With the National League MVP award being bestowed today to Albert Pujols (what, you thought it was going to Yorvit Torrealba?), the Baseball Writers Association of America yearly awards are now done.
However, the BBWAA is about to spring into action in its other significant awards duty, which is to select Hall of Famers. The ballot for the Cooperstown class of 2010 will be mailed out tomorrow (Wednesday), and it must be returned by a Dec. 31 postmark. The results will be announced Jan. 6.
In other words, in less than 12 hours, Edgar Martinez will be on the clock. Edgar has had his requisite five-year waiting period, and for the first time will be on the ballot. Other first-timers include Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin and Fred McGriff, all of whom, like Edgar, have a Hall of Fame case that can be made for them but are far from automatic first-ballot choices.*
In fact, let’s just come out and say it: Barring a miracle, Edgar is not going to make it this year. He has too much going against him to overcome in one year — mainly that he was a designated hitter, a position perceived with inherent prejudices, and his career stats fell short of the standards that voters like: 3,000 hits and/or 500 homers (Martinez finished with 2,247 and 309).
Yet that doesn’t mean Edgar will never make the Hall of Fame. In a best-case scenario. I can see him starting off at about 40 to 50 percent (of the necessary 75 percent vote of 10-year BBWAA members) and slowly rising annually until he makes it. That’s the way it happens for borderline candidates. No, he’s not going to get any more hits in the ensuing years, but for some players, the voters just have to let his numbers percolate for awhile before they vote for him. That’s what happened with Jim Rice, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and many others, and it’s happening at a more accelerated pace for Andre Dawson, who has a real shot to get in this year. Dawson had 45.3 percent his first year (2002), increased to 50 percent in ’03 and ’04, edged up to 52.3 percent in 2005, increased to 61 percent in ’06, dipped to 56.7 in ’07, and shot up to 65.9 percent last year. (Those numbers are slightly revised from what I initially posted, which were incorrect). That’s an arc that Martinez could follow. Remember, candidates have 15 years to get voted in before being referred to the Veterans Committee; Rice made it last year on his 15th try.
The realistic goal for Martinez supporters is to get his baseline as high as possible, so that the gentle rise, if there is one, doesn’t have as far to go. For the record, I believe that Martinez is a Hall of Famer; he has my vote. I have voted every year for Dawson. I haven’t studied Larkin, McGriff or Alomar, so I’m not sure how I’ll go on them.
As I have mentioned before, the Mariners have been preparing a fact sheet in support of Martinez’s candidacy. They sent it out today to BBWAA members, and it’s a great piece of work. I believe it will be influential in educating and perhaps swaying voters of Edgar’s Hall worthiness. Here it is in PDF form. It’s hard to read his credentials in such a comprehensive manner and not at least give Martinez some serious consideration. Also worth a look is Tim Raetzloff’s long-standing website promoting Martinez’s candidacy.
I’m really interested to see how Martinez’s first crack at the Hall of Fame goes. If his initial percentage is in the teens, he’s in big trouble. If it’s in the 40s or 50s, he’s on his way. It will give a good indication of how tough his road to Cooperstown will be, and whether he’ll get there at all.
*Just for fun, here are the names of other eligible players this year (10 years in the majors, five years retired) that are likely to be on the ballot (we won’t know for sure who passed the screening committee until the ballot arrives in the mail): Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Dave Burba, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Mark McLemore, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Robin Ventura, Fernando Vina, Todd Zeile.
(Seattle Times photo by Mark Harrison. How many Hall of Famers are in that picture? )