Over the last four decades, Seattle Mariners fans have become accustomed to frustration and disappointment. Today though, they’re rejoicing. Longtime Mariner Edgar Martínez is finally entering the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.
It’s been a long journey for the player affectionately known as “Edgar” throughout MLB. The 18-year major leaguer didn’t receive the minimum 75-percent of votes required for Hall selection until his tenth and final year on the ballot.
Mariners fans will contend Martínez’s selection is long overdue. That he should’ve been selected years ago. Perhaps, but a hardcore segment of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) disagreed. Their rationale for snubbing Edgar can be traced back to a pair of preconceptions.
Some members of the electorate place an inordinate amount of value on counting stats – hits, home runs, and *cough* RBI. From their perspective, Edgar’s career production wasn’t Hall of Fame worthy.
Others simply don’t believe anyone who played 68-percent of his games as a designated hitter deserves to be honored alongside the likes of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, or another Mariners great – Ken Griffey Jr.
My reply to the naysayers?
Wait now, what?
Edgar Martínez became a Hall of Famer today without the support of the curmudgeon wing of the BBWAA. So, who cares what they think?
Rather than focusing on the Edgar’s prolonged candidacy, celebrating his legacy should be the first order of business. doing my part by recapping what convinced me long ago the 56-year-old deserved Cooperstown enshrinement.
All-Time Great Hitter
Counting stats typically serve as a decent indicator of a player’s career success, but occasionally fall short of painting a clear picture. That’s certainly the case with Martínez.
Although he didn’t attain lofty hit and home run milestones customarily linked to Cooperstown, Edgar’s career triple-slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) proves he’s on par with prominent hitters from all eras.
Some old-schoolers may dismiss Edgar’s 309 career homers, but the five-time Silver Slugger possessed a potent bat. His .515 slugging percentage matches or betters six members of the 500 home run club – Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Murray, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks.
Overall, Edgar had a .312/.418/.515 career triple-slash. Before today, only 13 Hall of Famers slashed over .300/400/.500 during their career. It’s worth noting just two of them played within the last 55 years – Frank Thomas and Chipper Jones.
That’s good, right?
No, that’s great.
Wins above replacement (WAR) isn’t the end-all stat for assessing a ballplayer. On the other hand, it’s a great tool for comparing players regardless of position and/or era. WAR certainly highlights Edgar’s greatness.
Before today, 157 Hall of Famers had 5,000-plus plate appearances – only 63 outdid Edgar’s 68.4 WAR. Here’s a sample of noteworthy names behind him in the rankings.
Players With Less WAR Than Edgar
|Ryne Sandberg||Ernie Banks|
|Dave Winfield||Harmon Killebrew|
|Tony Perez||Jim Rice|
|Willie McCovey||Willie Stargell|
|Craig Biggio||Andre Dawson|
|Vladimir Guerrero||Roberto Alomar|
WAR may not be embraced by old-schoolers, but this modern metric played a prominent role in advancing Edgar’s Hall of Fame legitimacy.
A designated hitter’s WAR is penalized for a lack of defensive contributions. Despite this inherent disadvantage, Edgar’s stands tall among baseball’s greatest players.
As already noted, Edgar didn’t compile the counting stats some voters obsess over. Through no fault of his own, he didn’t receive the chance to be an everyday player until his age-27 season in 1990.
Despite the late start, Martínez earned inclusion in baseball’s most exclusive fraternity thanks to an impressive run as a thirty-something. In fact, he was one of the most productive hitters between ages 30-39 since the end of the second World War.
Since 1947, just one Hall of Famer – Craig Biggio (383) – hit more doubles during his thirties than Edgar’s 344. Only Gwynn, Carew, Musial, and Molitor had a better batting average as a thirty-something. No one bested his .436 OBP.
And from the advanced metric camp, Aaron, Mays, and Frank Robinson were the only Hall of Famers to deliver a better weighted runs created plus (wRC+) than Edgar.
Sounds like an all-time great hitter to me.
Greatest Mariners Hitter Ever
Okay, being the best hitter for a franchise with just 14 winning seasons may not seem impressive. Having said that, several great hitters have played for the Mariners through the years with Edgar being the best of the bunch.
I realize I’ll get blow back for that take. But Edgar ranks top-three in Seattle’s record book for hits, doubles, home runs, batting average, OBP, and slugging. No other Mariner can make that claim. Plus, his team-record 1,283 walks exceed the combined totals of Junior, Robinson Canó, and Adrián Beltré during their Seattle stints.
Ichiro Suzuki has the highest batting average in Mariners franchise history; Griffey the most home runs. Both were iconic figures, who changed baseball in a positive and lasting manner. Still, Edgar’s distinctive blend of on-base ability and power made him the better all-around hitter.
I realize playing for just one club doesn’t necessarily equate to Hall of Fame worthiness. But it’s pretty cool Edgar remained a Mariner despite the likelihood he could’ve made a bundle by leaving for a club willing to pay him more.
Edgar joins Mariano Rivera as just the fourteenth and fifteenth Hall of Famers to debut since 1974 and remain with the same organization throughout their career. Both avoided being traded and resisted the lure of free agency.
Recent One-Team Hall of Famers
|Mike Schmidt||Cal Ripken Jr.||George Brett|
|Jim Rice||Kirby Puckett||Tony Gwynn|
|Barry Larkin||Craig Biggio||Alan Trammell|
|Robin Yount||Ryne Sandberg||Jeff Bagwell|
|Chipper Jones||Mariano Rivera||Edgar Martinez|
Ironically, Edgar remaining with Seattle probably hampered his Hall of Fame candidacy. Playing in a bigger media market would’ve helped more members of the media better appreciate the two-time batting champ’s offensive prowess.
Still, Edgar’s loyalty to the only organization he ever knew endears him to Mariners fans. Now, those supporters can revel in the fact he’ll be honored alongside the likes of Mays, Aaron, Mantle, and of course Junior.
It’s going to be a special day in Cooperstown this coming July.
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