Larry Stone: The case for Edgar Martinez
Look closer at the numbers and it's obvious: Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez had a Hall of Fame career.
Seattle Times staff reporter
To me, Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer from any number of vantage points.
To use the esoteric, he was regarded by his peers as the epitome of a pure right-handed hitter. The admiration for his ability — not to mention his professionalism and character — was profound, and universal.
But Martinez's case goes so much deeper than that. Statistically, he produced a body of work that clearly establishes him as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Yes, I know Edgar must overcome a deep-seated reluctance to vote for a designated hitter — particularly one who didn't compensate for playing the bulk of his career as a DH by acquiring any of the round numbers that voters respect so much — namely, 3,000 hits and/or 500 homers (he finished with 2,247 and 309).
But it's time to accept the fact that the DH is an established factor in baseball, and Edgar was, in the estimation of most, the second-best in history (behind Frank Thomas, who should sail into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility).
For those who would demean a DH, the place in Cooperstown for a specialist has already been established by the election of several closers, including Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage. Yes, Eckersley also won nearly 200 games as a starter, but he was a Hall of Famer because of his one-inning dominance as A's closer.
If a short reliever deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, so does a DH, who can have an impact on every game. And voters have already given tacit support for DHs by voting in Paul Molitor, who had more than 5,000 plate appearances as a designated hitter — allowing him to reach the sainted 3,000-hit level. By many sabermetric standards, Edgar was a superior hitter to Molitor.
Instead of looking at Edgar's failure to reach 3,000 hits, I marveled over his staggering accomplishments. He was at an elite level when it came to the combination of getting on base and hitting for power.
There are numerous stats to choose from, but for the purpose of space, I'll point out his .312 career average, .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage. Only 20 players in history have the .300/.400/.500 combination, and of the 12 eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Lefty O'Doul isn't there (which is an outrage worthy of another column).
Martinez's .418 career on-base percentage is surpassed only by Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Thomas by retired players since 1945 with at least 7,500 at-bats. His career OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .933 ranks 32nd all-time.
If you look at OPS-plus (the same stat adjusted for era and home ballpark), Edgar had eight seasons of better than 150, an epic total. As David Schoenfield of ESPN.com pointed out, only 24 players in history have done it that many times, most of them slam-dunk Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt. Alex Rodriguez, by comparison, has done it seven times.
For those who look past their prejudice against DH, Edgar Martinez stands out as a bona fide Hall of Famer.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com.
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