BY Steve Rudman 01:38PM 01/08/2014

Edgar Loses Ground In Baseball HOF Voting

Edgar Martinez again failed to receive sufficient support for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He received 25.2 percent of the vote, a big drop from last year’s 35.9.

No Hall of Fame for former Mariners DH Edgar Martinez this year as his percentage of the vote dropped again. / Sportspress Northwest file

For the fifth consecutive year, former Mariners DH Edgar Martinez failed to generate sufficient support for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which Wednesday welcomed three new members, 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and two-time MVP Frank Thomas. Not only did Martinez fall considerably short of the 75 percent of the vote required for induction, his support actually dropped relative to recent HOF elections.

Maddux and Glavine became the first pair to make the Hall of Fame on their first attempt since Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn in 2007, and the first pitchers elected together on their first attempts since Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson in 1936.

The addition of Thomas marks the first time that three first-year eligibles made the Hall of Fame since 1999, when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were elected.

Four-time Cy Young winner Maddux received 97.2 percent of the vote, 10-time All-Star Glavine 91.9 and five-time All-Star Thomas 83.7. Craig Biggio barely missed induction, receiving 74.8 percent, shy of the required 75 percent.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds both lost ground and are long way from induction. Clemens received 35.4 percent and Bonds 34.7. Three other players suspected of juicing, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, received 11.0, 7.2 and 4.4 percent, respectively.

Martinez received 144 votes, or 25.2 percent, placing 13th in the balloting. He finished ahead of such notables as Alan Trammell  (20.8 percent), Mike Mussina (20.3), Jeff Kent (15.2) and Fred McGriff (11.7). Martinez’s 25.2 percent represents a drop of 10.7 percent over last year. This is the record of support for Martinez since he became HOF eligible in 2010:

Year Votes Pct./Vote Top 3 vote-getters by percent of vote
2010 195 36.2 Andre Dawson 77.9, B. Blyleven 74.2, R. Alomar 73.7
2011 191 32.9 Roberto Alomar 90.0, B. Blyleven 79.7, B. Larkin 62.1
2012 209 36.5 Barry Larkin 86.4, Jack Morris 66.7, Jeff Bagwell 56.0
2013 204 35.9 Craig Biggio 68,2, Jack Morris 67.7, Jeff Bagwell 59.6
2014 144 25.2 Greg Maddux 97.2, Tom Glavine 91.9, Frank Thomas 83.7

For two reasons, it’s not much of a surprise that Baseball Writers Association of America voters backed off slightly from Martinez this year. Last year, no player received the required 75 percent, and all of the players on the 2013 ballot were on it again this year. In addition, the first-time eligibles this year included Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Kent and Mike Mussina.

Support for Martinez is not likely to increase next year, either, when former Seattle ace and 300-game winner Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield become eligible for the first time, or even the following  year when Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman will be likely shoo-ins.

The strongest case for Martinez is that he produced 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. Also:

  • The Mariners never had a winning season (1977-1989) prior to Martinez’s arrival, and have had just two .500 or better seasons since he retired following 2004.
  • Only 17 individuals retired with a batting average above .300, an on-base percentage above .400, and a slugging percentage above .500 (this group includes titans Ty Cobb (.366-.433-.512), Ruth (.342-.474-.690), (.340-.447-.632) and Williams (.344-.482-.634). Martinez retired with a .312 batting average, a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage.

Martinez played at a Hall of Fame level during his peak seasons from 1995 to 2003 (ages 32 to 40), during which he batted .321 with a .438 on-base percentage, a .558 slugging percentage and a .996 OPS (not many in that period of time were better).

But Martinez’s HOF candidacy will always be compromised by two negatives most voters haven’t been able  to get past.

Martinez failed to produce any of the traditional big numbers, specifically 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. Martinez also spent his nine-year apex almost exclusively as a designated hitter. BWAA members have a long history of dismissing DHs when measuring them against men who play the field.

But among DHs, Edgar has the highest career batting average (.314 to Hall of Famer Paul Molitor’s .308), on-base percentage and OPS (OBP + SLG) of any player as a designated hitter (minimum: 1,000 games).

Also significant in terms of HOF voting, Martinez, despite wearing a major league uniform for 18 seasons, technically only qualified for the batting title in 12 of those years.

Injuries hampered Martinez early in his career, and his relatively late start, at age 27, meant that his .312 lifetime batting average translated into just 2,247 hits and 309 home runs, far below traditional HOF standards..

As to Edgar’s almost-exclusive role as a DH, it can be argued that every American League team has had to fill that position every day for nearly four decades, and no one filled it better than Martinez; and that if “role” players are so easily dismissed, then it’s inconsistent to elect five relief pitchers to the Hall of Fame while simultaneously shunning DHs. It’s equally absurd for BWAA voters to overlook peak value for DHs while weighing it heavily for relievers.

While Martinez only qualified for the batting title 12 times in 18 years, it’s unfair to downgrade a player because he suffered injuries, or hold against him the fact the Mariners did not see fit to promote him full time to the majors until age 30 was lurking.

The reasonable thing is to ignore such factors and judge a player by what he accomplished as a peak performer. Such will be the case with Ichiro, who will be assessed on the 10-year period 2001-10, not on subsequent seasons when he was clearly past his prime.

Based on recent HOF elections, including those of Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, and Goose Gossage, it can take years for a less-than-slam-dunk candidate to reach Cooperstown, meaning Martinez’s chances aren’t dead yet.

Blyleven, who made the HOF three years ago on his 14th try, first appeared on the HOF 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. Slowly, as BWAA voters delved more deeply into the context of Blyleven’s career, they became convinced of Blyleven’s legitimacy.

This is what it is going to take for Martinez to enter the Hall of Fame: A greater awareness and appreciation for the level at which he played, at least for a decade.

 


YourThoughts

  • dinglenuts

    Edgar’s HOF chances are also negatively impacted by the fact that he played in the MLB outpost that is Seattle. Many of the voters may have never seen him swing a bat, and it wasn’t like the Mariners were showing up on SportCenter every night.

  • jafabian

    When Randy and Junior go in hopefully they’ll make a plea for Edgar to be inducted. Frank Thomas was a DH for most of his career, though Thomas has MVP trophies to his resume. It seems the old biases regarding the DH position are stii around which doesn’t make sense. If an AL pitcher can make it in, or a relief pitcher than a DH should be able to. And it’s not like a NL pitcher goes to the Hall for his hitting.

    IMO, it’s going to take involvement by the players union and the Commisioner to help Edgar to get in.

  • RadioGuy

    I don’t think I’d consider Paul Molitor a DH the way Edgar is. Molitor played a total of 1,497 games at five positions in the field. For his part, Edgar played 592 games at third or first (and only put on a fielders’ glove 34 times his last ten seasons). BTW, Thomas played 971 games at first base.

    I liked and respected Edgar, but I’m just not sold on him as a HOFer…just yet. Especially if even Biggio can’t get in with 3,060 hits and 1,844 runs scored.

    • jafabian

      I think Thomas being listed as playing 1B for 971 might be misleading. Many times he’d move to DH by the 7th inning by the White Sox and get a defensive replacement at first. Remember when the M’s played the White Sox in the 2000 playoffs: they bunted to Thomas to win the last game of the series because of his rep as a poor fielder at 1B. He rarely played at 1B the rest of his career after that.

      Edgar has it tough. But he’s considered the best DH of all time. As such he should make it at some point.

  • Kirkland

    On another angle, Edgar had the misfortune to play in the “Steroid Era”. Not only are there some writers who won’t vote for alleged-or-proven juicers like Bonds, McGwire, Palmiero et al., but I also know of at least one writer who will not vote for ANYONE who played at the same time as they did (which was why he left off Greg Maddux on his ballot)*. If there are more paint-with-a-wide-brush voters like him, that can’t help Edgar, whom to my knowledge was never associated with steroids.

    *http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/07/greg-maddux-will-not-be-a-unanimous-hall-of-famer/