Much has been written in the last month about Edgar Martinez‘s fourth bid for the Hall of Fame. Here at SoDo Mojo, we’ve examined everything from Martinez’s playoff contributions in ’95 to his 139 wRC+ and minor league career. Today, let’s take a look at the votes Edgar has received so far—and what the voters are saying about him.
According to Baseball Think Factory’s running tally, there have been 74 ballots disclosed to the public to date. While nominees like Craig Biggio, Tim Raines, Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell garner the most support, Martinez has been named on roughly 31.1% of known ballots. Keep in mind, of course, that there are still 101 ballots outstanding, and about 432 votes are needed for induction.
Edgar’s supporters range from Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone to FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal. The most common reasons cited are his .312/.418/.515 career slash line, 300 home runs, 500 doubles, and an overwhelming rejection of the stigma attached to the DH role. Here’s how they put it:
“Why Martinez? Because it might be time for Hall of Fame voters to admit that designated hitters are ballplayers, too.” — Garry Brown, MassLive.com
“Critics say he was mostly a designated hitter. Correct – and big deal. He wouldn’t have been a DH-only had his knees cooperated. But it hardly matters.” — Lynn Henning, The Detroit News
“Yes, he was a designated hitter, but the last time we looked, the DH has been an integral part of the AL since Rom Blomberg in 1973. And Edgar is the best DH of all time.” — Peter Gammons, MLB.com
“Martinez was such a good offensive player, putting together a .933 OPS and 147 OPS+ over 18 seasons, that he overcomes the visceral and statistical bias against him being primarily a designated hitter.” –Ken Davidoff, New York Post
“I know, he was mostly a DH. But what a DH (maybe the best ever) and one of the best right-handed hitters of his era, period.” — Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports
Additionally, Edgar’s on-base percentage seems to have caught a fair amount of attention, prompting two tidbits from Rosenthal and Cleveland Indians beat writer Jim Ingraham:
“Excluding steroid guys and players from the 1800s, when the rules were different, only two players since 1901 have had a higher on-base percentage than Martinez’s .479 in 1995 and not been voted into the Hall of Fame.” — Ingraham
However, not everyone is convinced. In a ballot bogged down with steroids accusations and, alternately, filled with some of baseball’s hottest hitters, Martinez is pushed toward the bottom of the list with argument against the brevity of his career and the padded numbers he earned as a designated hitter.
“Martinez will always be a borderline Hall of Fame case, where there will be compelling arguments both for and against in years to come,” writes The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker. “I remain open to new arguments in his favor.” But Baker, who is chief among the anti-Edgar voters, has penned length articles that suggest otherwise. His reasons for lobbying against the Mariners’ icon can be boiled down to the following: despite Edgar’s outstanding “rate stats,” his failure to reach popular benchmarks (3,000 hits, 500 home runs) and contribute on the field could—and should—be weighed heavily against his case for Cooperstown.
There may be no changing Geoff’s mind, unless it involves time travel and the ability to convince Dick Williams to boot Alvin Davis from first base and give Edgar a shot. That said, one of the great and frustrating things about the Hall of Fame selection process is its subjectivity. We can only hope that the remaining 574 voters find a way to commemorate the greatest designated hitter in major league history.
I wrote this article here originally for my own blog last January after, once again, Edgar Martinez failed to garner even 50% of the Hall-of-Fame votes. As another vote looms, the words I wrote a year ago hold true.
The Hall-of-Fame is an interesting place. A place with a seemingly unwritten set of rules. A place where the career leader in hits cannot be found, where a guy who hit 70 home runs in one season and 583 HR in his career garners only 20% of possible votes, where the player with the third-best career average of all time is absent.
If we’re trying to identify that mysterious set of rules, the examples above prove that stats aren’t everything when it comes to the qualifications for entry. Ethics and morality come into play. Character. In a word, fame. While the kindest, most sincere player won’t make the Hall based solely on legends of his goodwill to baseballkind, a perceived asshole or cheater with all the right stats won’t either. In reality, it probably should be called the Hall of 75.7%-Stats-17.2%-Gut-and-9.7%-Fame*.
*You savvy numbers people out there may have just realized that doesn’t add to 100%. Reader, meet the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Edgar has been downgraded by most for being a DH. Others have knocked him for his relatively short career and short peak compared to other HOFers. These are really the main two objections, so let’s get right to ‘em.
Longevity. Edgar became a full-time player in 1990 and retired after the 2004 season, giving him 15 seasons of action. Without looking through every HOFer, I would bet the average HOF career is significantly longer than 15 years. Probably 20+. But get this: Edgar played in the minor leagues for significant chunks of six seasons before he was called up for good, and those weren’t six years of futility. Here are his minor league statistics from AA and AAA (and then his overall totals), courtesy of Baseball Reference:
Who the hell keeps a guy with those numbers down in AAA?!? In 1987, in his 24-year-old season in AAA-Calgary, you can see that Edgar hit .329 with an OBP of .434. He walked nearly twice as much as he struck out. Yet he was left to the minors for much of the next two seasons, getting 548 minor league plate appearances and only 234 in the show. I have to believe that any other corner infielder putting up those numbers at age 24 in AAA got a chance in the majors…like the very next game, maybe. His defense may have been atrocious–I don’t know–but it couldn’t have been as bad as that of Ryan Braun when he was called up in 2007 at the age of 23.
Oh, but you say, “He did have a chance! He got at bats in each of 1987, 88 and 89!” Yes he did. A whopping 280 PAs, with a .268 average and a .336 OBP. Wanna guess the American League averages during the 1988 season? .259 / .324. At the time he was playing both first and third for the Ms, hitting above the league clip in both batting average and OBP, and yet he was sent right back down to Tacoma every time until 1990.
Edgar put together 21 seasons of professional baseball, with the majority of 6 seasons coming in the minors. While we don’t make arguments for implementing other players’ minor league stats, this is clearly a unique case. In his first full MLB season, 1990, Edgar came to the plate 570 times and slashed .302/.397/.433. Yeah, a .397 OBP for a rookie. I think we can be fairly confident that he was ready to do that two seasons earlier. If counting stats and longevity are keeping him out of the Hall, how much is he being punished for the ineptitude of the Mariner’s front office?
Even without taking into account Seattle’s mismanagement of his early years, Edgar has precedents in the Hall already. Duke Snider played 16 seasons once he was called up for good. Sandy Koufax pitched 10 seasons after first recording at least 100 innings in a season. Relatively short careers have made the Hall of Fame in cases where that player dominated his era.
Snider’s career wRC+ was 139. Basically that just means he was 39% better than the average hitter. He recorded top seasons of 169, 165, 164, and 156. The great thing about this stat is that it is adjusted for both ball park and time period so that I can accurately compare players relative to their peers. Edgar Martinez averaged a wRC+ of 148 over his entire career–that’s 48% better than a bunch of roided out sluggers–and he recorded top seasons of 184, 169, 165 and 165. Power was never Edgar’s primary weapon, but we can easily see that he made up for it in other ways.
This brings us to the discussion of his DH-yness. Many critics have rightly pointed out that to be a HOFer and a DH, one has to set himself apart as a hitter even more so than a position player. He has to really dominate as a hitter during his career. Unfortunately there is no precedent for a full-time DH with Edgar’s skill set. Many DHs don’t move into that role until they are past their primes, so simply comparing him to other DHs straight up wouldn’t be fair. Edgar got to play DH during his prime. Let’s see how he did in comparison to other key players of his era. To be fair, I am going to look at the best stretches of 4, 6, 8, and 10 years, plus career numbers.
|Player||4 Years||wRC+||Player||8 Years||wRC+|
|Player||6 Years||wRC+||Player||10 Years||wRC+|
For their careers, Thomas hit 154, Edgar 148, and Sheffield 141 (wRC+).
Frank Thomas is almost certainly a HOFer, while Gary Sheffield may never quite get that 75%. Edgar’s offensive production was nestled right between those two for all the best stretches of their respective careers. Is that good enough to overcome his role as DH? I used Thomas as a comparison because he played a little DH later in his career, played the least-demanding position on the diamond for the rest of his career, and played that position quite poorly based on most defensive statistics available. Add in that Edgar lost at least two seasons of MLB at bats because his team somehow missed all the signs of potential, and perhaps his counting stats also inch closer to those of Thomas.
I admit that this evidence is not 100% compelling, though I hope it at least serves to summarize Edgar’s amazing accomplishments with the bat. Edgar is a borderline Hall-of-Famer, and I believe he is significantly closer than the 36.5% of yes-votes he received last year. If, at this point, you are still wishy-washy on the matter, consider the “fame” part of the implicit requirements. Edgar always seemed like one of the more personable players in the league, though I obviously saw his interviews far more than those of other players. He made funny commercials, and more importantly he was never linked to steroid use.
But his most famous accomplishments occurred in 1995. Hiroshi Yamauchi and gang bought the Mariners in 1992, but threatened to sell the team after the 1995 season if public funding was not made available for a new stadium. On September 19th, 1995, King County voted against a sales tax increase to help fund the new stadium. A sale was imminent, and the potential for relocation was probably high (see: Seattle Super Sonics).
On the night of the vote, the Ms beat Texas 5-4 in eleven innings to pull within one game of the division-leading Angels. Edgar quietly went about his business, going 1 for 3 with two walks. Seattle went on to win 8 of its last 11 games, clinching its first AL West Division title in a one-game playoff against the Angels. In those 11 games, Edgar hit a scintillating .405/.447/.548.
In their first playoff berth ever, the Mariners drew the New York Yankees in the Division Series, and quickly fell behind 2-0. After a gutsy 7-5 win in game three, Edgar took over the series. In game 4, he hit two bombs and knocked in seven, helping the Mariners outscore the powerful Yankees 11-8. Game 5 saw the Ms fall into a 4-2 hole late before a Griffey homer in the 8th and a bases-loaded walk from Doug Strange in the 9th knotted the game up at 4. Randy Johnson valiantly pitched extra innings on short rest, but gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the eleventh. Score: 4-5.
Then, in a half-inning I have probably watched 137 times, Joey Cora led off with a drag bunt single down the first base line, narrowly avoiding Mattingly’s tag. The Kid followed it up with a single to center setting the stage for Edgar.
Strike one. Looking, of course.
Then the 0-1 pitch…(this is where you watch that video again). The late Dave Niehaus commentates the Double that saved baseball in Seattle. I, unfortunately, only have access to Brent Musberger’s call.
Though the Ms lost in the ALCS to the Indians, on October 14th a special session of the state legislature was called to come to an agreement about funding. On October 23rd, just 34 days after shooting down one proposal, King County voters approved a plan to help fund a new stadium, and today the Mariners can be found in Seattle, Washington playing at Safeco Field.
If fame makes any difference to the Hall of Fame, I’d say it’s about time to break precedent and add the greatest DH of all time, Edgar Martinez.
And yes, there is more than one.
Edgar Martínez heads the list of four Hall of Fame candidates in the 2013 race for induction, four players who once graced a Mariners lineup and whom, aside from Gar, we have largely forgotten about: Jose Mesa, Aaron Sele, and Jeff Cirillo.
First, there is Edgar. Statistically speaking, he is one of the greatest hitters in Mariners history, with a career batting line of .312/.418/.515 and 64.4 bWAR over 18 major league seasons in Seattle. He propelled the ’95 team to the most memorable playoff run in franchise history, leading MLB in games played (145), OBP (.479), OPS (1.107), OPS+ (185), doubles (52), and Doubles (1). Following his retirement in 2004, the Mariners commemorated his accomplishments with Edgar Martínez Drive, a spot in the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, and now, a restaurant overlooking left field.
Unlike Martínez, the next three Mariners were neither as beloved or as long-tenured. Right-handed reliever Jose Mesa arrived in 1999, recording a 5.18 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, and 34 saves (33 in 1999, 1 in 2000) over two brief seasons in Seattle. When Googled, his name returns the saddest of apology letters, penned by a Seattle Times writer in the fall of 2000:
“You know how people who fear riding in elevators can get over their fear by spending hours in them, riding up and down and discovering nothing bad happens?
That’s kind of what it has been like for Seattle baseball fans this year. It has taken a while to realize how good you guys are. It has taken all of these months to get over this “Pen”-aphobia.
You muted the boos with your resolve. You silenced your critics with your heat. You won over a city that had left you for dead.
Seattle owes you and, my guess is, you will hear its gratitude the first time Piniella calls on you at home in the American League Championship Series.”
Mesa was called upon during the 2000 ALCS, though not with the resolve and heat Steve Kelley had suggested. Over 4.1 innings of relief, he delivered five hits, six earned runs, and three walks to the New York Yankees, who clinched the series in six games and later won their 26th World Series championship.
Aaron Sele, another right-handed pitcher and Washington native, signed on with the Mariners as Jose packed his bags for Philadelphia. Aaron made a favorable impression in his first round with the Mariners, posting a 32-15 record, three shutouts, and, in 2001, his lowest ERA (3.60) in six seasons. Upon returning to Seattle in 2005, however, his performance plummeted to a career-low of 12 losses and a 5.66 ERA. As Bob Finnigan captioned the starter’s decline: “Sele Gets Thumped, Mariners Dumped.”
Between the rollercoaster of Sele’s starts, one final Hall of Fame candidate made a mark in Mariners’ history: third baseman Jeff Cirillo. It’s probably not a good sign that the most recent article bearing Cirillo’s name compares him to the recently-removed Chone Figgins:
“As a Mariner, Cirillo posted a 64 OPS+, and he went from disappointing to booed to benched. As a Mariner, Figgins has posted a 68 OPS+, and he’s gone from disappointing to booed to benched.”
The comparison is not far off. Of Seattle’s third basemen, Jeff’s .234/.295/.308 batting line falls near the bottom of the list, only slightly better than Chone’s .227/.302/.283. However paltry his offensive contributions, Jeff made an impact with his glove, finishing fourth among third basemen in 2002 with an 11.1 UZR. In 2003, his UZR dropped to just 1.4.
Thankfully, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America takes far more into account when evaluating Hall of Fame nominees than the size of their contributions to the Seattle Mariners. For more information on this year’s candidates, check out the full ballot at Baseball-Reference.com. And, if you’re interested in furthering Edgar Martínez’s HoF campaign, stop by his Facebook page or use the hashtag #EdgarHOF on Twitter.
Statistics provided by Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
The newest alteration to Safeco Field’s offseason facelift is Edgar’s, an open-air restaurant honoring Seattle legend and Hall of Fame nominee Edgar Martinez.
Where the Flying Turtle Cantina once offered fans delicious tortas and a narrow view of the field under sections 151 and 152, Edgar’s promises a ‘Pen-like atmosphere and the chance to snag a home run ball from the newly-drawn fences.
The menu will provide similar cuisine to its predecessor, with a few changes (noted by MLB.com’s Greg Johns):
“The restaurant will have a “South of the Border” flavor and will feature occasional appearances by the Mariners’ Hall of Famer and also include the mezcal liquor, Zac, that Martinez has been marketing the last two years in partnership with hair salon mogul Gene Juarez.”
If this is all a little hard to visualize, here are before and after shots, with a detailed rendering provided by the Mariners’ official Twitter account:
Edgar’s is scheduled to open just in time for Opening Day on April 8, 2013.
It’s times like these where I ask myself, for the umpteenth time, “what qualifies being a true fan?” My beloved Seattle Mariners, the love of my life (minus every pretty girl I happen to pass by on the street), are dying a slow and painful death. The 2010 season began with hopes high and expectations higher, and 40 games in, both have crashed down to earth like Icarus, the team a broken shell of what it was meant to be. Jack Zduriencik, our brilliant leader, is stuck between a rock and a hard place; he must improve the team in any way possible, but he must also deal with the emotional attachment issues held by the fans and the team ownership to their former star-turned-albatross.
I never loved Ken Griffey, Jr. like others did. I was three years old when the Kid raced home on Edgar’s famous Double, sending the M’s to the AL Championship. I went to my first Mariners game in 2001, by which point Griffey had taken off for Cincinnati. By all accounts, I’m a rookie of a Mariners fan. When the surefire Hall-of-Famer returned to Seattle for one final season, I took on the city’s excitement, despite the glaring fact that I hadn’t been around for the Griffey years. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. Throughout my short tenure as a Mariners fan, I never had a hero. I mean no offense to the incomparable Ichiro, but I wanted someone like Albert Pujols —- an all-around phenom —- on the team I loved, even though I knew full well that the Kid’s glory days were over. Ken Griffey, Jr. embodies the oddly romantic notion of the falling (and now fallen) star, and I was all too happy to embrace him, like the grandfather I never knew I had.
And now Griffey has overstayed his welcome, has posted a .449 OPS, and constitutesProxy-Connection: keep-alive
huge part of the Mariners’ 2010 implosion. But, through it all, I still like the guy and root for him to succeed. And I don’t understand it. The Mariners are 14-26, hopelessly mired in the AL West cellar yet again, score less than four runs on a regular basis, and I still turn on the radio every night to listen to the game. And I don’t understand it.
So why do I love Ken Griffey, Jr? And why do I love the Seattle Mariners? Can the geographic proximity of myself to Safeco Field really conjure up such a massive affinity for a professional sports franchise? Is it simply the presence of the word “Seattle” in the team’s name that gives me a sense of pure elation elation when they win and a sense of deep-rooted anger when they lose? And why is it that when I convince myself that there is no rational way that I should continue paying attention to this flailing mess of a baseball team, I still find myself spending three hours that night watching the team lose yet another by way of walk-off to their division rivals?
Jeff Sullivan recently wrote a Game Recap on Lookout Landing where he admitted that he had crossed the line from anger into indifference (or as he calls it, observation) with respect to the Seattle Mariners, at least for right now. I’m not sure where I am on that scale, but I’m not ready to give up on the team just yet (not to say that Jeff is). However many times I speak the words, “I give up,” or “this team is hopeless,” I realize that I just want the team to succeed that much more. I will never truly give up on the 2010 Seattle Mariners —- because I am emotionally incapable of doing so. Rationally, I want Sean White to lock himself in his closet and swallow the key, for Chone Figgins to take a class on how to hit a God damn baseball, and for Don Wakamatsu to learn how to fill out a lineup card like a human being with a IQ above 7; honestly, the myriad of issues with and under-performances by this team makes me want to hang up my sabermetric cleats and find some other team or sport to obsess over. But I can’t. I have to watch the Mariners and care about the Mariners and think about the Mariners because I don’t know what I would do otherwise.
I don’t know why I still watch the Mariners, and I probably will never understand the underlying psychological reasons why. But I do know that I love this team, and if they fail miserably, I will be right there with them.
At least Icarus has someone to keep him company as he falls.