The big news in Red Sox nation as of late has been Curt Schilling. The man with an 11-2 lifetime playoff record (including a 6-1 record with a 3.28 ERA for the Red Sox) and 3,116 strikeouts is most likely done with baseball.
Naturally, this has begged the question of whether or not No. 38 belongs in the Hall of Fame. But, in my mind, it is a question that does not even make sense. A man who was instrumental in three World titles, along with the numbers he put up as a pitcher (including an impressive career 127 ERA+) absolutely deserves the honor.
But this question did serve one real purpose for me. It reminded me of another man who will appear on the ballot in less than a year. His name: Edgar Martinez.
It is near tragic, I think, that there are people who follow baseball that claim he does not belong in the Hall of Fame for various reasons. Of course, there are two that always pop up in these discussions about Edgar:
- He did not have the Hall of Fame caliber career stats
While this is true, to an extent, people tend to forget that Martinez did not have the time to amass his numbers compared to many other Hall of Fame players.
Let's compare Martinez to a fairly recent Hall of Fame inductee, Gary Carter:
- HR: Carter: 324, Martinez: 309
- Hits: Carter: 2092, Martinez: 2247
- AVG: Carter: .262, Martinez: .312
- OBP: Carter: .335, Martinez: .418
- SLG: Carter: .439, Martinez: .515
- OPS+: Carter: 115, Martinez: 147 (43rd of all time)
Outside of home runs (Martinez being a great gap hitter more so than a great HR hitter) his plate numbers trump that of Carter's.
And back to the issue of age, Carter was receiving regular playing time at age 21, while Martinez did not receive this until age 27. (In retrospect, this was one of the biggest managerial crimes of the past 20 years.)
However, Carter was also a great catcher. This brings us to the second common argument not to induct Martinez:
- He was primarily a career DH
Yes, Martinez played over 70 percent of his games as a Designated Hitter, and also spent all but 33 games from 1995 on in the lineup as a DH. In reality, though, does it matter?
If a person were given a copy of his hitting stats and told to make a judgment on whether or not he is Hall caliber, unaware of who the player was, would they approve or not?
I know for a fact I would, and apparently so would baseball-reference.com. (Their Hall of Fame Monitor equation has Edgar listed as a 131.5, above the "virtual cinch" standard of 130.) Yet, so many people insist that a Designated Hitter does not belong in the Hall of Fame, which of course led me to look at other Hall of Famers to investigate.
The first name that popped into my head was a certain Reggie Jackson. As a career hitter, he was dominated by Martinez in average and on-base, and even in slugging.
Jackson only played a portion of his career as a Designated Hitter, however the time he spent in the field was not anything to write home about. He was a career .967 outfielder—well below the league average during his career of .980.
Essentially, when a person says that Jackson belongs in the Hall of Fame, but Martinez does not, they are saying that a crappy defense is better than not playing defense.
So if Seattle had let Martinez butcher at first instead of taking advantage of the DH and not used guys like Tino Martinez or John Olerud (because what team would want those levels of production in their lineup on a nightly basis?), Edgar Martinez would be a Hall of Famer. This is essentially the argument many a baseball "expert" is making.
Yet we let Goose Gossage into the Hall of Fame, a man who only pitched 1.8 innings per outing, and in terms of the league average, still did not even have all that impressive an ERA (a 127 ERA+ as primarily a career reliever, and showed evident flaws as a starter).
I am not going to sit here and say I will never watch baseball again if Martinez is not a first ballot Hall of Famer. What I will say is that if Martinez does not find himself induced among the greats of the game as he deserves to be, for something as stupid as some people's anti-DH stance, then the Hall of Fame selection committee can consider itself a joke.