about it.
“He’s used to certain routines that he goes through and he knows different situations when they come up that there may be an opportunity. But Jerry [Narron, the bench coach] had gone down there a couple of innings before and just kind of gave him a heads up to be ready.”
“I would rather give him the day off, which we did. But if we needed it to win a ballgame we thought we may put him up there.”
So he could have hit?
“We could have,” Roenicke said. “Again, both of us probably rather would have not, him and us. That’s kind of what the decision came to.”
Before I go any further, let me make this clear: this isn’t about the manager. There is a tendency in baseball – and, for that matter, life – to blame the boss for everything, which is fine. But let’s not be ridiculous or disingenuous. Everyone knows that Ron Roenicke ended up as manager of the Red Sox through a series of events didn’t leave the team with many options. You, I and everyone else will be shocked if Roenicke is still the manager of the team on Opening Day 2021.
So please, don’t make this about the manager. It’s deflecting the argument and, more importantly, letting Martinez off the hook.
Now let’s get back to the crux of that Abraham report, specifically this line: both of us probably rather would have not, him and us. And again, before we make this about Roenicke, we all know the reindeer games that teams and managers play. Roenicke wasn’t about to throw Martinez under the bus by putting it all on him, so he was sure to say him and us.
I think Roenicke is deflecting blame here. I think Martinez didn’t want to hit. And I think the manager is covering for him because – as a longtime, respected baseball guy and man who is refreshingly decent and gentlemanly – Roenicke is covering for his player because he understands the magnitude of Martinez’ transgression and the pure selfishness with which the player acted.
Seriously, is everyone really OK with this? Have we reached that point of apathy? The Red Sox had played eight games entering Saturday’s affair against Yankees. They were 3-5. We all know Boston’s pitching staff was assembled from yard sales and clearance bins, but Martinez is the highest-paid player on the active roster. He is also one of the most senior. He loves to paint himself as a hitting guru who imparts wisdom on his younger teammates, mostly through the use of the infamous tablet he uses during games.
How many times have you read that Martinez makes the other Red Sox better in a multitude of games?
This made them much worse.
At the moment, the Red Sox don’t have a ton to hang their hats on. The pitching stinks. Chief baseball office Chaim Bloom was hired to rebuild the Red Sox from the inside out in the image of the Tampa Bay Rays – mostly on the pitching staff – but here is something that obviously hasn’t been instilled yet: the Rays, in good years or in bad, always play hard, maximize their talent. They certainly don’t quit.
Martinez? Unless or until we find out more in a world with limited media access, he has no defense or excuse. It sure feels like Captain Video pulled a Manny Ramirez in New York last weekend, refusing to hit in one of the few games where the Red Sox have had a chance this season. Whether they won or lost the game is irrelevant. The whole point, this year especially, is to try.
But if Martinez, in particular, can’t even do that, well then why is even playing this year at all?