Edgar Martinez: A great career, but not worthy of Hall of Fame
Times reporter Geoff Baker says former Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez had a great career, but not good enough to earn entry into the Hall of Fame.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Edgar Martinez gets another crack at the Hall of Fame on Wednesday and I'll once again not be voting for him.
Martinez had a great career as a designated hitter. I just don't think it was a Hall of Fame career. For one thing, he didn't reach any of the milestones like 500 home runs, or 3,000 hits, that typically indicate sustained excellence.
And while Martinez obviously put up superb "rate stats" like a .312 career batting average, .418 on-base percentage (OBP) and .515 slugging percentage, the time he sustained them makes him a borderline candidate. Tack on that he was primarily a DH and did not subject his body to the same everyday wear and tear as his fielding contemporaries, and I just can't give him the nod.
My biggest problem with Martinez's candidacy is what we, as voters, are being asked to overlook.
We're asked to ignore that he hit only 309 home runs, while compiling 2,247 hits in a slugging era. Both are great totals, but fall short of most surefire Hall of Famers.
Then, we're told to ignore that Martinez's body wasn't put through the rigors of playing the field. Before being made a DH, Martinez played only 131 games combined in 1993 and 1994 because he was wearing down as a third baseman.
For those who argue it's not easy for a DH to hit when struggling to stay warmed up between at-bats, I'll counter that it's tougher to hit with arthritic knees or back spasms caused by fielding a position nine innings per night over a 162-game schedule.
Just imagine, for a moment, how high the bar might be raised for Hall of Fame entry if every batter got to extend his career by several seasons through a healthier body.
Even if we ignore this entire line of reasoning, as voters are being asked to, we're still left with Martinez lacking any big-hitting milestones. His "rate stats" are strong, as we've mentioned. But then we've got the longevity issue.
One statistic I've seen trotted out is that only 12 batters eligible for the Hall of Fame have ever had at least 8,500 plate appearances and a career batting average of .300, an OBP of .400 and a slugging percentage of .500.
Martinez is one of those players and the other 11 all got into Cooperstown.
But this fantastic stat omits that many of those other players had much better numbers than Martinez. Eight of the 11 had slugging marks of .550 or higher, seven had batting averages of at least .330 and nine had at least 1,000 more plate appearances.
Six of them hit at least 500 home runs, three others had at least 3,000 hits.
So, while Martinez is on the fringes of the list, he doesn't really have the same all-around numbers.
Martinez is similar to another slugger who didn't make the list because he had only 8,000 plate appearances instead of 8,500. Larry Walker posted a career .313 average, .400 OBP and .565 slugging percentage while hitting 74 more home runs than Martinez.
But Walker, just like Martinez, is a borderline candidate. I did not vote for Walker, either.
And that's the tough part about relying on "rate stats". If they're the same as another borderline guy, with little else brought to the table, it can doom the candidacy.
Albert Belle had a .933 on-base-plus slugging percentage, identical to Martinez's career mark. Martinez arguably had a few more excellent seasons, but Belle played the field, hit more home runs and averaged more hits per season.
In the end, Belle lasted just two years on the Hall of Fame ballot before falling below the 5 percent threshold.
The trouble is figuring out where the minimal threshold for longevity is in order to get serious "rate stat" consideration. Is it 8,500 plate appearances, or more like 9,500, which bumps Martinez from the debate? Maybe it's 8,000 plate appearances like Walker had, or can go as low as the 6,500 by Belle?
Candidates hoping for easy election have tended to need some type of "counting" or "milestone" stats. Paul Molitor spent much time as a DH, had ballpark-factored "rate stats" slightly lower than Martinez, but got voted in because of 3,319 hits.
Average 200 hits for 15 seasons and nobody's going to question the longevity of your excellence and will be likely to forgive the DH equation.
With Martinez, there just isn't enough. He's got "rate stats" more comparable to borderline candidates than Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, but spent most of his time as a DH and has none of the traditional milestone stats.
A great career, but it falls just short.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
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