NEW YORK — The Red Sox play seven of their final 10 games at Fenway Park and J.D. Martinez plans to treasure them.
“The fans are the best. There’s never a dull day,” Martinez said Sunday before a 2-0 loss against the Yankees in a game called after six innings by rain. “It’s been fun, a cool experience. I’ve loved it.”
Martinez spoke in the past tense about his career with the Sox because he will become a free agent after the World Series. There has been no contact from the team about an extension.
An expensive 35-year-old full-time designated hitter is unlikely to be a priority for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, an executive who prizes defensive versatility.
“I’d like to keep playing another two years, at least,” Martinez said. “Hopefully I’ll be in a situation where I know I can be successful. A team that’s winning and will get the best out of me.”
It’s been an odd season for Martinez. As the Sox took the field on Sunday, he was fourth in the American League with 40 doubles.
But Martinez had only 12 home runs, his fewest in a full season since playing part time for the Astros in 2013, and a pedestrian .763 OPS.
To be sure, some of that is a product of his getting older, although the Sox compensated for that to some degree by keeping him at designated hitter all season.
Martinez believes the composition of the baseball has been a factor in his dip. The league average slugging percentage was .396 through Saturday. It was .411 last season.
Martinez, who has built a glittering career on opposite-field power, averaged 18 home runs to the right side of dead center from 2017-21 (excluding the shortened 2020 season). This season he has three.
Based on information from BaseballSavant.com, righthanded hitters have 388 fewer home runs to the opposite field this season than they did in 2019.
The belief among many players is Major League Baseball deadened the ball to cut down on home runs and create more action on the field with doubles and triples.
“That’s hurt me,” Martinez said. “You hit a ball and expect it to go out and when it doesn’t you think something is wrong. You can’t measure that.
“Then you’re working on your swing and tweaking it and maybe you don’t even need to do that. That’s affected me mentally. Now you have guys trying to pull the ball more.”
Martinez pulled a fastball from Nestor Cortes in the first inning on Sunday. With an exit velocity of 99.4 miles per hour, the ball traveled 388 feet — and was caught at the base of the wall.
Sox manager Alex Cora pointed out that the “expected” statistics that reflect bat speed and other factors are better than Martinez’s actual statistics.
“He was hitting the ball hard and then he struggled a bit,” Cora said. “But you start looking at the expected numbers — and people take that into consideration — he keeps working at it. I can see him looking until the last day of the season to try and find something.”
There are other factors, too. There was a leaguewide expectation that Martinez would be dealt to a contender before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
The Sox instead tried a combination platter of moves that ultimately made the team worse. Martinez, who would have welcomed a move to a contender, has hit .226 since the deadline.
“It’s just been a strange year,” he said.
If this is it for Martinez, does he feel he left a good legacy in Boston?
“I don’t know,” he said. “You tell me.”
That’s an easy one. Martinez was a four-time All-Star who had a 1.005 OPS in 23 postseason games, never spent a day on the injured list, and up until this season was one of the best run producers in the game. Dave Dombrowski made a wise move when he signed Martinez before the ‘18 season.
“I’m proud of the playoff numbers,” Martinez said. “I tried to help my teammates and be a good example.
“It’s a different game now with younger players. I like baseball. I like being at the park and when I go home, I think about baseball. That’s me. That’s what I do. I’ll be like that wherever I am.”