M’s vow to help Edgar into Hall

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Monday, August 9, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Amid the hugs, cheers and, yes, tears that flowed for Edgar Martinez on the day he announced his retirement, the Seattle Mariners made one thing absolutely clear about their longtime designated hitter.

They will lobby hard to get Martinez into the Hall of Fame.

“The Mariners plan to do everything we can to help Edgar get there,” team CEO Howard Lincoln said Monday at the news conference announcing Martinez’s retirement.

First, they must wait through the final 51 games of Martinez’s career, then for the five-year period after his retirement before he’s eligible to be selected to the Hall of Fame.

It’s never too early to start campaigning, and the Mariners presented a united, and forceful, argument Monday.

The Mariners distributed a full page of impressive statistical comparisons to the media. Among the highlights was Martinez’s standing as one of seven players since 1900 to have 300 or more home runs, 500 or more doubles, 1,000 or more walks, a batting average of better than .300 and an on-base percentage of better than .400.

The other five players – Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams – are all in the Hall of Fame. Hornsby is the only right-hander.

Still, it could be a hard sell, knowing that many writers who vote on the Hall of Fame may find it difficult to put Martinez on their ballots because he doesn’t have 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, and because he has spent most of his career as a designated hitter.

There are players at every position in the Hall of Fame whose offensive numbers don’t match Martinez’s 2,205 hits, 305 home runs and his .312 career batting average. Martinez, however, doesn’t have a defensive position to prop him up.

If Martinez gets into the Hall, he could face the same road that first baseman Orlando Cepeda took. Cepeda, who had 2,351 hits, 379 homers and a .297 career average, was bypassed several times by the writers and finally voted in by the veterans committee in 1999.

“I think in the end, it will be up to the numbers,” Martinez said. “The position, DH, a lot of people think it’s not worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.”

Mariners hitting coach Paul Molitor, inducted last month, is the only player in the Hall of Fame as a DH, even though he played most of his career at other positions. Molitor finished with 3,319 hits, a .306 career average and 504 stolen bases, and was a first-ballot selection.

Ten-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are eligible to vote.

The Mariners argue that Martinez is the greatest designated hitter in major league history, and that there hasn’t been a better right-handed hitter in his time.

“He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer for me,” said Bill Bavasi, the Mariners’ first-year general manager. “I spent a lot of years as a victim of Edgar Martinez baseball. This has got to be the greatest right-handed hitter of his era.”

Bob Melvin, the only person to have played against and managed Martinez, knows what it was like to try and stop him as an opponent.

“I don’t know how you can’t consider him,” said Melvin, who hopes voters won’t hold it against Martinez that he was a DH most of his career. “If Edgar was in the National League, he’d have figured a way to have gotten it done at a position. It just so happens this is the American League and that position was there.

“When you look at the walks, the on-base percentage, the effect that he had on the other team, he should be considered. In the advance meetings, when we talked about how to get the other team out, Edgar Martinez was a guy you were always at a loss. You just hoped he wasn’t swinging good at the time.”

Mariners assistant GM Lee Pelekoudas compares Martinez’s impact with Eddie Murray, who was inducted in 2003.

“In the 1980s, Eddie Murray was one of the most feared hitters in the game when you wanted a run driven in,” Pelekoudas said. “I look back on the ’90s, and Edgar Martinez is that to me.”

Murray finished his 21-year career with 3,255 hits, 504 home runs and 1,917 RBI.

The Mariners also will lean heavily on Martinez’s status as one of the most-liked players in the game.

Many teammates and opponents refer to him as “Papi,” a label of high respect among Latin American players.

“Down in Puerto Rico, you have to earn that,” Pelekoudas said. “It’s a term of endearment, a term of respect, and Edgar has earned that. This is one of the kindest, most humble men you’ll ever meet.”

And, the Mariners firmly believe, he’s a Hall of Famer.

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