Hackett: J.D. Martinez is a cleanup hitter. Period.

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By WEEI 93.7

Only the Red Sox can give me something to complain about before this wildly delayed 2020 season starts! Before I dive into that, I must say that I have greatly enjoyed having Red Sox baseball back the last two nights, even in its preseason form. It feels like that first beer after a full day of heavy yard work. Ah, live sports returns. Great to see Fenway on the screen again, it’s like medicine and I can’t wait for the highly anticipated opener on Friday night either.

Beer is already chilling.

Now, I hate to enter the season this way but I have to get something off my chest. Why is J.D. Martinez hitting second in the batting order? Same for Aaron Judge in New York last year and Mike Trout in Anaheim for that matter. I get that some wonky new-age baseball types have pinned the number two slot in the batting order to be the most important in recent times but a lot of new ideas have surfaced the last couple years that have proven to be not great.

Like eating Tide Pods.

Count me out on the rebranding of the No. 2 slot in the order movement. To all the new-age baseball wonks out there I’ll simply say this, I don’t agree to disagree, I’m right and you’re wrong. I liked hitting in the number two spot in the order as a kid, nothing against the No. 2 but I wasn’t the best hitter on the team or the most powerful. The best hitter on the team should hit third. The most powerful hitter should hit fourth and everything falls perfectly into place from there. Why must some nerd in a baseball lab that doesn’t know pine tar from Pine-Sol rock the boat? I’m not the change-averse type but some things just don’t need to be fixed.

I like my beer cold and my number two hitters to be table setters with some speed, a patient bat, a good eye, a little sneaky pop and a knack to move runners into scoring position. Dustin Pedroia is a prime example and was an ideal number two in his prime. J.D. Martinez or Aaron Judge? Those guys should be coming up with guys on base with salivating eyes targeting the outfield stands. It’s just the way it is. It just feels right. Seeing the Red Sox most prolific power hitter batting second does not.

It’s like seeing Shaq driving a Mini or ride a tricycle.

Putting my philosophical disagreement with the new lineup construction ideas aside, the move or potential move at this point also doesn’t seem ideal for this specific roster either. Losing Betts at the top instinctively makes me want to stretch the order out a bit more and slotting Martinez so high at the top feels wasteful to me. Not to mention top-heavy. Like Morgana the Kissing Bandit type top-heavy.

Here’s how I would put the Sox lineup together.

Leadoff – Andrew Benintendi (L) – LF. Not an ideal leadoff hitter but there isn’t a glaring alternative on this roster that stands out yet. Jose Peraza maybe, but he likely won’t play every day and his base-stealing totals declined significantly last year from past seasons.

2 – Xander Bogaerts (R) – SS. To me, he’s the best hitter on the team and I’d prefer him to hit third frankly, but the opportunity for lefty, righty, lefty, righty lineup construction at the top trumps that preference for now. I feel a string of MVP type seasons from Xander.

3 – Rafael Devers (L) – 3B. My money is on a slightly better statistical year from Xander this year, but out of respect for the lefty, righty slotting, Devers is my number three and a mighty one he is.

Cleanup - J.D. Martinez (R) – DH. They call it cleanup for a reason. 124 Home runs and 339 RBI in the last three years. Here’s your number four-hitter. I’ll die on this hill. Thank you.

5 – Mitch Moreland (L) – 1B. The righty, lefty slotting continues. I like Moreland more sixth, but he makes sense right here for the 2020 Red Sox. 20 Home run power in the five-hole works.

6 – Michael Chavis (R) – 2B. I’m a believer. Get the kid in there and keep him in. He can hit and do so with power.

7 – Christian Vazquez (R) – C. He’s in his prime and has found some consistent power. He’s also pretty patient. I’m comfortable with him here.

8 – Kevin Pillar (R) or Alex Verdugo (L) – RF. Platoon. Verdugo has some pop but he’s 24 years old. Keep him down here and take the pressure off. Pillar is a professional hitter who belongs on the bottom of a strong order, which this is.

9 – Jackie Bradley, Jr. (L) – CF. He’s not here for his bat. When he hits one of his streaks though and he may, the Sox can ride it. He’s got some speed and that should be welcome in the nine slot of the order.

As the season rolls on, if you needed more pop from batters three through five, they could get creative with Chavis or even Vazquez as the number two-hitter. Both are very patient at the plate and have good bat control and discipline with runners on. In that scenario Bogaerts hits third, Martinez hits cleanup and Devers hits fifth for me. Any way you slice it, just keep Martinez at cleanup, please.