Víctor Jesús Martínez (born December 23, 1978), also known by his nickname "V-Mart", is a Venezuelan former professional baseball designated hitter and catcher. Martínez played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, and Detroit Tigers. Prior to his tenure with the Tigers, he also frequently played as a catcher.
Martínez was a five-time MLB All-Star. He won the Silver Slugger Award twice, and the Edgar Martínez Award. When he retired in 2018, he was 7th of all active players in RBIs (1,178).
Martínez was signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent in 1996. He was named the Indians 2001 and 2002 Minor League Player of the Year (receiving the "Lou Boudreau Award"). After a pair of minor league MVP awards and batting titles in 2001 and 2002, he made his debut with Cleveland as a September call-up on September 10, 2002.
In 2003, Martínez played for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and the Indians. He finished with a combined .315 batting average, hitting at a .349 clip in August and September with the big league club. Exhibiting knowledge of the strike zone and an ability to make contact, he reduced his strikeout totals and produced a combined .376 on-base percentage. He also drove in 63 runs, hitting .323 with runners in scoring position, and was selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game played at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. From 2001 to 2003, the Venezuelan slugger batted a combined .330 with 40 home runs and 194 RBI.
In his first full major league season, Martínez hit .283 with 23 home runs as the Indians starting catcher for 2004. He set a record for Indians catchers with 108 RBIs, earned his first All-Star selection, and shared the Silver Slugger honor as the top-hitting American League catcher with Iván Rodríguez. For the first time since the awards began in 1980, there was a tie at one position. On July 16, Martínez also had the best offensive night by an Indians catcher in franchise history; he hit three home runs, singled twice, drew a walk, and drove in a career-high seven runs in a perfect 5-for-5 game against the Seattle Mariners.
In June 2005, Martínez was batting .207, but he came into the season's final weekend batting .382 (96-for-251) after the All-Star break, the best for any Major League player in that stretch. He finished the season with a .305 average, 20 home runs and 80 RBIs.
Beginning in 2006, the Indians occasionally played Martínez at first base. As a catcher in 2006, he allowed 100 stolen bases, the most in Major League Baseball. He had a successful season at the plate, hitting .316 with 37 doubles, 16 home runs and 93 RBI.
In 2007, he hit .301 with 25 home runs, led all major league catchers with 114 RBI, and finished seventh in the American League MVP voting. He made his second AL All-Star team this season.
2008 was an injury-marred season for Víctor, as he played in only 73 games and posted a career-low .278 batting average.
On June 19, 2009 Victor hit his 100th career home run against Rich Harden of the Chicago Cubs. On July 5, Martínez was selected for the third time to represent Cleveland in the 2009 All Star Game. On July 31, 2009, Martínez was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Price. His departure from the Indians created a public relations problem for the ballclub. The team had scheduled two separate Martínez-related promotional giveaways (bobbleheads on August 1, chest protector backpacks five days later) for dates subsequent to the transaction. Despite the trade, both promotions went off as planned.
After joining the Red Sox in mid-2009, Martínez played both first base and catcher, splitting time behind the plate with Red Sox captain Jason Varitek. His combined totals for the 2009 season (with Cleveland and Boston) included a .303 batting average, 23 home runs, and 108 RBI. He also established a career high in walks, with 75.
Following the season, the Red Sox exercised his 2010 option for $7.1 million.
On June 28, 2010, Martínez suffered a fractured left thumb, and was placed on the 15-day DL. He was limited to 127 games, finishing the 2010 season with a .302 batting average, 20 home runs, and 79 runs batted in.
On November 23, 2010, Martínez and the Tigers organization reached an agreement on a four-year, $50 million free agent contract. On March 31, 2011, Martínez made his debut for the Tigers as a designated hitter against the New York Yankees. Martínez was used almost exclusively as a designated hitter for the 2011 season, playing only 26 games at catcher and 6 games at first base. He had a slow start to the season, batting .250 in the month of April with two home runs, but he then batted .337 in May and .370 in June. On September 11, in a game at home against the Twins, he had perhaps his worst-ever game at the plate, going 0 for 4 and hitting into four double plays (three of them GIDPs, one a line drive); his team managed to win anyway, 2-1. It was the first time a batter had hit into four double plays in the American League since hall of famer Goose Goslin did so in 1934, also while playing for the Tigers, and also in a game the Tigers won, 4-1. Although his power numbers were down, with only 12 home runs all season, Martínez posted his best career batting average (.330, good for fourth best in the American League) and had his fourth career 100 RBI season (103). He also led the Major Leagues in batting average with runners in scoring position, hitting .394.
Martínez tore his anterior cruciate ligament during off-season training in Lakeland, Florida and missed the entire 2012 season. On March 12, Martínez was placed on the 60-day disabled list. On June 22, owner Mike Ilitch optimistically reported that Martínez's rehab was progressing better than expected, and speculated that he might rejoin the Detroit Tigers in August or September. However, on August 17, athletic trainer Kevin Rand officially announced that Martínez would in fact not return for the 2012 season, and that his rehab would instead target a return in 2013.
Martínez started slowly in 2013. Through the end of June, he was hitting just .232. From July 1 onward, however, he hit at a .367 clip, contributing to a final line of .301, 14 home runs and 83 RBIs. It marked the sixth season that Martínez topped .300, and he also set career highs in hits (182) and at-bats (605).
Entering the 2014 season, new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus indicated that he wanted Martínez to be prepared to catch, particularly during interleague games in a national league ballpark where there is no designated hitter. Victor had the best statistical year of his career in 2014, setting career highs in several hitting categories.
April 23, 2014, Victor singled in the ninth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox for his 1,500th career hit. On July 6, Martínez was selected in the player voting to participate in his fifth AL All-Star game, and his first as a Tiger. Martínez did not participate in the All-Star game due to side soreness, and was replaced by teammate Ian Kinsler. In a game against the New York Yankees on August 27, Martínez hit his 26th home run of the 2014 season, establishing a new career high. His previous high mark was 25 home runs for the Cleveland Indians in 2007.
Martínez was named the American League Player of the Month for August 2014. Martínez tied for the Major League lead in hits with 41 in the month, along with a .350 batting average in 31 games. Martínez slugged at a .547 clip in August, hitting six home runs and driving in a league-leading 30 runs. He also had 14 multi-hit games and was third in the AL in on-base percentage (.442) thanks to 19 walks.
Martínez finished the 2014 regular season with a career-high .335 batting average (second best in the American League), 33 doubles and 103 RBI, while setting career highs with 188 hits and 32 home runs. He led the major leagues in OPS (.974) and intentional walks (28), and also led the American League with a .409 on-base percentage. Victor led the Tigers with 70 walks, and struck out only 42 times. He became the third player since 1990 to have 30 or more home runs, and 42 or fewer strikeouts, following Barry Bonds in 2004 and Gary Sheffield in 1992, and the first Tiger to do so since 1901. Martínez was 93-for-276 with two strikes, a .337 average, the second best two-strike average since 1914. On November 4, 2014, the BBWAA announced that Martínez was one of the three finalists for the American League MVP Award, along with Michael Brantley and Mike Trout. He finished second to Trout in the voting. On November 6, 2014, it was announced that Martínez won his second Silver Slugger Award, as the top-hitting American League designated hitter. Martínez was awarded the Edgar Martínez Award for 2014.
Martinez became a free agent after the 2014 season. On November 12, 2014, the Tigers re-signed Martínez to a four-year, $68 million contract.
On February 5, 2015, it was announced that Martínez had suffered a torn medial meniscus in his left knee during offseason workouts. Martínez underwent successful surgery on his knee, and was expected to rejoin the team by the start of the regular season. Martínez did start the season, but reaggravated the left knee injury a couple weeks into April and began to struggle at the plate. In a game on May 18, Martínez landed clumsily at first base while running out a ground ball, tweaking the knee again. The Tigers put him on the 15-day Disabled List the next day. At the time, Victor was hitting .216 with just four extra-base hits (3 doubles, 1 home run) in 111 at-bats. He hit particularly poorly from the left side (.141 average in 85 at-bats), being unable to put weight on his back knee without pain. Victor returned to the Tiger lineup on June 19 in a game against the New York Yankees.
On September 23, 2015, Martínez hit his 200th career home run, against Frankie Montas of the Chicago White Sox, becoming the sixth Venezuelan to reach the milestone. The injury-marred 2015 season led to a career-low .245 batting average with his worst-ever left/right splits. For the season, Martinez hit .348 as a right-handed batter, but just .219 as a left-hander. He had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.4 feet/second.
On April 6, 2016, Martínez became the first player in modern Major League history to hit a pinch-hit home run in his team's first two regular-season games of the season. He was the first player to do so since at least 1914, and the only player to achieve this feat hitting one home run from each side of the plate. On April 20, Martínez recorded his 1,000th career RBI, becoming the fifth Venezuelan-born player in MLB history to reach the milestone.
Martínez was named the American League Player of the Week for the week ending May 1, 2016. Martinez batted .519 (14-for-27) for the week with three home runs, five doubles, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. It was the first Player of the Week award for Martínez since May 15, 2011, and his fifth award overall. On May 11 against the Washington Nationals during Max Scherzer's 20-strikeout game, Martínez went a perfect 5-for-5. On June 16 against the Kansas City Royals, Martinez hit three home runs in a game for the second time in his career. The first two came from the right side of the plate against Royals starter Danny Duffy, and the third was hit from the left side against reliever Chien-Ming Wang. Victor's only other three-homer game came on July 16, 2004 against the Seattle Mariners. Martínez became the first Tigers player to hit a home run from each side of the plate in the same game since Carlos Guillén in 2009.
Martinez finished the 2016 season with a .289 batting average, 27 home runs and 86 RBI. He had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.6 feet/second.
On June 15, 2017, Martínez was replaced with a pinch runner in the seventh inning after complaining about a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and cold sweats. He ended up hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat and was placed on the 10-day disabled list the next day.
On July 7, Martínez recorded his 2,000th career hit with a single off Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians, becoming the ninth active player to reach the milestone.
On August 27, Martínez was again placed on the 10-day disabled list due to the irregular heartbeat symptoms returning. On September 2, it was revealed that Martínez would undergo cardiovascular surgery due to his irregular heartbeat, effectively ending his 2017 season. He played in 107 games in 2017, hitting .255 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs. He had the second-slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.6 feet/second.
Having undergone successful cardiovascular surgery and treatment, Martínez participated in a full 2018 spring training and began the season as the Tigers' designated hitter. After struggling much of the 2018 season, Martínez stated on August 15 that 2018 would more than likely be his last in major league baseball. He said that he was just going to enjoy the last six weeks, and then go home to his cattle ranch in central Florida, where he now lives. The Cleveland Indians, where Martínez started his career and played for eight seasons, honored him before a game on September 15 in one of his last games in Cleveland before his announced retirement. The Tigers announced on September 19 that they would have a ceremony for him before the game on September 22. Martínez then announced that the game would be his final one so that he would take his last at-bat in front of his home crowd. After the pre-game ceremony, Martínez started the game at first base for the first time since 2016 at his request. He then beat out an infield single in his final at-bat in the bottom of the first inning, and was replaced with a pinch runner. As he walked off the field, he was greeted by teammates and two players from the Kansas City Royals gave him a hug.
In his final season, Martinez hit .251 with 9 home runs and 54 RBI. He had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league designated hitters, at 23.2 feet/second. When he retired in 2018, he was 7th of all active players in RBIs (1,178) and intentional walks (119).