Former Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez is back on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the third consecutive year, and his former ballclub has compiled a veritable encyclopedia of arguments/reasons why the most popular player in franchise history warrants serious Cooperstown consideration.
The Mariners’ prodigious efforts in this regard come as little surprise since, in the past two years, Edgar’s candidacy has been fairly trampled upon by a legion of critics who argue that Martinez did not achieve most, if not all, of the “magical” or “meaningful” career statistical milestones, specifically 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, standards by which Hall of Fame candidates are routinely judged.
His Hall critics also argue that, for the better part of his 18-year career, Martinez did not subject himself to the daily grind of a position, working exclusively as a designated hitter for about 15 years of his 18-year career. The only player in the Hall of Fame now with substantial DH time is Paul Molitor, but half of his career was spent playing in the field.
If Edgar’s voting totals are an indication, his critics have made some headway. Two years ago, in his first time on the ballot, Edgar received 195 votes, or 32.6 percent (75 percent is required for induction.) But last year, Edgar saw his support sag to 191 votes, or 32.9 percent.
A year ago on another Mariners topic, the Baseball Writers Association of America, which controls the Hall of Fame vote, stepped out of the box, reversed its traditional thinking and named Felix Hernandez the American League Cy Young winner despite the fact he had a record of 13-12. The BWAA considered a wider range of sabermetric factors beyond simple won-loss and ERA, ultimately determining that Hernandez had been the best pitcher in the league.
If Edgar Martinez is going to make the Hall of Fame, now or in the future, the BWAA will need to examine his career the way it did Hernandez’s 2010 season, using some out-of-the box thinking, and by focusing on what Martinez did rather than on what he didn’t do. To wit:
Martinez had a higher on-base+slugging mark (.9333) than Hall of Famers Earl Averill (see Wayback Machine: The Earl And Pearl Of Snohomish) (.9283), Tris Speaker (.9283), Duke Snider (.9194), Mike Schmidt (.9076), Willie McCovey (.8892) and Willie Stargell (.8887).
As his critics have correctly argued, Edgar just didn’t have that one obvious mega stat to convince Hall of Fame voters — yet. Despite his decline in voting percentage last year, Edgar still has a still has a chance at Cooperstown. Last year, Bert Blyleven entered the Hall of Fame in his 14th year of eligibility.
Blyleven first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1998, receiving 17.5 percent of the vote. The next year, that figure sagged to 14.1 percent. Blyleven didn’t even get half the votes necessary for induction until 2006, his ninth year of eligibility.
Then the blogosphere assumed command, in which a campaign was mounted that created an upwell of support for a pitcher who had fanned 3,700 batters and tossed a remarkable 60 shutouts. Forced to consider new information, or reconsider old information, voters ultimately overlooked Blyleven’s so-so .544 winning percentage and award him 79.7 percent of the vote.
Even if the BWAA never warms up to Martinez, he still would have a chance at induction via the Golden Era committee (formerly Veterans Committee), which enshrined former Franklin High star Ron Santo just this week.
The Mariners tome on Edgar’s statistical superlatives points out, for example, that he is one of only nine players in major league history to have collected 300+ HR, 500+ doubles, 1000+ walks, boast an average over .300 and an on-base percentage over .400. Besides Edgar, five have been inducted in Cooperstown, with the other three still active or not yet eligible for induction.
The Mariners further point out that, among retired players since 1945 with at least 7,500 plate appearances, Martinez is one of only four with a career on-base percentage of at least .418 (also: Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Frank Thomas) and one of only eight with a career batting average of at least .312 (also: Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Musial, Kirby Puckett, Roberto Clemente and Larry Walker).
An updated graphic that Sportspress Northwest first published at about this time last year best reflects Martinez’s career. Only 17 individuals retired with a batting average above .300, an on-base percentage above .400, and a slugging percentage above .500.
This group includes such titans as Ty Cobb (.366-.433-.512), Ruth (.342-.474-.690), (.340-.447-.632) and Williams (.344-.482-.634).
This group also includes Martinez, who retired following the 2004 season with a .312 batting average, a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage.
Remarkable about the .300.-.400-.500 club is who isn’t in it. Hank Aaron isn’t in it. Neither are Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, George Brett, McCovey and Puckett, Hall of Famers all.
Whether this will sway BWAA voters toward Martinez, we can’t say. We can say that Blyleven did not pad his statistical resume one iota between 1998 and 2011, and yet his approval rating among Hall of Fame voters shot up about 66 percent while he went fishing.
We also can say that, of the 17 players in the .300-.400-.500 club, only four are NOT in the Hall of Fame Lefty O’Doul (eligible), Martinez (eligible), Larry Walker (eligible) and Manny Ramirez (not yet eligible); as well as the ineligible (banned from baseball) Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Members Of The .300-.400-.500 Club
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