Edgar taking 'wait and see' approach with Hall
Mariners icon in fifth year on ballot, yet to receive more than 36.5 percent
Edgar Martinez is a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for a fifth time. The Class of 2014 will be announced exclusively on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com live on Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT as part of a three-hour live show beginning at 9 a.m. On Thursday, MLB.com and MLB Network will air the news conferences featuring the electees live from New York at 8 a.m. PT.
SEATTLE -- If you're driving Interstate 5 to Safeco Field, you'll see a sign telling you to exit onto the thoroughfare that was rededicated in his honor. If you're inside the ballpark watching the Mariners, just look to left field and you see the restaurant that bears his name.
And then there are the walls of the team's Hall of Fame, the commemorative souvenirs in the Mariners store, and the stories, images and indelible memories that spill from the hearts and mouths of a huge portion of the Seattle faithful.
Edgar Martinez and this city are forever linked, and this never will be in doubt.
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 four years on the ballot, the answer so far is, "No."
The Mariners' longtime designated hitter finished 10th in the 2013 voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in January 2013. He was named on 35.9 percent (204 votes) of the 569 total ballots cast, amounting to a .6 percent decrease from his 2012 showing of 36.5 percent. Then again, 2013 marked the first year of eligibility for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa, so it was a crowded field.
Martinez debuted on the ballot in 2010 and received 36.2 percent of the vote, then went down to 32.9 percent in 2011. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from BBWAA members to gain election to the Hall of Fame. No one garnered that much support last year, with Biggio (68.2 percent) and former starting pitcher Jack Morris (67.7 percent) the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2014 election will be announced on Jan. 8.
Players remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years, as long as they are named on at least five percent of the ballots each year, so Martinez still has 11 years to rise up the rankings.
"That's kind of what I was expecting," Martinez said after the 2013 results were revealed. "I was hoping it would jump a little higher, but it is what it is. I'm aware it's going to be a process that's going to take a while. There are still a lot of great players coming on the ballot in the next few years, so it's wait and see."
Martinez's candidacy might suffer in the next few years, when the ballot will become even more crowded with the arrival of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent in 2014, followed by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield in 2015 and Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman in '16.
Add to that the fact that Martinez's dream will come true only if voters come around to a line of thinking that it's OK for a designated hitter 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."
No matter what happens, Martinez says he's willing to be patient and respect the process.
"It means a lot," Martinez said. "It's a great honor. It's an honor to be mentioned and be on the ballot and considered for the Hall of Fame sometime in the future. But it doesn't change my life. It's just a personal satisfaction. That's what it is.
"Through the years, I've had a lot of satisfaction just playing the game, which was a great honor and experience in my life. The Hall of Fame is like the ultimate prize and satisfaction, but that's what it is, something to look back on your career and reflect and make you feel good about."