01/04/11 2:42 PM EST
Edgar was the word for Mariners at DH
Martinez hopes to see his Hall of Fame support continue to rise
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Edgar Martinez's mark on Seattle baseball is so indelible that you can't attend a game at Safeco Field without driving past, parking next to, crossing or walking down the sidewalk by the street named after him.
From his Major League debut in 1987 to his tearful goodbye at the end of 2004, the Mariner known simply as Edgar plied his perfect right-handed swing in front of adoring Emerald City fans, putting up remarkable numbers and gaining the love and respect of an entire sports community.
The only question remaining for Martinez is whether his body of work in the game is good enough for enshrinement at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. And after his inaugural go-around in late 2009, the answer is, "No."
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election, and Martinez, bidding for the first time to become the first player to enter the Hall primarily as a designated hitter, finished seventh among the 26 candidates on the ballot with 36.2 percent of the votes.
"I was hoping to get more votes, but I'm not really disappointed," Martinez said afterward. "I was open-minded about it and had no idea where I would be. But deep inside, I had a feeling I wasn't going to go in. I was kind of prepared either way."
Martinez was named on 195 of the 539 ballots returned by members of the BBWAA with 10 or more consecutive years' service. It took 405 votes to reach the necessary 75 percent, and Andre Dawson was the only one to make the grade in the final tally that was revealed in early January '10, getting support from 77.9 percent of the voters.
For Martinez, it's clear that the waiting game has begun. He'll be watching and hoping that his vote totals rise, while the voters come around to a line of thinking that it's OK for a DH to gain entry. In that regard, the 36.2 percent figure holds promise.
"I don't know what it does for my chances," Martinez said. "I hope that over time, people take a different look at the statistics -- and not just whether you had 3,000 hits or hit 500 home runs."
From a statistical standpoint, Martinez had his high points. His isolated years of pure brilliance -- from 1995-2001, he hit .329 and averaged 28 homers and 110 RBIs per season -- and excellent career statistics in batting average (.312), on-base percentage (.418) and slugging (.515) will continue to get him votes.
Also on the plus side are his seven All-Star teams, five Silver Slugger Awards, two American League batting titles, and the fact that he retired with the highest batting average (.315), most homers (243) and most RBIs by a DH (1,043).
Martinez is one of only 11 inactive players to play in 2,000 games and have a career batting average over .300 with a career OBP over .400 and a slugging percentage over .500. The other 10 are already on the wall in Cooperstown. Also, Martinez, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig are the only players in MLB history with at least 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average higher than .300, and a career on-base percentage higher than .400.
"I know it has been debated whether a DH is worthy," future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson said after announcing his retirement, "but during my time, I've never seen a better hitter, a better pure hitter, than Edgar.
"That's no disrespect to other teammates I've had or people I've played against, but anyone from that era who watched Edgar realizes what a good hitter he was. I'll be pulling for him because I know what he meant when I was on the mound."
One of those hitters, former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon, played against Martinez in the AL West for 13 seasons.
"I don't think it's unreasonable at all for him to get Hall of Fame consideration," Salmon said. "He was one of those rare guys where you just really stopped what you were doing and watched. There were a lot of things you could learn from watching the way he hit a baseball, especially for me, being a right-handed hitter. It was great to see him play, even though, unfortunately, he really did a lot of damage against the Angels."
Martinez still will have a few strikes against him when it comes to the Hall vote. For one, his lifetime numbers of 309 homers, 2,247 hits and 1,261 RBIs, while exceptional, are not necessarily slam-dunk Hall-worthy. And voters based in the National League might hold his DH status against him.
Commissioner Bud Selig, however, presented what might be the strongest point in Martinez's case -- renaming the honor for the top DH the Edgar Martinez Award a few years ago.
"He's the greatest DH since the rule was put in," Selig said. "That's the easy part of it and I'll let the writers decide whether he is a Hall of Famer."
Martinez, meanwhile, will keep an eye on the proceedings once again this year with the knowledge that we live in a baseball climate that's evolving in the way it views and prioritizes statistics, and their relation to players' values. Plus, Martinez's 36.2 percent in last year's voting was easily enough to grant him an automatic spot on this year's ballot (players must receive at least 5 percent to remain eligible).
"We'll see what happens in the coming years," Martinez said.
"Hopefully there is still a chance down the road. The key is whether the needle is going to move higher in the next few years."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.