Edgar and the Battle for Cooperstown
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:
"“Since World War II only Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Frank Thomas have finished their careers with OBPs higher than Martinez’s .418.” — Rosenthal"
"“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 lengthy 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 Jim Presley from third 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.