Baseball fans love to argue over just about everything related to the sport, but which players do and do not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame sits at or near the top of the list. Each year, once the vote are tallied, fans love to talk about the players they feel were snubbed, and which ones should not have made it. And yet, most people seem to agree that it’s well past time for the Hall of Fame voters to induct Edgar Martinez. Consensus among baseball fans is rare and should be taken seriously.
The Hall of Fame should Induct Edgar Martinez in 2017
The former Seattle Mariners third baseman and designated hitter’s Hall of Fame chances, for the first time in a while, are looking good. He’s been snubbed often, and 2017 marks his ninth year on the ballot. It wasn’t looking too good for him for a while, but things have recently taken an upward turn. Last year, he got 58.6% of the vote, and still has two years of eligibility left. He’ll get in eventually, even if he doesn’t quite make it this year.
The Argument in Favor
Martinez broke into the major leagues in 1987 with the Mariners, and spent the entirety of his eighteen year career in Seattle. He began his career at third base and won a batting title in 1992, but tore his hamstring just prior to the start of the 1993 season.
In 1995, after working his way back from injury, he became a full time designated hitter. He was one of the first, and certainly remains one of the greatest, to ever fill that role for a team full time. He is the only designated hitter to win a batting title. In 1995, he hit .356 to capture the award for the second time in his career.
However, Martinez is probably best remembered for his performance in the 1995 American League division series. Over five games, he hit .571 and reached base eighteen times. Yet he waited until game five to record perhaps the greatest hit of his career. Down 5-4 to the New York Yankees in the eleventh inning, Martinez launched what is now known simply as “The Double” to win the game 6-5 and send Seattle to the American League Championship Series. That hit also likely saved baseball in Seattle, as it provided the necessary momentum to force the Washington State Legislature to fund the construction of Safeco Field.
Martinez was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on June 2, 2007. Prior to that, in 2003, he was inducted into the Hispanic Baseball Heritage Museum Hall of Fame. In 2004, he became one of five players to have an award named after them (the rest of whom have busts in Cooperstown) when Major League Baseball renamed the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award in his honor. Martinez won that same award five times during his playing days while recording a .312 career batting average and 2,247 hits. A seven-time All Star, Martinez won the Silver Slugger award five times and led the American League in 2000 with 145. He also won the Roberto Clemente Award once.
Some might argue traditional stats don’t necessarily separate Martinez from the pack. I would disagree, but the argument has some value. Yet, advanced hitting metrics show him in a more than favorable light. His career WAR, fWAR, and rWAR are all equal to or better than that of current Hall of Famers. And, for what it’s worth, his career OBP outstrips that of David Ortiz, also a former DH yet considered a sure-fire lock by many, by miles.
The Argument Against
Martinez really does not have the elite hitting statistics that most seem to believe are necessary for sluggers seeking entrance to the Hall of Fame. Five hundred home runs has long been seen almost as a requirement. Martinez falls far short of that mark, with just 309. For designated hitters, especially, power numbers have always mattered more than than have for other players.
If Martinez were to be inducted, he would be the first designated hitter to receive that particular honor, and there is a reason for that. Many, and in particular the more old-school baseball writers, believe that designated hitters only play half the game. Whether or not that is true, the fact is that DHs don’t have the defensive stats that other players have to back up their production at the plate. Though Martinez did begin his career as a third baseman, he spent the majority of his service time as a designated hitter and earned most of his accolades in that role. Without those defensive stats, and thanks to his relatively low power numbers in comparison to other Hall of Fame sluggers, many writers may not find him worthy of induction even though he was undeniably a great hitter.
It’s well past time Edgar took his spot in Cooperstown, and this year he will make it into the Hall of Fame. Martinez was a great hitter, which his current job as Mariners hitting coach is a testament to, but there’s more to it than that. He is prominent figure in the history of the game. He was one of the first full time designated hitters and is probably the greatest designated hitter to play the game (though an argument could be made in favor of Ortiz). He redefined what it meant to be a designated hitter, which Major League Baseball recognized when it named an award after him.
The Hall of Fame is more than just a collection of famous names. It is a shrine to the history of the greatest game on the planet. Martinez made himself into an integral part of that history, and because of that deserves to be inducted.