FOR THE EIGHTH year, Edgar Martinez has been placed on the baseball writers’ Hall of Fame ballot. And for the eighth straight year, Martinez will fail to get elected to the Hall.
It’s a shame he won’t make it because in my opinion (more on that in a bit), I believe he’s more than worthy and he’s being kept out mostly because of what I call “fogeyism” that continues to linger among old-time baseball writers (and some old-timer fans, too).
In my opinion, one thing and one thing only is keeping Martinez out of the Hall of Fame. Because he spent most of his career as a DH.
Martinez got 43.4 percent of the vote last year, the most he had ever garnered. But, it still fell well short of the 75 percent he needs to get. He’s not going to get that 75 percent with Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffmann on the ballot and Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero getting their names on the ballot for the first time.
And then you have steroid-tainted players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens allowed to hang around the ballot, eating up votes, because both Major League Baseball and the baseball writers can’t decide once and for all how to handle the Hall of Fame vote for players from the Steroid Era and/or players implicated in PEDs.
That’s too many names for Martinez to get past. And too much bias from the “old fogeys” among the voters. To me, the biggest crime in the Hall of Fame voting is that neither Martinez nor Gil Hodges can get in the Hall.
Holding a grudge
The bias is against the designated hitter. I’m part of an online baseball discussion group that involves some former MLB players and former and current baseball writers. It’s a fun group and I love the passionate Hall of Fame discussions. I’m a believer in a “Big Hall” — the more the merrier I say.
What’s enjoyable about these discussions is no one’s wrong. Everyone makes valid points, every opinion is valid. Everyone has a favorite player they’d love to see in the Hall.
Well, except for the one opinion that really bugs me, and it’s something that in a larger sense is causing baseball to lose popularity among younger people. It’s the “old fogeyism” syndrome. It’s a real thing. I see it in the discussion group and I see it from former baseball writers.
To paraphrase: Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax were the last decent pitchers; everyone who has come along since stinks because no one throws complete games, anymore. Koufax and Gibson finished what they started, damn it! Mickey Mantle was the last great ballplayer. Today’s players are bums by comparison. Mickey played the game the right way.
They conveniently ignore the fact that Koufax’s arm was destroyed at the age of 30 from all those innings. They ignore that Mickey flipped his bat, too, and showed up at games hung over or still drunk from the night before. They ignore that Mickey was a “bum” his final four years in the league because his injuries and alcoholism caught up with him in his early 30s. The past is terribly rose-colored.
These people love to rail about the lack of complete games and the strategy of baseball today of actually using your bullpen to try and win games. They love to rail about the DH. The DH has been around now for 43 years and these people — and many Hall of Fame voters — still refuse to accept the DH as a valid baseball position.
For nearly a decade from the mid-90s to the early 2000s, Martinez was simply the best DH in the game — and arguably the best non-PED tainted hitter in baseball. He was my favorite player on those good 90s Mariners’ teams. He was absolutely the one guy you wanted at the plate in the 8th or 9th inning of a close game, even more so than Griffey Jr. or Buhner.
Martinez won two batting titles, hit over .320 seven times, hit over .300 ten times, led the league in doubles twice, led the league in RBIs one year, runs another, had an OPS of over 1.0 five times, had over 20 home runs eight times, drove in over 100 runs six times — those are some astonishingly good slam dunk Hall of Fame-caliber numbers on his resume.
Here’s some other amazing Martinez numbers. He actually has the 21st best on-base percentage (.418) … in the entire history of baseball. He also has the 32nd best OPS (On base percentage + slugging percentage) in the history of baseball at .933. That’s better than a few dozen Hall of Famers.
And he did all of that essentially playing on one leg. He was actually a decent third baseman and won a batting title at third base but badly tore a hamstring when he was 30 and was never fully healthy again. He was the perfect DH, someone who, because of an injury could no longer play the field, but who could still hit the tar out of the ball. He was so good, they actually named the DH of the Year award after him.
But, he can’t get in the Hall, because he wasn’t a “complete player.” What a bunch of hooey. Reggie Jackson was the worst defensive outfielder in baseball, he got in the Hall in spite of his defense, not because of it.
There’s a guy named Rabbit Maranville in the Hall of Fame who actually made 700 errors in his career. St. Jeter the Pure will make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and he was a terrible defensive shortstop (I don’t care how many Gold Gloves he won, his defensive range was awful). Goose Gossage was an atrocious starting pitcher who was sent to the bullpen after he failed miserably as a starter. These weren’t exactly “complete players” but somehow they get past the “old fogeysim” biases.
The other bad argument against Martinez being a DH is that there are already two DHs in the Hall of Fame. And Jim Thome soon will be a third. Frank Thomas got 57 percent of his at-bats at the DH position and Paul Molitor about 44 percent of his at-bats. Thome got over 40 percent of his at-bats at DH. Martinez actually played about four years at third base, so his percentage of at-bats at DH isn’t dramatically higher than Frank Thomas’. The “complete player” now has simply become a mantra to vote against him.
To me, the one legitimate argument against Martinez in the Hall is that he didn’t become a starter until he was 27, then he lost over 300 games to injuries, so he didn’t really compile big numbers (For being such an amazing hitter, he only compiled 2,200 hits for his career). If someone says to me, “he didn’t compile a lot of numbers,” that doesn’t annoy me as much as “No DHs in the Hall!” Martinez only played 2,050 games, essentially the equivalent of 13 full seasons. But, there’s lots and lots of players who had relatively short careers — Koufax, Don Drysdale, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg, Pedro Martinez and many more — who got into the Hall based on a relatively brief period of brillance.
I don’t think he’s going to get in this year when the election results are announced in January. And he will probably not get in before the end of his 10-year eligibility. I’m hoping a Veterans’ Committee will be smart enough to see the light and make right this injustice.