Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Hopefully Edgar isn't too specialized for the 'Hall'

Crunch Time

 

February 1, 2018



At least he’s closer.

The “he” I’m referring to is Edgar Martinez, former Seattle Mariners famed designated hitter extraordinaire. The close is Edgar’s drive to selection to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2018 on Jan. 24 and alas, once again Martinez’s name was left off. The two-time American League battling champion received 70.4 percent of the writers’ votes, but needed 75 percent to qualify for the Hall.

That’s better than 2014’s 25.2 percent of ballots, the lowest he’s received, and a significant jump from last year’s 58.6 percent. Martinez, who is the M’s hitting coach, has one year left of eligibility, so there’s hope.

By the numbers, you’d think Edgar’s bust in Cooperstown might already need some dusting off. He’s a career .312 hitter in over 2,055 games in 18 years — all in Seattle.

Besides the batting titles, Edgar has five Silver Slugger Awards, 2,247 hits, 1,219 runs, 309 home runs, 514 doubles and 1,261 RBIs. His career on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage is .933, better than Hall of Fame members “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron (.929), Frank Robinson (.926) and fellow Mariner teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. (.907).

Edgar’s OPS, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and average are ahead of many current HOF members such as Ricky Henderson and Al Kaline. And, the award for the American League’s best designated hitter is called — wait for it — the Edgar Martinez Award.

So why is it proving so tough to elect one of Seattle’s most favorite players to the prestigious Hall of Fame? Probably several reasons, one of which is Martinez spent most of his 18 years as the DH, a position many baseball purists still look down upon.

There are designated hitters who are in the Hall of Fame, including one selected this year — Cleveland’s Jim Thome. But Thome spent a good portion of his career in the field as well at first base for the Indians.

He also is ranked eighth in home runs with 612 and has a .956 lifetime OPS, .554 slugging percentage and .402 on-base percentage, with 1,699 RBIs, all numbers better than Martinez.

But Thome doesn’t carry as much of the DH stigma as Martinez. Baseball likes complete players, players who swing and miss as well as drop down and scoop up a grounder, or track down a long fly ball.

At least the baseball writers do. Or do they? The DH is a specialized position, but for some reason, another specialized position doesn’t seen to carry that complete player aura.

I’m talking about “the closer.” The relief pitching specialist who enters the game in the ninth inning to save a win, or in some cases, keep the game tied until his teammates can get back up to bat.

This year’s class includes San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman, who was indeed a dominating pitcher in this role. His stats are impressive, but unlike starting pitchers, and up to about 1977 when standard relievers began being used more often in closing roles, he seldom went to the plate to hit.

In fact, over his 17-year career, Hoffman notched just 34 regular-season plate appearances. And yet he, and many other pitching specialists such as Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley, are all in the Hall of Fame.

Eventually, time and the changing nature of the game will catch up to the writers who elect Hall of Fame members when it comes to the designated hitter and they’ll see it for what it’s become — a vital part of the modern game. Like their counterparts on the mound, more of the true specialists, like Edgar Martinez, will get in.

Let’s hope “Eeeedgaaar” sets the precedent in 2019.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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