Victor Martinez – period

Victor Martinez deserves a trip to the All-Star game, but his fate is in the hands of fans for the final position. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Jim Leyland doesn’t put much stock in team chemistry. And good luck looking for a quote “suitable to print” about his take on the matter. “All that [stuff] has been media [stuff] for years – great chemistry, great clubhouse. That’s the biggest bunch of [baloney] in the history of sports. Every time somebody wants to talk about great chemistry, [forget] the chemistry in the clubhouse. I’m interested in winning games, period.”

And that was one of the cleaner quotes.

So when a guy like Leyland tells you to “forget the hits and everything,” (yes, he said “forget,” not [forget]) in favor of a player’s contributions to the clubhouse, you listen. And when that player has the second highest batting average in the American League – second only to Adrian Gonzalez – you wonder how he didn’t make the All-Star team.

Victor Martinez has been wreaking havoc on opposing managers’ pitching strategies all season. Walk Miguel Cabrera to pitch to this guy? You’ve got to be [stuffing] me.

With a bat like that, Martinez could get away with being cocky. Rude, even. But you won’t find words like that used in the same sentence with his name. No. He is known for bringing that intangible, ever elusive, “bunch of [baloney]” chemistry to the clubhouse wherever he goes. He’s also known for bringing his six-year-old son (the “cutest, most polite kid ever” according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona) down to the ballpark for some batting practice. By all accounts, Victor’s son is an honorary Tiger and the spitting image of his dad – a positive force, picking up his teammates when they’re down.

There are stories about Victor Martinez that you wouldn’t believe if I told you. About his good nature. About his commitment to family. And then there’s the story you know is true. About leaving Cleveland. Let’s just say, people cried.

But none of that will get you to the All-Star Game.

Now it comes down to the Final Vote, where fans have the chance to decide that final spot on the team. It’s between Martinez and four other guys. Well, let’s be honest, one other guy. One Paul Konerko. And it’s going to be a close fight.

So Justin Verlander kicked off a Twitter campaign (#VoteVictor) to get Martinez to Arizona. By now you’ve probably heard about the success of Verlander’s VoteAvila campaign. But, just in case you missed it, Avila racked up nearly a million votes in three days to become the starting catcher.  And he beat out a Yankee. Unbelievable.

I expect more of the same from the Martinez campaign. They’re strategizing as we speak.

It’s tough to argue with Konerko’s season. Offensively, he’s among the top five in the AL for home runs, OPS, RBIs and batting average. But, aside from the better batting average, Martinez bests Konerko (and most everyone else) in a powerful way – and I’m not talking about slugging percentage.

With two strikes on him, Martinez is batting .342 – that’s better than his overall average.

With two outs?  .347.

Two outs and runners in scoring position?  .367.

The hotter it gets, the better he hits. That’s a different kind of power. Power you can’t buy on the open market. Power you may only see once or twice in a lifetime – just enough to remind you that it’s possible. Power that should land him a spot on the All-Star team.

Jim Leyland doesn’t put much stock in clubhouse chemistry. So when a guy like Leyland tells you a player is “the best teammate” he’s ever managed, you listen.

And when that player is Victor Martinez … you vote.


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