As the reigning World Series champions, of course, the Astros have survived that mistake. Their general manager, Jeff Luhnow, said he had learned from it.
“I think we have more tools available today that would help us validate what he claimed,” Luhnow said in an interview this summer. “I’ve had a lot of players come into spring training and say, ‘I’ve done something and I’m better this year,’ and many times it’s not really true. But we didn’t give him enough at-bats to demonstrate that, and we didn’t have any of the technology that we have today that might give us more insight into what changes he actually made.”
Martinez signed with the Tigers, whose general manager, Dave Dombrowski, is now president of baseball operations for the Red Sox. In Detroit, Martinez observed an idol firsthand.
“I was able to play alongside, in my opinion, the best hitter with Miguel Cabrera,” Martinez said, “and kind of watch the way he goes about it and the way he looks at situations, when to try to drive a ball versus when to shoot a ball. I think I’ve grown over the years and learned about who I am and what I can do and what I can’t do.”
Martinez hones his craft with emphasis on detail, filming every batting practice session to detect any imperfections. Chris Sale, who won Game 1 for the Red Sox, said he had never seen another hitter prepare as intently as Martinez. The hitting coach Tim Hyers said Martinez’s example had helped the rest of the offense, which scored the most runs in the majors.
“When things work, it’s contagious in this game,” Hyers said. “But he’s a different guy because when he talks the game, he can talk by experience. When a guy’s struggling, he can go: ‘Hey, buddy, I’ve struggled also. I know where you’re coming from.’ So I think that goes a long way with his peers and his teammates. He doesn’t come across as having all the answers. He just wants to help, and he loves talking hitting.”
Hitting, Hyers said. Not just dingers.