Evaluating Edgar Martinez's Hall Of Fame Credentials

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Evaluating Edgar Martinez's Hall Of Fame Credentials
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Former Boston Red Sox Advisor and author of the 1995 book Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame, Bill James recently wrote, “It’s hard to justify a Hall of Fame argument for a one-way player. To do so requires a player who is exceptionally good as a hitter—and Edgar is quite a hitter.”

The Edgar James was referring to is Edgar Martinez, who is an eligible member of the 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class. The caveat for Martinez’s induction, which James was referring to, is that he played 1,412 games of his major league career as a designated hitter.

But while Martinez spent the defensive half of every inning of those 1,412 games on the bench, he amassed gaudy numbers that make a strong case for Cooperstown. Martinez, who played his first major league season at age 27, finished his career with a .312 batting average, 2,247 hits, 309 home runs, 1,261 RBI and 1,219 runs scored.

One could expect Martinez to have exponentially better numbers if he broke into the majors at age 22, the average age a Hall of Fame player begins his career, according to Joe Dorish of Sportales.com. Dorish estimated Martinez would have finished with 3,032 hits, 372 home runs, 1,486 RBI and 1,618 runs if he did play his first full season at age 22.

Paul Molitor, who played 125 games as a 21-year-old, was the last player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a predominately one-way player. Molitor played 1,174 of his 1,495 career games as a DH and finished with a .306 average, 234 home runs, 1,307 RBI and 1,782 runs scored. Molitor was inducted with an 85.2 percent of the vote.

Molitor’s numbers exceeded Martinez’s in some offensive categories and Martinez’s numbers exceeded Molitor’s in others. But there is no stat that can quantify Martinez’s value to the Seattle Mariner franchise.

Seattle’s inaugural season in the MLB was in 1977 and it did not win its first division title or make a playoff appearance until 1995.

In 1995 Martinez batted a career-high .356 with 29 home runs and 113 RBI. In that same season he set career highs in games played (145), runs (121), doubles (52), on-base percentage (.479), slugging percentage (.628) and on-base plus slugging (1.107). Seattle next made the playoffs in 1997, a season in which Martinez again mashed over 25 home runs and drove in over 100. The Mariners again made the playoffs in 2000, one of Martinez’s most prolific offensive seasons. He batted .324 with 37 home runs and 145 RBI. In 2001, the Mariners won the most games in franchise history and Martinez was once again an invaluable piece to the puzzle with a .306/23/116 season.

Those were the only four seasons in Seattle Mariners history that reached October. Alex Rodriguez, Rickey Henderson, Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson each contributed to one of the four playoff teams, but only Martinez contributed to each.

Martinez was a seven-time MLB All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

However, the fact remains that Martinez took the field in just 591 of his career games and that may be what precludes him from earning a plaque in Cooperstown. 

           

            

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