Tis the season of making the holiday rounds, shuffling between festive events to make sure we spend sufficient time celebrating with family, friends and co-workers.
I was at one such event two weeks ago when my sister-in-law’s boyfriend sidled up to me and admitted to being in a fog in the wake of the Shohei Ohtani news. The Japanese two-way baseball star’s decision to sign with the Los Angeles Angels instead of the Seattle Mariners had knocked him for a loop from which he had yet to recover.
With Seattle seemingly putting all its eggs in the Ohtani basket, this offseason was all set to be a winter of discontent for Mariners fans.
But amidst all this Mariners gloom and doom, allow me to inject a flicker of light: The Baseball Hall of Fame is coming for Edgar Martinez.
The Baseball Writers Association of America is currently undergoing voting for the 2018 Hall of Fame class, with the final results scheduled to be announced on Jan. 24.
Martinez, Seattle’s longtime star third baseman and designated hitter, is in his ninth year on the ballot, having missed out in his previous eight attempts. Last year he was named on 58.6 percent of the ballots, which was well short of the 75 percent required for enshrinement. However, Martinez was trending upward, having received 43.3 percent of the vote the previous year and 27.0 percent in 2015. The question was whether Martinez’s trajectory was steep enough to reach the Hall of Fame threshold before his 10 years on the ballot expired.
I’ve always contended that Martinez’s enshrinement was inevitable. The more one looks at the advanced statistical data, the more clear it becomes just how special a hitter Martinez was during his 18-year Mariners career from 1987-2004, during which he hit .312 with 309 home runs and compiled a .933 OPS. And the more times goes by, the more sports writers are inclined to heed the advanced stats.
Well, signs suggest the writers have seen the light.
There’s a Twitter account run by Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) that tracks Hall of Fame voting. What Thibodaux does is collect each writer’s ballot that’s made public, tally up the votes, then compare the votes to previous years. Through Friday Thibodaux had accumulated 21.2 percent of the estimated 416 votes, and the news is encouraging for those rooting for Martinez’s enshrinement.
Among the first 88 ballots made public, Martinez was named on 76, good for 86.4 percent, which is well above the 75 percent needed. Yes, there’s still plenty of vote to be counted, but the early returns read strongly in favor of Martinez.
Another way of looking at the vote is comparing the ballots of specific writers from one year to the next. Through those first 88 ballots Martinez had been added to the ballot by 13 writers who didn’t vote for him last year, while he was dropped by just two who voted for him a year ago. The plus-11 umber was the third highest among candidates, trailing just Larry Walker (plus-18) and Vladimir Guerrero (plus-13). The overall trend is overwhelmingly pro-Martinez.
Through 80 ballots, 2018 versus prior years for Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, and Edgar Martinez. pic.twitter.com/GE9d0DOfSG
— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) December 21, 2017
The player most often cited as a model for Martinez’s Hall of Fame trends is Tim Raines. Raines’ numbers in his seventh and eighth years on the ballot are dead ringers for Martinez’s the past two years — Rains received 46.6 percent in his seventh year and 55.0 percent in his eighth. Raines’ momentum continued as he received 69.8 percent in his ninth year, then finally got over the top in his 10th and final year at 86.0 percent.
But if the early returns hold up, Martinez is going to zoom past Raines, something that never happened during the speedy outfielder’s Major League Baseball career.
No, it hasn’t been an offseason to get excited about for Mariners fans. Ohtani not only didn’t sign with Seattle, he joined an AL West rival. There’s no obvious answer for fixing Seattle’s ravaged starting rotation. There’s no Fountain of Youth that will magically make the middle of the Mariners’ lineup get five years younger.
But in the dark moments of those gloomy gray December/January days in the Pacific Northwest, know there’s at least one thing that can brighten up you day. Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame time is coming, and it’s coming sooner rather than later.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.