CHICAGO —Tom Brady sat for an extended interview with NFL insider Peter King after the Patriots won Super Bowl LI in 2017.
Brady, 39 at the time, told King he had no plans to retire because he was processing the game at such a high level and had more to give.
“I have the answers to the test now,” said Brady, who has since won the Super Bowl twice more.
Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez has come to understand what Brady meant.
Martinez is 34 and has yet to play an inning in the outfield this season. His speed, if that’s the word for it, is evident mostly when there’s a double to be had.
“I stay within myself,” Martinez said with a grin spreading across his face.
But at the plate, armed with the wisdom of experience, age and creaky joints don’t matter. Martinez was 3 for 5 with a walk in Thursday’s 16-7 rout of the White Sox, continuing what has been a remarkable season.
Martinez leads the majors in hitting at .380. His 16 doubles, .430 on-base percentage and 1.029 OPS are among the league leaders.
He also has hit safely in 24 of his last 25 games at .437 (45 of 103) with 12 doubles.
As good as Martinez has been for the Red Sox — and he’s been excellent — these are uncharted waters.
“I’ve never seen him this way,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “This is the best I’ve seen him in four years. The quality of the at-bats, the two-strike hits, going the other way, it’s been impressive.”
Cora’s not just riffing. Martinez has a 1.027 OPS against righthanders, .987 against lefties. It’s .916 at home, 1.122 on the road. Ahead in the count it’s 1.001. Behind it’s 1.057.
“It seems like everything he hits right now he’s hitting right on the barrel and using the whole field,” Cora said. “Honestly, the best I’ve seen him.”
Martinez, who adeptly fouls off questions about his success, grinned when asked about his season.
“Oh, I’m very aware. But I don’t like talking about it,” he said. “Let’s talk about the team, bro.”
Martinez agreed there’s something to the idea of having the answers to the test. For Brady, it’s dissecting 11 defenders. For Martinez, it’s anticipating how a pitcher will attack him and knowing his own swing and how to correct it.
“Everything is the mental game for me now,” he said. “The last two years, especially. I’m not as athletic as I used to be. I know what I can do and what I can’t.”
Martinez has averaged 35.6 home runs in his three full seasons with the Sox. He has a modest five this season.
“We’re hitting home runs as a team. That’s what counts,” Martinez said. “I’ll be OK.”
Cora isn’t concerned with homers. He’d rather Martinez maintain his swing instead of selling out for power.
“Sometimes he feels like when he doesn’t slug, we don’t win. Right now he’s taking what they give him. He’s staying inside the ball and going to right field,” the manager said.
“He’ll start getting the ball in the air at one point, especially at home when it gets warm. He’ll drive balls to right-center and get his.”
Martinez was 2 for 3 with two walks in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss against the White Sox. He saw seven pitches from Chicago closer Liam Hendriks to draw a walk with two outs in the ninth and extend the game.
His teammates marveled at Martinez’s ability to get on base after falling behind 1 and 2 against one of the best closers in the game.
“J.D.’s at another level right now,” Xander Bogaerts said. “It feels like he can get on base any time wants.”
Martinez will be a free agent after the season. He is interested in playing at least two more seasons and ideally that would be with the Red Sox.
He’s comfortable in Boston and enjoys his dual role as DH and éminence grise of the batting cage.
He’s not playing into his 40s like Brady. But Martinez likes having all the answers.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.