Playing in Boston isn’t for everyone. Fan criticism and media scrutiny are very much part of the culture, which Red Sox pitcher David Price recently acknowledged in describing his sales pitch to J.D. Martinez, and some players simply can’t handle the pressure.
But Martinez, whose five-year contract with the Red Sox became official Monday during an introductory press conference at JetBlue Park, sure sounds ready to embrace all that comes with playing in Boston.
“It was never pitched to me as a tough market to play in,” Martinez said Monday, per WEEI.com. “It was always pitched as a fun market, like, ‘Can you imagine playing in front of these fans every single day?’
“It’s packed every single day. I remember coming with Detroit when I first came here. When I came with Houston, and we were last place in the league, we came to Fenway and it was packed. I was like, ‘This is unbelievable.’ That’s the way I took it. From an outsider looking in, I’ve always dreamed of playing on a team with so much history.”
Martinez could be a game-changer for the Red Sox, who finished last in the American League last season with just 168 home runs. The slugger launched a career-high 45 homers in 119 games with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017 — good for third in the majors behind Giancarlo Stanton (59) and Aaron Judge (52) — and he’s one of just 20 major leaguers to hit at least 20 bombs in each of the last four seasons.
Still, some Red Sox fans might be cautious in their optimism after watching a few previous free agents — like Pablo Sandoval and Carl Crawford — struggle after signing big contracts with Boston. And Martinez, whose deal reportedly is worth $110 million, fully understands that, even if Price, who signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox before the 2016 season, never mentioned the possibility of being booed by Boston fans while recruiting his former Tigers teammate.
“He never said that to me, honestly,” Martinez clarified Monday on WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan,” per WEEI.com. “But you always hear that. That’s the thing around the league. Everybody knows that. But I get it.
“If I’m doing well, I’m going to get cheered. If I’m doing bad, I’m probably booing myself. If I’m in the outfield and fans are telling me ‘I suck,’ I’m saying the same thing. I get it. I’m on board with it. I understand it. I’m excited to just be able to play in front of fans who feel the same way.”
The Red Sox won the AL East each of the last two seasons, only to then be eliminated in the American League Division Series on both occasions. Martinez won’t be asked to shoulder the load in Boston, per se, but expectations are high for the 30-year-old slugger. He’s viewed by many as the missing piece.
“The fans in Boston are passionate. I’m passionate, too,” Martinez said, according to WEEI.com. “I love this game and put my whole life into it. To go out there and play in front of fans — you know every night you go out there it’s going to be sold out, packed.
“It’s like a ‘Monday Night Football’ game every night in Boston. What better place would you want to play?”
Depends on who you ask, we suppose.