Will Edgar Martinez hear his name called Tuesday afternoon when MLB Network announces the 2019 Hall of Fame inductees?
This is Martinez’s 10th and final year on the ballot and if he doesn’t earn the 75 percent of votes needed for enshrinement he’d have to take his chances later on with the Today’s Game Era Committee.
Martinez fell just short of induction last year with 70.4 percent, and it should be noted that since 1966, 19 of 20 candidates who received at least 70 percent of the vote and had eligibility remaining were elected the following year. Jim Bunning was the lone exception, but he was ultimately elected by the Veterans Committee.
So prepare your speech, Edgar.
Here’s a look at five reasons why he should be among the game’s greats in the Hall of Fame:
1. Right-handed Hoss
Did you know only six right-handed hitters in the modern era have compiled a career slash line of at least .310/.410/.510 (batting average/on-base percentage, slugging percentage)?
One is, you guessed it, Martinez. The others are Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Harry Heilmann, Rogers Hornsby and Manny Ramirez.
When Martinez converted to full-time DH in 1995 and won his second American League batting title, he was the first right-handed hitting, two-time AL batting champ since Joe DiMaggio – who did that in 1940.
Voters have knocked Martinez in the past for his lack of counting numbers. But since the expansion era (after 1961), four right-handed hitters have compiled at least 2,000 hits, 500 doubles, 300 home runs, 1,200 RBI and 1,200 walks. One is Martinez, the others are Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.
Martinez didn’t play his first full major-league season until he was 27 (and that wasn’t all his fault). But when he got rolling, he was rolling. Five players have gone at least six consecutive seasons batting .320/.420/.550 or better – they are Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Hornsby and … Martinez.
Now that’s company.
One more – Martinez had two seasons with at least 25 home runs, 50 doubles and 100 walks, which speaks to his keen plate discipline as well as his power. Every Hall of Famer combined has two such seasons (Gehrig did it in 1927 and Stan Musial in 1953).
2. His peers say so
What did some of the other greats of the game say about Martinez?
Start with the pitchers.
Pedro Martinez: “The toughest guy I faced I think – with all due respect to all the players in the league – was Edgar Martinez. He had to make me throw at least 13 fastballs above 95 … Edgar was a guy that had the ability to foul off pitches, and it pissed me off because I couldn’t get the guy out.”
Dennis Eckersley: “Edgar Martinez – one of the greatest right-handed hitters who ever lived.”
Randy Johnson: “Edgar Martinez is, hands down, the best hitter that I’ve ever seen … he is the best pure hitter that I got to see on a nightly basis.”
Mariano Rivera: “The toughest – and thank God he retired – Edgar Martinez. … I think every pitcher will say that.”
Ron Darling: “There are three hitters I think of in my career that you could not get out in any way. They really dictated the at-bats. That was Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, both Hall of Famers, and Edgar Martinez.”
Jack Morris: “He was a hell of a good hitter.”
How about other hitters?
David Ortiz: “I remember when I was coming up, I used to watch a guy like Edgar hit and I was like, ‘This is ridiculous’ … When you’re a career .312 hitter at this level, that means you pretty much got everything down.”
Jorge Posada: “He was the best hitter I’ve ever seen. He was tough to get out. He was prepared.”
Ken Griffey Jr.: “Edgar deserves to be in (the Hall of Fame) … he was one of the most feared hitters in the game for 10-plus years.”
Paul Molitor: “He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long time in this league. The amount of respect he has from his peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was.”
Mike Scioscia: “In my mind, he’s a Hall of Famer. I think he’s the Tony Perez of our generation. If you talk about a guy who consistently hit the ball hard on an at-bat by at-bat basis, Edgar is in an elite group.”
Dusty Baker: “A professional, quiet, humble giant. And one of the best right-handed hitters ever seen.”
Lou Piniella: “Best DH of all time. A classy person. He’s got Hall of Fame numbers … one of the best right-handed hitters I’ve seen.”
3. Respect the DH
During Martinez’s retirement ceremony at Safeco Field in 2004, then-commissioner Bud Selig announced MLB was renaming the league’s top DH award the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.
So if there is a DH in the Hall of Fame, shouldn’t it be the one who was so dominant they named an award after him?
Wins above replacement (WAR) factors defensive contributions and knocks players for their lack of it. So Martinez’s career WAR already factors a career spent mostly at DH.
But consider this: from 1995-2001 (age 32-38 for Martinez), his WAR ranked just behind Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Ken Griffey Jr., and just ahead of Sammy Sosa. Martinez was at 40.7, Griffey at 41.1.
So, yes, just barely behind Griffey, who won an MVP and four Gold Gloves during that stretch.
4. Mariners icon
There’s the award, but there’s also Edgar Martinez Drive, Edgar’s Cantina, his retired jersey number. T-Mobile Park is decorated in tokens of a beloved player who played the entirety of his 18-year career with the Mariners.
He was there for it all. But while Mariners history has been littered with a lot of bad, Martinez was part of just about all of the good – their first playoff run in 1995, then 1997, 2000 and the 116-win 2001 season. Even while Griffey, Johnson and Rodriguez left, Martinez was there.
He’s still the co-holder of the record for most hits in a Division Series, when he went 12-for-21 in the Mariners’ 3-2 ALDS victory over the Yankees. He had The Double, which scored Ken Griffey Jr. for the walk-off run in the 11th inning of the decisive Game 5.
That hit is credited with generating the supported needed for the Mariners to secure a new taxpayer-funded stadium. It’s simply the most famous hit in Mariners history.
5. Overcoming adversity
Martinez never imagined growing up in Puerto Rico and idolizing Roberto Clemente that about 40 years later he’d earn the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the player who best represents baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions, on and off the field.
He was the first Puerto Rican to receive the award.
Before that he honed his swing as a teenager in Maguayo with a broomstick, hitting balls, rocks, bottle caps, Christmas ornaments or drops of water.
When he was 20 he was supervising a furniture store with a night job at a General Electric factory while taking classes at American University in San Juan before Mariners scout Marty Martinez noticed him playing semipro ball on the weekends.
Even after that, and being old by prospect standards, and after winning his two batting titles, he then battled a serious vision abnormality called strabismus. His right eye had drifted out of alignment. In 1999 he found his career hanging in the balance before Mariners eye specialist, Dr. Douglas Nikaitani, helped him develop exercises to aid his depth perception.
Harold Reynolds played with Martinez from 1987-92 with the Mariners, yet he said he never knew his teammate’s eyesight was as bad as it was.
“I spent time in the same batting group even and all that stuff,” he said. “That just blows me away, especially the hours he spent doing all his eye exercises just to be ready to play one game.”
For all of that, why shouldn’t Martinez be headed for Cooperstown?