For the fifth consecutive year, former Mariners DH Edgar Martinez failed to generate sufficient support for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which Wednesday welcomed three new members, 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and two-time MVP Frank Thomas. Not only did Martinez fall considerably short of the 75 percent of the vote required for induction, his support actually dropped relative to recent HOF elections.
Maddux and Glavine became the first pair to make the Hall of Fame on their first attempt since Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn in 2007, and the first pitchers elected together on their first attempts since Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson in 1936.
The addition of Thomas marks the first time that three first-year eligibles made the Hall of Fame since 1999, when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were elected.
Four-time Cy Young winner Maddux received 97.2 percent of the vote, 10-time All-Star Glavine 91.9 and five-time All-Star Thomas 83.7. Craig Biggio barely missed induction, receiving 74.8 percent, shy of the required 75 percent.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds both lost ground and are long way from induction. Clemens received 35.4 percent and Bonds 34.7. Three other players suspected of juicing, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, received 11.0, 7.2 and 4.4 percent, respectively.
Martinez received 144 votes, or 25.2 percent, placing 13th in the balloting. He finished ahead of such notables as Alan Trammell (20.8 percent), Mike Mussina (20.3), Jeff Kent (15.2) and Fred McGriff (11.7). Martinez’s 25.2 percent represents a drop of 10.7 percent over last year. This is the record of support for Martinez since he became HOF eligible in 2010:
|Year||Votes||Pct./Vote||Top 3 vote-getters by percent of vote|
|2010||195||36.2||Andre Dawson 77.9, B. Blyleven 74.2, R. Alomar 73.7|
|2011||191||32.9||Roberto Alomar 90.0, B. Blyleven 79.7, B. Larkin 62.1|
|2012||209||36.5||Barry Larkin 86.4, Jack Morris 66.7, Jeff Bagwell 56.0|
|2013||204||35.9||Craig Biggio 68,2, Jack Morris 67.7, Jeff Bagwell 59.6|
|2014||144||25.2||Greg Maddux 97.2, Tom Glavine 91.9, Frank Thomas 83.7|
For two reasons, it’s not much of a surprise that Baseball Writers Association of America voters backed off slightly from Martinez this year. Last year, no player received the required 75 percent, and all of the players on the 2013 ballot were on it again this year. In addition, the first-time eligibles this year included Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Kent and Mike Mussina.
Support for Martinez is not likely to increase next year, either, when former Seattle ace and 300-game winner Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield become eligible for the first time, or even the following year when Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman will be likely shoo-ins.
The strongest case for Martinez is that he produced more hits (2,247) than Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt (2,234), Willie Stargell (2,232), Joe Sewell (2,226), Joe DiMaggio (2,214) and Bill Terry (2,193), to name just a few. Also:
- The Mariners never had a winning season (1977-1989) prior to Martinez’s arrival, and have had just two .500 or better seasons since he retired following 2004.
- Martinez hit more home runs (309) than Hall of Famers Al Simmons (307), Rogers Hornsby (301) and Chuck Klein (300), to cite three.
- Martinez had a higher on-base+slugging mark (.9333) than Hall of Famers Earl Averill (.9283), Tris Speaker (.9283), Duke Snider (.9194), Mike Schmidt (.9076), Willie McCovey (.8892) and Willie Stargell (.8887).
- Martinez accounted for more total bases (3,718) than Hall of Famers Johnny Bench (3,644), Yogi Berra (3,643), Johnny Mize (3,621), Enos Slaughter (3,599) and Bill Terry (3,252).
- Martinez is one of 10 players to have collected 300+ home runs, 500+ doubles, 1,000+ walks, boast a batting average above .300 and an on-base percentage over .400. Besides Martinez, five are in Cooperstown, with the other three still active or not yet eligible for induction. The five include Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. The four, besides Edgar, not in the Hall or not yet eligible, are Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton and Albert Pujols.
- Among retired players since 1945 with at least 7,500 plate appearances, Martinez is one of four with a career on-base percentage of at least .418 (also: Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Frank Thomas) and one of 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).
- 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 titans Ty Cobb (.366-.433-.512), Ruth (.342-.474-.690), (.340-.447-.632) and Williams (.344-.482-.634). Martinez retired with a .312 batting average, a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage.
Martinez played at a Hall of Fame level during his peak seasons from 1995 to 2003 (ages 32 to 40), during which he batted .321 with a .438 on-base percentage, a .558 slugging percentage and a .996 OPS (not many in that period of time were better).
But Martinez’s HOF candidacy will always be compromised by two negatives most voters haven’t been able to get past.
Martinez failed to produce any of the traditional big numbers, specifically 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. Martinez also spent his nine-year apex almost exclusively as a designated hitter. BWAA members have a long history of dismissing DHs when measuring them against men who play the field.
But among DHs, Edgar has the highest career batting average (.314 to Hall of Famer Paul Molitor’s .308), on-base percentage and OPS (OBP + SLG) of any player as a designated hitter (minimum: 1,000 games).
Also significant in terms of HOF voting, Martinez, despite wearing a major league uniform for 18 seasons, technically only qualified for the batting title in 12 of those years.
Injuries hampered Martinez early in his career, and his relatively late start, at age 27, meant that his .312 lifetime batting average translated into just 2,247 hits and 309 home runs, far below traditional HOF standards..
As to Edgar’s almost-exclusive role as a DH, it can be argued that every American League team has had to fill that position every day for nearly four decades, and no one filled it better than Martinez; and that if “role” players are so easily dismissed, then it’s inconsistent to elect five relief pitchers to the Hall of Fame while simultaneously shunning DHs. It’s equally absurd for BWAA voters to overlook peak value for DHs while weighing it heavily for relievers.
While Martinez only qualified for the batting title 12 times in 18 years, it’s unfair to downgrade a player because he suffered injuries, or hold against him the fact the Mariners did not see fit to promote him full time to the majors until age 30 was lurking.
The reasonable thing is to ignore such factors and judge a player by what he accomplished as a peak performer. Such will be the case with Ichiro, who will be assessed on the 10-year period 2001-10, not on subsequent seasons when he was clearly past his prime.
Based on recent HOF elections, including those of Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, and Goose Gossage, it can take years for a less-than-slam-dunk candidate to reach Cooperstown, meaning Martinez’s chances aren’t dead yet.
Blyleven, who made the HOF three years ago on his 14th try, first appeared on the HOF 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. Slowly, as BWAA voters delved more deeply into the context of Blyleven’s career, they became convinced of Blyleven’s legitimacy.
This is what it is going to take for Martinez to enter the Hall of Fame: A greater awareness and appreciation for the level at which he played, at least for a decade.