So it's a typical Tuesday night game. Joba Chamberlain has just given up an insurance run to the Pirates, so it's a 4-2 game in the bottom of the eighth. There are two outs and Victor Martinez is on base (but not being pinch run for), but the situation still seems bleak.
It's J.D. Martinez as bat though, so this thing is far from over. He could OH MAN THERE THAT BALL GOES HE DID IT AGAIN MARTINEZ YOU BEAST OF A MAN.
I may not have yelled that, but it was pretty close. And that's how I almost missed possibly the most monumental call of the game, if not the season.
Watch this MLB.com video because it's awesome. Watching Martinez hit that shot is probably the correct way to wake up in the morning (Ed.: or afternoon. Whoops). Then watch it again. This time pay close attention to the words of Rod Allen.
Like Rod, I thought we'd never live to see the day again, but it has arrived. J.D. Martinez is Country Strong.
Marcus Thames made his Detroit debut in 2004. He had 184 plate appearances with the team and hit home runs in ten of those. Marcus would go on to hit 26 in 2006, 18 in 2007, and 25 more in 2008, holding a steady isolated power between .250 and .300 all three years in limited time. He was, in essence, the quintessential power bat off of the bench.
At some point Rod Allen took notice of Thames' prodigious power. In exulting over a mammoth shot, Rod would call Marcus 'Country Strong." At some point, the name stuck. Even while Thames fades into the gray area of the past, we will still be able to remember him as Country Strong. In that way, Rod gave Thames the greatest gift an announcer can give: a legacy.
We all know when Rod gets on a shtick he has a tendency to overdo it, which is part of what made Country Strong so special. When Thames left Detroit to become a Yankee in 2010, Rod declared that he would retire the nickname. No longer would we hear Mario and Rod giggle over the sheer ridiculousness of a dinger by calling it Country Strong. Rod maintained this policy for years. Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince FIelder have all hit mammoth shots over the years, but Rod stayed true to his word for five long seasons.
Let's go back to 2015. J.D. Martinez has been on an absolute tear recently, hitting 11 homers in the month of June. His own special brand of hitting late inning dingers has already become the type of legend where we're all starting to get over the fear of him turning into a right field pumpkin any day now. He's on pace for 40 home runs and playing his way into both the All Star Game and a top ten finish in the MVP vote. Maybe it was just a matter of time. After of all, Rod hinted this was coming on Twitter.
It still was very jolting to hear Rod bestow the title upon Martinez (almost regretfully, like he knew he'd be letting Thames down by doing this) today. No doubt, J.D. is one of the strongest players in today's game, but this is a whole new level that most assuredly has more meaning than the Silver Slugger. From now on, Martinez must bear the mantle of being the dinger guy who flips balls in Comerica's stands without putting in effort. It's a lot of pressure to put on a guy basically 12 months into the whole "Oh hey, I'm good at baseball" thought process. Will Martinez bear the pressure?
After all, to be a great player, you must be both physically and mentally Country Strong.