By Kirby Arnold
When members of the Baseball Writers Association of America receive their Hall of Fame ballot within the next week, former Mariners DH Edgar Martinez’s name will be on it for the first time.
In my mind, Martinez should be in the Hall of Fame not only for what he produced as one of the great hitters in his era and at his position (yes, DH is a position, and that’s coming from me, a traditionalist who loves the National League game without the DH), but also for the integrity he brought to the game. If the voting writers are going to keep Pete Rose and Mark McGwire out for integrity reasons, Edgar deserves an equal dose of extra credit as well.
In an 18-year major league career, Martinez won two American League batting titles and finished among the top 10 in batting average seven times, led the league on on-base percentage three times and was in the top 10 in on-base percentage 11 times. And every inning, every at-bat came with the same team, the Mariners.
For the longest time, my argument in support of Edgar was interrupted by three factors thrown back at me: He didn’t hit 500 home runs in his career (he finished with 309), didn’t get 3,000 hits (2,247) and, as a DH in the prime of his career, didn’t play a “real” position.
No, you can’t dispute those.
But there’s so much else that states a strong case for Martinez, and my hope is that this age of statistical analysis has taken hold with enough of us old-fogey baseball writers that Edgar will have a fighting chance when his name appears on this year’s ballot.
To help his cause, the Mariners have produced an impressive and comprehensive — yet not overstated — review of Martinez’s career that was emailed to BBWAA members this afternoon. Among the highlights:
—He is one of 20 players in major league history whose lifetime batting average is better than .300 (Edgar’s is .312), on-base percentage is over .400 (.418) and slugging percentage tops .500 (.515). Of the players eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Joe Jackson and Lefty O’Doul aren’t in.
—Every player in history to finish with at least 300 home runs, 500 doubles, 1,000 walks, a .300 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage is in the Hall of Fame (Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams). Martinez finished with 2,247 hits, 514 doubles, 1,283 walks, 309 homers, .312 average and .418 on-base percentage.
—Martinez’s on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .933 ranks 32nd all-time, and the only players ahead of him who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, but not inducted, are McGwire and O’Doul. Martinez ranks eighth on that list among right-handed hitters, and all seven ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. Martinez had an OPS above 1.000 in five seasons and above .900 nine times.
—As a designated hitter, Martinez was unmatched in everything except home runs. He has the highest DH average at .314 (Paul Molitor is next at .308), most RBI at 1,003 (leading Harold Baines’ 978), highest on-base percentage at .428 (Frank Thomas, .394), highest OPS at .959 (David Ortiz, .936) and most doubles at 370 (Hal McRae, 357). Martinez’s his 243 DH home runs are third (behind Ortiz’s 274 and Thomas’ 269). If there’s ever a time for the DH position to get legitimate consideration by Hall of Fame voters, this is it.
—During a seven-year span from 1995-2001, Martinez batted .329, had a .446 on-base percentage, a .574 slugging percentage, 291 doubles and 1,020 games played. Only three other players in history — Lou Gehrig from 1925-1938, Ted Williams from 1939-1949 and Todd Helton from 1999-2006 – played at least seven straight seasons with an average of at least .325, on-base percentage at least .440, slugging percentage at least .570, at least 250 doubles and at least 1,000 games.
—Since the 1940s, Martinez is among six players to bat at least .320 in at least six straight seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn, plus Todd Helton.
Will all that be enough to convince voters that Martinez is Hall of Fame-worthy? I really doubt it. There’s that 3,000-hit/500-homer/DH argument to overcome, along with the fact that such hitters as Harold Baines, Don Mattingly and Steve Garvey aren’t in the Hall, so why should Edgar?
But maybe, just maybe, more voters will look beyond the traditional measuring sticks and see that in so many ways, Martinez stands alongside the best who’ve ever played.