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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

November 8, 2009 at 11:33 PM

Why I’m feeling (slightly) better about Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame chances

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I’ve written numerous columns over the years on Edgar Martinez and Cooperstown, and I promise I’ll write many more, because the magic moment is coming: Edgar has had his requisite five years out of the game and will be on the ballot for the first time in December. Next month, in other words. Results will be announced in January.

It will be an uphill battle for the reasons that we all know: Edgar (shown above going into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame in 2007, surrounded by fellow inductees Dave Niehaus, Alvin Davis and Jay Buhner) was primarily a designated hitter, and a prejudice against DHs remains with some Hall voters; Edgar didn’t get 3,000 hits, or anywhere close (largely because he didn’t get a regular job until his mid-20s, an injustice that still haunts hard-core M’s fans); and Edgar played in relative obscurity in Seattle (although I think this has become on easy cliched response; they have television and the internet and all these other new-fangled things these days that bring the entire world together; why is Seattle any more obscure than any other outpost that are not L.A. or New York or Chicago?).

And yet I believe that a strong case can and will be made for Martinez that shows his worthiness. Martinez in many ways is the antithesis of Jim Rice, whose surface stats and reputation as “a feared hitter” eventually brought him to Cooperstown, while those with a sabermetric bent howled about his unworthiness. Edgar Martinez is an example of a hitter whose credentials grow stronger the deeper you delve into his numbers. I have a hunch that the more sophisticated analysts are going to wind up advocating for Martinez with passion.

It’s already begun, in fact. Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated (and of his own blog, consistently one of the best reads on the web) has written a post in which he makes an informed case for Edgar as a Hall of Famer. JoePo, in addition to being a deft wordsmith, also happens to be well-versed in the new metrics of player evaluation.

Posnanski calls Edgar “the best hitter not in the Hall of Fame,” and explains why. He concludes: “The Hall of Fame is loaded, absolutely loaded with players who were not nearly as good at hitting a baseball as Edgar Martinez. Compare him as a hitter with almost anyone you think in recent years — George Brett, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Billy Williams, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline or Yaz. You’ll be surprised.”

Posnanski goes on to say that he doesn’t think Martinez will make it, and I don’t either — not the first time around. But articles like this by prominent national writers like Posnanski could begin to change the perception of Martinez as just a DH with good numbers. He’s a DH with great numbers — brilliant numbers, ones that I sense will be illuminated more brightly than I had previously imagined by the legion of great baseball thinkers that populate the writing world these days..

Some work for newspapers, and some are the 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who will make the ultimate call on Martinez. Many are not; they’re the so-called citizen-journalists and bloggers who are changing our world (the world of journalism; my world) so dramatically. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve learned a whole bunch by opening my mind and realizing that there are newer, and better, ways to evaluate performance than the ones I adhered to, stubbornly, for so long. I’m not the only one. This statistical and analytical revolution, of sorts, should aid candidates like Martinez as it slowly takes hold and filters into the mainstream, as is already happening.

The Mariners are preparing a packet of information on Martinez’s credentials to send to national writers and potential Hall of Fame voters. It all helps. I’m more convinced now than I used to be that Edgar Martinez will, indeed, one day be voted into the Hall of Fame. And that day might be sooner than we had dared hope.

(Seattle Times photo by Mark Harrison)

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