Waiting on that Hall of Fame call

Edgar Martinez will find out Tuesday if he has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Herald news services

Edgar Martinez wasn’t quite in danger of falling off the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

But gaining entry into the Hall didn’t look promising, either.

When the Seattle Mariners’ iconic designated hitter was first listed on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010, he got 36.2 percent of votes, well below the 75 percent needed for enshrinement. That percentage dipped to 25.2 percent in 2014, making Martinez wonder if he was among the very good, but certainly not all-time great, players in baseball history in Hall voters’ eyes.

Since that low point, Martinez has surged. He registered over 70 percent in last year’s balloting, setting the stage for what could be inclusion to the Hall of Fame in his 10th and final year on the ballot. The announcement is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday on MLB Network.

He’s never expressed any frustration over his candidacy, but accepted the years of prodding, examining and debate over seemingly every detail of his baseball credentials and resume.

“I have no control over it,” Martinez said recently. “Not much I can do but wait.

“Hopefully it goes the right direction, but I’m a realist. I know that there is a chance it happens. For the last few years it’s been a reminder.”

As of Monday afternoon, Martinez was polling at 90.8 percent in the latest results from 217 known ballots, collected by Ryan Thibodeaux. Those numbers always dip once all the ballots are counted, but Martinez isn’t expected to lose enough to fall below 75 percent. Last year Martinez had 76.3 percent of the public votes before falling to 70.4 percent.

His vote totals lagged, in part, because of some voters’ reluctance for vote for a player who spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter. Since Martinez spent 72 percent of his plate appearances as a DH, they said his production wasn’t exceptional enough to overlook how little he contributed defensively — no matter that Major League Baseball named its annual DH award after Martinez.

The good news for Martinez is far fewer voters share that sentiment now compared to 10 years ago.

More respect the plethora of statistical metrics now available, most of which seem to speak favorably to Martinez’s case than a simple scan over his career stats might.

And older voters who are grinchy over WAR and OPS+ have probably been weeded out of the process. There were 539 total voters in Martinez’s first year on the ballot; that’s dipped to what’s expected to be about 420 voters this year, with younger writers entering the fray by surpassing the 10-year criteria by the Baseball Writers Association of America to qualify for Hall of Fame voting.

Others have cited the works of Jay Jaffe and others, saying their detailed dives into Martinez’s career production persuaded them to change their votes.

The Mariners have campaigned the most diligently. They distributed a 15-page program about his career to potential voters and have posted relentlessly on their website and social media. Some of the nuggets:

— Martinez’s career on-base percentage (.418) was better than Stan Musial’s (.417).

— His career OPS (.933) is better than Frank Robinson’s (.926).

— His career slugging percentage (.515) is equal to Willie McCovey’s.

“We now have tools to evaluate players that we didn’t have even 10 years ago, and it’s easy now to compare Edgar, not just to other DHs but to other hitters, both of his era and all eras,” said Jayson Stark, who is now a columnist for The Athletic.

Tim Kawakami, then of the San Jose Mercury News, was among those who changed his mind about Martinez.

“This article by Jay Jaffe on SI.com specifically is what really got me to reassess my thinking on Martinez,” Kawakami wrote, “who I’d skipped over mainly because he spent so much of his career as DH and I didn’t think he was dominant enough as a hitter to off-set all the outs for which his own team decided he should not be on the field to play defense.

“But as Jaffe reinforced, DHs are penalized about 17 runs a year in the WAR calculations, and Martinez still is 112th in all-time WAR, tied with HOF-er Eddie Murray and right behind HOF-er Tony Gwynn.”

Martinez was the first right-handed-hitting, two-time American League batting champ since Joe DiMaggio.

The last player with at least 7,000 player appearances to equal each leg of Martinez’s career .312/.418/.515 slash line was Ted Williams. Only five others have done that, and they’re all Hall of Famers: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth and Dan Brouthers.

Martinez did all of that while barely playing defensively from that 1995 season on. But players are penalized in WAR ratings for not playing the field. It’s incorporated into the formula.

Yet, from 1995-2001, when Martinez was playing from his age 32-38 seasons, Martinez’s WAR was 40.7, which ranked just behind Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Ken Griffey Jr. (41.1) and just ahead of Sammy Sosa (40.6).

Barely behind Griffey, who won an MVP and four Gold Gloves in that stretch, and hit 56 home runs in two seasons. That’s how valuable Martinez was, even without any defensive production.

“Edgar deserves to be in (the Hall of Fame),” said Griffey, who was inducted in 2016 to become the first to enter as a Mariner. “He was one of the most feared hitters in the game for 10-plus years.”

“One of the best right-handed hitters I’ve seen,” said his former manager, Lou Piniella.

Randy Johnson entered the Hall with the Diamondbacks, but he, too, has campaigned heavily for Martinez.

“I’ve faced a lot of Hall of Fame hitters, and my gosh, Edgar is the best hitter that I ever saw,” Johnson said. “I loved him and he did so much for Seattle and made me look good during my career there. The first person on my ballot who would get my vote is Edgar.”

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