BY Steve Rudman 09:28PM 01/05/2011

Edgar’s HOF bid needs outside-the-box thinking

Former Mariner had the mega stat, just not the right one

Edgar Martinez greets fans at Safeco Field following the end of his career in October, 2004 / Getty Images

Wednesday’s news that Edgar Martinez again failed to make the Baseball Hall of Fame came as little surprise since, over the past two years, his candidacy has been fairly trampled upon by a legion of critics who argue that Martinez did not achieve most, if not all, of the “magical” or “meaningful” statistical levels deemed mandatory for Hall of Fame batters.

Not only that, but for the better part of his 18-year career, Martinez did not subject himself to the daily grind of a position, working exclusively as a designated hitter, further leading with his chin to HOF decision makers.

It is true that Martinez did not come close to 3,000 base hits or 500 home runs, standards by which Hall of Famers are routinely judged.

But Martinez had more hits (2,247) than Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt (2,234), Willie Stargell (2,232), Joe Sewell (2,226), Joe DiMaggio (2,214) and Bill Terry (2,193), to name just a few.

He hit more home runs (309) than Hall of Famers Al Simmons (307), Rogers Hornsby (301) and Chuck Klein (300), to cite just three.

He had a higher on-base+slugging mark (.9333) than Hall of Famers Earl Averill (.9283), Tris Speaker (.9283), Duke Snider (.9194), Mike Schmidt (.9076), Willie McCovey  (.8892) and Willie Stargell (.8887).

And Edgar accounted for more total bases (3,718) than Hall of Famers Johnny Bench (3,644), Yogi Berra (3,643), Johnny Mize (3,621), Enos Slaughter (3,599) and Bill Terry (3,252).

As his critics have correctly charged, Edgar just didn’t have that one obvious mega stat to convince Hall of Fame voters, who awarded him just 32.9 percent of the vote, down from the 36.2 percent he received in 2010.

Despite the decline from last year to this, Edgar still has a chance at Cooperstown. Bert Blyleven, who made the Hall of Fame Wednesday, did so in his 14th year of eligibility. Blyleven first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1998, receiving 17.5 percent of the vote. The next year, that figure sagged to 14.1 percent.  Blyleven didn’t even get half the votes necessary for induction until 2006, his ninth year of eligibility.

Then the blogosphere took over, in which a campaign was mounted that created an upswell of support for a pitcher who had fanned 3,700 batters and tossed a remarkable 60 shutouts. Forced to consider new information, or reconsider old information, Hall of Fame voters ultimately were able to overlook Blyleven’s so-so .544 winning percentage and award him 79.7 percent of the vote.

For those who like to dwell on all the obvious numbers that Edgar didn’t have, I’d point out a few numbers he DID have. One not-so-obvious mega stat stands out: Only 15 individuals in the history of the game retired with a batting average above .300, an on-base percentage above .400, and a slugging percentage above .500.

This group includes such titans as Ty Cobb (.366-.433-.512), Babe Ruth (.342-.474-.690), Lou Gehrig (.340-.447-.632) and Ted Williams (.344-.482-.634).

This group also includes Edgar Martinez, who retired following the 2004 season with a .312 batting average, a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage.

Remarkable about the .300.-.400-.500 club is who isn’t in it. Hank Aaron isn’t in it. Neither is Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, George Brett, Willie McCovey and Kirby Puckett, Hall of Famers all.

Whether this will sway Baseball Writers Association of America voters toward Martinez at some future point, we can’t say. We can say that Bert Blyleven did not pad his statistical resume one iota between 1998 and 2011, and yet his approval rating among Hall of Fame voters shot up about 66 percent while he went fishing.

And we also can say that, of the 15 players in the .300-.400-.500 club, only two are NOT in the Hall of Fame – Edgar Martinez and the ineligible Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Maybe the Baseball Writers Association of America needs more out-of-the-box thinkers.

Exalted Members Of The .300-.400-.500 Club

Player Career BA On-Base Pct. Slg. Pct.
Ty Cobb 1907-28 .366 .433 .512
Stan Musial 1941-63 .331 .417 .559
Tris Speaker 1907-28 .345 .428 .500
Mel Ott 1926-47 .304 .414 .533
Babe Ruth 1914-35 .342 .474 .690
Rogers Hornsby 1915-37 .358 .434 .577
Jimmie Foxx 1925-45 .325 .428 .609
Lou Gehrig 1923-39 .340 .447 .632
Harry Heilmann 1914-32 .342 .410 .520
Ted Williams 1939-60 .344 .482 .634
Ed Delahanty 1888-03 .346 .411 .505
EDGAR MARTINEZ 1987-04 .312 .418 .515
Dan Brothers 1879-96 .342 .423 .519
Hank Greenberg 1933-47 .313 .412 .605
Joe Jackson 1980-20 .356 .423 .517

YourThoughts

  • Andrew

    couldn’t agree more, excellent article, and it is a complete disgrace if edgar martinez is not in the hall. one thing you failed to mention is that he did all of this as a right-handed hitter which makes it even more impressive. very few righties come close to his BA and those around him are HOF’ers or future HOF’ers. Plus the .418 OBA is just amazing, and the righties near him in this category will be in the hall:

    Pujols .426
    Frank Thomas .419
    Greenberg .412
    Manny Ramirez .411

    • Steve Rudman

      Thank you so much for the reply.

  • Tim

    Great article! Edar has the right attitude. He’ll get in the HOF eventually. With all his stats it’s just a matter of time and educating and enlightening more writers as to why he is so deserving.

    • Steve Rudman

      Tim: Thanks for taking the time to reply. I do appreciate it.

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  • Sam Chowder

    Excellent article. People in Seattle know that Edgar had a cool, quiet genius in the batter’s box that can’t be captured by numbers and statistics alone.

  • Steve Rudman

    Sam: You are absolutely correct. If Edgar played in, say, New York, there would be no question about his Hall of Fame credentials. It’s just going to take a while.

  • David Swier

    If only all major league players could have the humility, kindness and loyality to a team and city that Mr. Martinez has demonstrated throughout his career. In my opinion, DH is not a hall of fame position. It should be abolished. Play baseball the way it was originally designed.

  • Bryan Clark

    Edgar does have a mega-stat… Well, at least as far as a baseball geek like me is concerned, and that would be Runs Created.

    • Bryan Clark

      I’m sorry, I should have said runs created per game…