Hey Red Sox fans. When filling out your ballot for the All Star game, give some thought to voting for Shohei Ohtani, not J.D. Martinez. Seriously.
Yeah, I know. Blasphemy, right? I’m a Red Sox fan, so how could I possibly think Shohei Ohtani and his 156 wRC+ in about half as many PAs should start over J.D. Martinez and his 174 wRC+? Never mind J.D. Martinez’s advantage in HR by a whopping 13, RBIs by 28, and runs by 22. Statistically, it’s not even close. And you’re right, it’s not. But that doesn’t matter, because now that the All Star game has no bearing on home field advantage in the World Series, it’s purely an exhibition game. And exhibition games are played solely for entertainment value.
What Shohei Ohtani is bringing to MLB right now is the height of entertaining. He’s a spectacle. Yeah, so is J.D. Martinez, but that’s not quite what I mean. There is a novelty to Ohtani that hasn’t existed in baseball in our lifetimes and that deserves to be celebrated. Especially if he can also make an appearance as a pitcher.
Think about it… we’ve never seen someone show up to All Star weekend for their skill both at the plate and on the mound. It’s never happened before. It may never happen again. Having Ohtani start the game as the DH, then moving him to the mound for an inning would be incredible. Yeah, they’d lose the DH for the rest of the game, but so what? It’s an exhibition. It doesn’t matter who wins, what matters is giving the fans something fun and memorable. And the fun of it isn’t the only reason to cast your vote for Shohei Ohtani over J.D. Martinez.
There are practical reasons as well.
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If you need a colder, more logical reason to do it, think about J.D. Martinez’s health issues over his career. Over the last four seasons his games played totals are 123, 158, 120, and 119. That’s one full season and three with significant time lost. He’s prone to injury. That much we knew when he was signed. So why add another night in which he can tweak a hammy or sprain his foot or strain an oblique or… or… or…
For many players, All Star weekend ends up being a nice mid-season break to recharge the batteries. That’s why we sometimes see DL stints that are set to begin or end with the All Star break tacked on to one end or the other. It’s a great chance to rest and freshen up for the second half. Who better to use that opportunity on than a guy who simply can’t stay on the field all season, but who the team really needs on the field all season.
One of the prevailing thoughts about why the Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez made so much sense was that he’d be the primary DH. (At least until they re-signed Mitch Moreland.) That meant less value lost with his poor defense in the outfield. But it also meant less physical strain on his body and, hopefully, less chance for an injury. Aka: The David Ortiz. People forget that Big Papi was actually a pretty decent defensive first baseman. The reason he was a primary DH was to keep his lower half healthy enough to supply him with his monster power at the plate.
J.D. Martinez really is a David Ortiz replacement.
Same principle applies to J.D. Martinez. To date, he’s played 29 games as the DH and 26 in the outfield. With Hanley Ramirez gone, they can shift the balance more toward DH. But he’s still playing the field enough to worry about him needing a DL stint at some point. So why compound that risk by voting him in to an exhibition game? We want him hitting moon shots in games that matter, not winning a Chevy truck for helping the AL eek out a win against the NL with a late opposite field bomb on July 17th.
If given the choice, would you rather see him crushing the ball in the All Star game or in October? No, it doesn’t really work that way, but think about that choice anyway. You could absolutely have both, but why even risk it? This Red Sox team has a pretty distinct window before they start hemorrhaging veterans. How much would it hurt to look back at this season in a few years and wonder what would have been if only their biggest slugger hadn’t re-sprained his foot digging out an infield single in a meaningless exhibition? (Yeah, I’m really playing up false dichotomy… sue me.)
So open up your ballot and do the right thing. Give the All Star game it’s spectacle. And protect one of the most vital parts of this Red Sox team, even if it’s just a little. Every bit helps. Plus, how cool would it be to see Shohei Ohtani selected for both sides of his mould breaking game?
Feel free to yell at me in the comments over my betrayal. I can take it!