In a startling announcement, the Mariners Saturday named franchise icon Edgar Martinez as their batting coach, replacing Howard Johnson, who has been re-assigned to the club’s minor league system. A Mariners Hall of Famer, Martinez will assume his duties Saturday night when the Mariners play the second of three against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field (7:10 p.m. first pitch).
Given the Mariners’ bleak batting numbers, Martinez probably would be better off sipping mojitos at Edgar’s Cantina than trying to reclamate Seattle’s moribund offense.
The Mariner enter Saturday night’s contest ranked 15th and last in the American League in batting (.233), 14th in runs scored (230), 14th in on-base percentage (.295), 14th in slugging (.375) and 14th in OPS (.670). The Mariners are also hitting an AL-worst .213 with runners in scoring position.
Largely as a result of those bleak numbers, the Mariners trail the AL West-leading Astros by 8.5 games.
“Watching the club, it had become apparent to me that we had reached the point that a change was necessary,” said general manager Jack Zduriencik. “I appreciate Howard Johnson’s professionalism and work ethic, but we simply were not getting the results that we expect and require.
“I have had the opportunity to observe Edgar over the past several years at spring training, working with our young hitters in the minor leagues. He is passionate and knowledgeable about hitting and understands the work that needs to be done to be successful as a big league hitter. His resume, desire to contribute at this time and ability to convey complex information about hitting is what drew us to this decision.”
Martinez spoke to reporters before the game.
“I’ve been watching the team,” he said. “We have a lot of talent. I think I can help the guys in terms of approach at the plate or being ready for the game, how to prepare with the mechanics, in some cases. My preparation will go from early morning to after the game. There is a routine that I use, and I believe in.
“I have some ideas for some of the guys. But at the same time, it’s a lot of listening and watching for the next few days. This is a great opportunity for me. I’m excited.”
The 52-year-old Martinez, who retired as an active player following the 2004 season after 18 years with the club, has spent the past several seasons working as a guest hitting instructor at spring training, and had an extended schedule during the season this year working in Seattle’s minor league system.
In 2,055 career games, Martinez posted a lifetime slash line of .312/.418/.515 with 514 doubles, 15 triples, 309 home runs and 1,261 RBIs.
Martinez won two AL batting titles (1992 and 1995), three OBP titles (1995, 1998 and 1999), five Silver Sluggers (1992, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003) and five DH of the Year Awards (1995, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001). Upon his retirement, MLBl re-named the DH of the Year Award the Edgar Martinez Award. He was enshrined in the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2007.
Martinez is one of 10 players in MLB history to have collected 300+ home runs, 500+ doubles, 1,000+ walks, a career .300+ average and a career on-base percentage above .400. He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2004.
For all of his career batting achievements Martinez faces a daunting task with the Mariners’ offense, which two weeks ago concluded a franchise-record stretch of 13 consecutive games scoring three or fewer runs. Since June 11, the Mariners have been blanked four times and have scored three or fewer runs six times.
The Mariners, with 159, have scored 130 fewer runs than the Toronto Blue Jays.
Martinez also inherits a $240 million second baseman (Robinson Cano) batting .245, a former No. 1 pick, Dustin Ackley, hitting .184, and a catcher and No. 1 pick, Mike Zunino, batting .160, 40 points below the Mendoza Line.
Nelson Cruz is batting .315 with 18 homers, but hasn’t gone deep since May 27.
RHP Taijuan Walker (4-6, 5.00) throws for Seattle Saturday night against LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-2, 2.04).