Photo Credit: Matt West / Boston Herald
The Red Sox and Yankees have their first season series and a nice subplot is tracking the impact of Stanton and Martinez on both teams. Both players will be linked if they remain with their clubs.
As you wander back a few seasons the chant at Fenway Park when Derek Jeter of the Yankees came up to bat was “Nomar’s Better!” The rivalry came down to individual players as well as the team collective. Debates over Thurman Munson versus Carlton Fisk or who is more valuable – Ron Guidry or Jim Rice? You could continue drawing parallel’s through the various years that both teams represented among the best in baseball with player and team performance.
The next comparison will continue with two right-handed sluggers that inevitably will be linked – Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez. Both were outstanding in 2017 and where one may have the edge in one statistical department it was given back in another. From my view offensively, the metrics and traditional are very similar with the performance dividing line being defense. In 2017 Stanton had an 8.2 UZR/150 and Martinez a -15.5 UZR/150, but this is about hitting.
Stanton and Martinez will both be subjected to pressure and fan expectations. New York and Boston can be notoriously hostile places to perform when expectations are not met. Carl Crawford and Pablo Sandoval faced the wrath of disappointed Red Sox fans. Stanton is being unmercifully booed in New York with his ability to leave runners stranded and whiff in batches. And Martinez?
The Red Sox and their fans have high expectations for Martinez who has been rather passive with the bat and iron with the glove in the early going. But team success compensates for individual failures and disappointments. Martinez is – like Stanton – a proven commodity who will produce. Both also have another consideration.
For Martinez, it is the playing ghost of David Ortiz. In 2017 the Red Sox offense took a very rare slide into last place in the American League in home run production. The key ingredient was Ortiz out of the lineup and that apparently reverberated throughout the order. Martinez is expected to match Ortiz in run production. If he fails to come close and the Red Sox stall, then Martinez will face the ire of the fans.
There is no ghost for Stanton, but there is Aaron Judge and to a lesser degree Gary Sanchez. Judge was Rookie of the Year and second in the MVP race. Judge – like Stanton – is a blaster. The home runs are legendary as is exit velocity. Judge already has the love of the locals as does Sanchez as they grew up in the New York farm system. Stanton may be facing both Martinez and Judge for comparisons during 2018.
As I write this the Red Sox and Yankees will be facing off for their first series of the year. Stanton and Martinez will be going against each other and the fans and media will compare. A real subplot to the game itself. What happens is meaningless as both players – like their teams – are in it for the long haul.
The trials and tribulations for Stanton and Martinez will be present if both remain with their clubs. They will be linked the same way Nomar Garciaparra and Jeter were linked. That will also provide the opportunity for both fan bases to have the usual tit for tat conversations. It will be fun.