11/28/12 12:05 PM ET
Quintessential DH Martinez patient with Hall vote
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 three years on the ballot, the answer so far is, "No."
The Mariners' longtime designated hitter finished seventh in the 2012 voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in January 2012. He was named on 36.5 percent of the 573 Hall of Fame ballots cast, amounting to a 3.6 percent increase from his 2011 showing of 32.9 percent.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from BBWAA members to gain election to the Hall of Fame. Only shortstop Barry Larkin (86.4 percent) earned his ticket to Cooperstown on the 2012 ballot. Former starting pitcher Jack Morris (66.7 percent) and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (56 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2013 election will be announced on Jan. 9.
"I didn't raise my expectations too high on this," Martinez said. "Believe it or not, you don't remember this on the day-to-day basis. You reflect when you talk about it. But other than that, it doesn't affect me too much. I don't have too high of expectations at this moment. But if the numbers climb close to 75 percent, I can tell you it will be a different reaction."
The fact that Martinez has put up three consecutive totals above 30 percent (he got 36.2 percent in his first year of eligibility in 2010) hold promise. Candidates can be on the ballot for 15 years as long as they receive at least 5 percent of the votes, so it bodes well for Martinez in the future.
"I know this is going to take awhile," Martinez said. "But it's encouraging that it at least went up from last year. What I've seen in the past with players that get about 30 percent, it just takes awhile for the numbers to get up to close to 75."
It might get tougher before it gets easier.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa will be among the 2013 first-time nominees. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas will hit the ballot for the first time in 2014, and they'll be followed by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield in 2015, and Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016.
"Some of the players who are coming in have long careers and big numbers, so who knows what happens?" Martinez said. "If more of the votes go to them, I don't know what to expect, but there are some big names, so it'll be interesting to see how things go."
Martinez's dream will come true only if voters come around to a line of thinking that it's OK for a DH to gain entry.
"This argument has been going for a while," Martinez said. "It's been years, people talking about the DH, even when I was playing. So yeah, it can be hard. But I think the argument has been for so long that I got used to it. People have their opinions, and it's very hard to change their beliefs. It is what it is."
And so are his numbers.
Martinez's 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.
Martinez also showed strength with the OPS+ statistic, which uses OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and adjusts it for era and park factors. Martinez had an OPS+ of 150 or more in eight different seasons, something only 23 other players in Major League history have accomplished.
"I know it has been debated whether a DH is worthy," 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."
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 several 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."