FORT MYERS, Fla. -- By the old-fashioned numbers, J.D. Martinez deserved legitimate consideration for the MVP award last year. But he knew two letters gave him no chance: D and H.
Because he only played part-time in the outfield, Martinez didn't expect to receive serious consideration for the MVP, especially when the eventual winner, Mookie Betts, dominated the game from an offensive, defensive, and baserunning perspective in the same lineup.
But in the end, Martinez's monster .330-43-130 season earned him a fourth-place finish in the balloting, along with an All-Star berth, a Silver Slugger, and the Hank Aaron Award for best hitter in the American League.
"I kind of laughed about it because everybody was making a big deal about it, like, you had a chance to win and stuff like that," Martinez said on Sunday after arriving in Red Sox camp. "And I was like, guys, there's no way the analytics guys are ever going to let that happen. For a DH to win an MVP, they're going to have to walk on water. That will never happen."
The Red Sox know this as well as anyone. Slugger David Ortiz finished in the top five of the voting for five straight years, and he even finished sixth in his final season at age 40, but he never won the award. He finished second in 2005 despite hitting .300 with 47 homers and a league-leading 148 RBIs, and he finished third a year later despite posting .287-54-137 numbers.
Martinez recognized that his only chance would be if he could make some history, and even then he'd probably still face an uphill climb.
"It became the talk in the clubhouse last year and everyone was like, the only way you're going to win is if you win the Triple Crown or whatever," Martinez said. "I was like, 100 percent. That's the only chance. When it came out, I expected it. I kind of laughed about it. I know how my peers think of me and I know how my peers thought of me with the text messages I got and the congratulations I got and last year I won the Player's Choice MVP of the season and that to me was huge to be voted by my peers."
Failing a full-time return to the outfield, Martinez will face similar MVP constraints this season. That's just how it is for DHs. The Red Sox will certainly take another top-five finish, though.