No. 11 goes to Cooperstown: Edgar Martinez is finally a Hall of Famer
It has been 5,224 days since Edgar Martinez walked to the plate for the final time, the crowd of 45,658 at Safeco Field that afternoon singing the familiar “Edddd-gar, Edddd-gar” chant. Finally, the greatness of what he accomplished in the 8,674 times he stepped in the batter’s box has been acknowledged. The phone call has come with Cooperstown on the other end. A spot in the Plaque Gallery has been secured.
Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) January 22, 2019
On the ballot for the 10th and final time, Edgar received 85.4 percent of the vote – 363 votes out of 425 ballots – far exceeding the required 75 percent needed from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for entrance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Edgar can now put behind him the disappointment that he has dealt with on this day each of the previous nine years. The expressed optimism of the past few years has come to fruition and Edgar now begins his pre-induction journey that will culminate at Hall of Fame Weekend in upstate New York this July.
Ten years after the street which runs alongside the ballpark he called home was given his name, Edgar will join the man whose statue looks out over that street as the only players to go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Mariners cap. For Ken Griffey Jr., admittance to Cooperstown was swift, the vote just three votes shy of unanimous in his first year on the ballot. For Edgar, it was a climb with an almost unheard-of summit. He is just the fourth player in baseball history to reach the required 75 percent of the vote in his final year of eligibility, and only the second player to do so with eligibility limited to 10 years.
It seems almost painfully fitting that Edgar would be required to wait for selection to the Hall of Fame. Patience and persistence was always a part of his game. There’s the legendary but true stories of taking practice swings at bottle caps and raindrops rolling off the roof of his grandparents home in Puerto Rico. He had the start of his big league career stalled due to being blocked at third base by Jim Presley. He put in the daily work necessary to balance his eyes and allow him to even face a pitcher. Even at the plate, he waited out his pitch at-bat after at-bat after at-bat. Edgar has always been the picture of patience.
Perhaps there was strength in that patience. There certainly was presence.
Close your eyes. Picture Edgar at the plate. While most hitters battle to slow things down, tune out the noise, the voices telling them what could be coming, what is in front of them, where their swing mechanics may be at that very second, there was none of that for Edgar. In contrast he was the picture of serenity as he awaited the pitch. Bat held high, head slightly cocked, and that quiet rocking as he waited. No matter the situation or ferociousness of the hurler on the mound – go on, take your time. I’m ready when you are. I’m just going to take this pitch, the right pitch, my pitch, and put it over… there.
No one knew more about this than one of the mrn who will be seated next to Edgar on the dais during the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown: legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
“The only guy that I didn’t want to face when a tough situation comes was Edgar Martinez,” Rivera said in 2003. “It didn’t matter how well I threw the ball. I couldn’t get him out. Oh my God, he had more than my number. He had my breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
I’m sure Edgar wouldn’t mind buying in Cooperstown. It’s the least he could do after hitting .579/.652/.1.053 off of Rivera in 23 plate appearances.
Mariano knew what we in Seattle knew – and after 10 years of lobbying, advocating and educating, more should know now as well. There was so much to overcome. A number of voters have held fast to their belief that designated hitters are part-time players who don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. A whole league of voters rarely if ever saw Edgar, too, as he spent his entire career with one American League team sequestered in the top northwest corner of the country.
Then there were the counting stats.
No 3,000 hits, no 500 home runs, no 1,500 RBIs. Never mind the 68.3 Wins Above Replacement that place him above the average Hall of Fame hitter – and that’s despite Martinez taking the hit for not playing a fielding position for the majority of his career, as WAR includes a fielding component. Never mind the career .933 OPS, which ranks 33rd best all-time, or the .959 DH-only OPS, which is best among all who had at least 2,000 plate appearances in that role.
In 2014 the situation appeared almost desperate for Martinez. The eligibility window was lowered from 15 years to 10, coming the same year Edgar recorded his lowest vote tally to date at just 25.2 percent. Best-case scenario at that point appeared to be a Veterans Committee ballot somewhere down the line. Thanks to numbers and conversations, that will not be necessary.
Over the past five years we have seen a new baseball conversation around the hot stove, with much of it taking place on social media. There has been vote tracking, new numbers learned and players re-evaluated. A push from the Mariners media relations department put all of the numbers in one place and helped shine a light on Edgar’s career. Writers like Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs and broadcast analysts like Brian Kenny of the MLB Network have brought forward Edgar’s case, putting his career into perspective using the newer metrics. Former teammates and opponents have chimed in giving perhaps an even more poignant perspective. Simply put, in the minds of many, Edgar was one of the most feared right-handed hitters of his day.
It is time he take his place in Cooperstown among 226 other greats of the game. On July 21 he does just that along with Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina and Today’s Game electees Harold Baines and Lee Smith.