Edgar Martinez, who was unquestionably one of the best hitters over a 12-year stretch, and arguably over the entirety of baseball history, came up short for election in his fourth try. He shouldn’t feel too bad, as for just the eighth time in history, everyone else came up short as well. On a ballot filled with eligible stars from the steroid era, Martinez received 35.9% of the votes (204 votes total) and no one got more than Craig Biggio’s 68.2%. In his first three tries on the ballot, Martinez saw similar support, receiving 36.2%, 32.9% and 36.5% of votes. Martinez has 11 more tries to gain the requisite 75.0% of votes before he would be removed from the ballot.
Martinez was an All-Star seven times and won five Silver Slugger Awards. He is one of just 10 players in the history of Major League Baseball to have career marks of a .300 or better batting average, .400 or better on-base percentage, .500 of better slugging percentage, 300 or more home runs, 500 or more doubles and more than 1,000 walks. Edgar also counts as one of only 24 players in baseball history to have eight or more seasons with an OPS+ of 150 or greater.
Losing out on the MVP award in 1995 to a clearly inferior season (albeit on a better team) from the Red Sox Mo Vaughn clearly doesn’t help Martinez’s Hall of Fame case. Both Seattle and Boston had three players (two position players and a pitcher) receive votes in the MVP balloting in 1995, a season that saw 21 players earn support in the voting in the American League. It is possible that Martinez actually lost the MVP that year because of great seasons that were enjoyed by his teammates who helped propel Seattle to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in a year where they were mostly without a healthy Ken Griffey, Jr. -- at the time widely considered one of the best two or three players in all of baseball. Boston had six players who out-OPS’d the league that season (OPS+ of better than 100) while Seattle had five. But while the Mariners had two other players -- right fielder Jay Buhner and pitcher Randy Johnson (who did win his first Cy Young award that year) -- finish in the Top-6 in the balloting for MVP that season, Boston’s next highest finisher was John Valentin at eighth. Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield placed 13th.
This year’s list of eligible Hall of Famers included at least 20 candidates -- with seven of those being first timers -- who had reasonable arguments for inclusion on a Hall of Fame voter’s ballot. And with each voter having a limit of 10 votes to cast, it appears that the votes got cast a little thin on many players. The Official BBWAA website also notes that there were five blank ballots returned and that only 3,756 out of a possible 5,690 (66%) of votes in all were allotted to eligible players.
The primary knock against Edgar’s career is that he was “only a Designated Hitter”. Martinez did play roughly 71% of his career games as the M’s DH after being moved off of third base following injury issues, but he wouldn’t be the first player elected to the Hall of Fame who reached the level of a Hall of Fame player while DHing. Paul Molitor started over 44% of his career games as a DH and that was his primary position from 1991 on, when Molitor three times lead the American League in Hits. Molitor collected 1,449 of his 3,319 career hits during that 8-year stretch while playing over 85% of his games as a DH to finish his great career. During that stretch he increased his AVG, OBP and SLG numbers markedly. Molitor’s counting stats -- most notably his hits total -- are much higher than Martinez’s as he broke in as a regular at age 21 and played 21 years in MLB, but Martinez actually has a significant edge over Molitor in AVG, OBP and SLG as well as most other rate stats.
Edgar was passed up by Ichiro Suzuki as the Mariners’ franchise leader in hits a few seasons ago, but he still remains at or near the top in a number of single season and career offensive categories for Seattle, including Games, Hits, Runs, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS and more.
The 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot gets even more crowded with more great players and the odds will continue to be stacked against Martinez over his remaining chances on the ballot. But his greatness at the plate -- regardless of what position he achieved that greatness from -- deserves recognition.
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