Odds aren't in Edgar Martinez's favor for 2012 Hall of Fame induction
Longtime Mariners DH and his supporters will have to be patient.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
On Monday, when the Hall of Fame election results are announced, I expect just one person — shortstop Barry Larkin — to join Veterans Committee choice Ron Santo in the Cooperstown class of 2012.
For the third straight year, I unhesitatingly cast a vote for Edgar Martinez, but I'll be blunt here: Edgar doesn't have a chance to be elected. Not this year. Not yet.
My hope is that he makes some incremental improvement after dropping from 36.2 percent in 2010 to 32.9 percent last year.
If Martinez can get into the 40 percentile this year, or even the high 30s, that would be a good jumping off point for eventual enshrinement, which takes a 75 percent vote from eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
I can point to any number of players who made a slow but steady rise to election. Just last year, the writers enshrined Bert Blyleven in his 14th year on the ballot. Blyleven had just 17.4 percent of the vote in his third year. Jim Rice took 15 years before finally getting voted in in 2009. Rice had 35.3 percent his third year.
So there's hope for Edgar, but it will require patience from his supporters. Much weirdness lies ahead, and it's hard to predict what impact it will have on Martinez's candidacy. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be good, at least not in the short term.
I'm referring to the blitz of high-profile candidates who will hit the ballot in the next three years. It is an incendiary mix of no-brainers, close calls and celebrated steroids cases, and the prospect of which already has the electorate's heads spinning.
On next year's ballot come, gulp, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling. And following in 2014: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina. In 2015 arrive Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield, followed by the coronation of Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016.
It will be easy for someone like Edgar — who is already competing with the likes of Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Larry Walker and Fred McGriff for attention and votes — to get lost in that seismic shuffle.
For the record, here was the ballot I turned in this year: Bagwell, Larkin, Martinez, McGriff, Mark McGwire, Raines, Trammell, Walker. That's the same as last year's ballot, minus Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, both elected. The only new name I considered seriously was Bernie Williams, but I thought he fell just short.
With Edgar, as with Williams and most of the others, the Hall of Fame debate is the fun kind — arguing the merits of his statistical résumé, and in Martinez's case, kicking around how much, if any, he should be penalized for playing the bulk of his career at designated hitter.
I strongly believe that Martinez's body of work screams "Hall of Fame," regardless of his DH status. But I'm realistic enough to acknowledge that there's a valid counter-argument to be made — otherwise, 64 percent of the electorate wouldn't be omitting him. I'll keep trying to make Edgar's case, and hope that the tide swings his way.
But the debate that will heat up next year is how to deal with those superstar players linked to steroids, like Bonds and Clemens, the best hitter and pitcher of their generation.
This much is guaranteed: It won't be fun. As you can see, I voted for McGwire, who has admitted to steroids use, and didn't vote for Rafael Palmeiro, who had 3,000 hits and 500 homers but failed a drug test in 2005.
My feeling all along is that it's impossible for the writers to be the "steroids police." We can safely say a large number of players were using performance-enhancing drugs in that era, and it was allowed to happen. The statistics still count. No one knows definitively, or will ever know, who used and who didn't. Who knows — we may have already unknowingly elected a steroids user to the Hall of Fame, and we almost certainly will in the future.
Conversely, I'd bet there are players widely suspected of using steroids who didn't. It's such a slippery slope. Keep in mind that amphetamines — including the so-called "greenies" that were rampant in the 1960s and '70s, by all accounts — are now banned by MLB as performance-enhancing drugs. Should we kick all the greenies users out of the Hall?
The admittedly uncomfortable solution I've settled upon, in the absence of any steroids guidelines from the Hall of Fame, is to judge players on their body of work. The exception for me was Palmeiro, who normally would have been an automatic choice as a member of the 500-homer-3,000-hit club to which only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray also belong.
But as I wrote last year, I determined I would draw my steroids line — for now — on players who tested positive after MLB finally came out of its hazy netherworld of tacit allowance of the steroids culture. By 2005, the league's anti-steroids policy had been codified in the Basic Agreement. Palmeiro knew full well the consequences of using performance-enhancing drugs, and despite wagging his finger at Congress, he tested positive for a steroid.
For me, that's a deal breaker. But trust me, I'll be doing a lot of soul-searching about steroids and the Hall of Fame in the next year.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.