(Edgar Martinez is greeted by Ichiro after hitting a two-run homer in Game 4 of the 2001 ALDS against Cleveland. Seattle Times staff photo).
Edgar Martinez sat at home on Saturday and watched two of his records get broken.
Actually, he didn’t watch Boston’s David Ortiz produce his 1,004th RBI as a designated hitter in the Red Sox’s game against the Rangers on Saturday night, surpassing Martinez’s career record for that position. Edgar, in fact, said he didn’t hear until today that his RBI mark had gone down.
And he wasn’t exactly watching when Ichiro get a patented infield single in the ninth innng Saturday night in Oakland, his 2,248th hit since joining the Mariners in 2001. That made him the Seattle franchise leader in hits, surpassing Martinez’s 2,247 hits during his brilliant 18-year career, which ran from 1987-2004.
Martinez said he was hosting an event with 50 guests on Saturday, and while the game was on television, it was out of his sight when Ichiro got the hit. Word spread quickly, however.
I contacted Martinez to get his reaction to the rare occurence of losing two marks in the same day, one in Oakland and one in Texas.
“I mean, over time, for somebody who played the game long enough, my records were not that difficult to break,” he said. “It was a matter of time for someone who played the position long enough and had the ability.”
Typically, Martinez was gracious in saluting both players.
Of Ichiro, he said, “He was a teammate of mine, of course. He’s been with the Mariners a long time. Ichiro’s a really classy guy. I’m very glad it was him. I had a long career, but with my hits total, it was not that difficult to break that record. After Ichiro started getting 200 hits a year, you knew it would most likely be him.”
Interviewed after the game, Ichiro was effusive in his praise of Martinez: “I broke his record. When you look at the numbers, that’s a fact. But he’s a hero back in Seattle. He’s my hero as well. When you look at his existence, he’s a lot bigger than I am — being a great human being as well. So that’s how I look at it.
“And I played with Edgar for years as well and that’s something that’s important to me and that’s precious, a treasure to me. That’s something that I honor as well.”
Martinez read what Ichiro had to say about him.
“I’m very flattered he made those comments about me,” he said. “It’s mutual. I feel the same way about him. The way he played the game, I admire that.”
Martinez vividly remembers Ichiro’s arrival with the Mariners in 2001, a year in which Ichiro would win the batting title as well as Rookie of the Year and American League Most Valuable Player, while the Mariners would win 116 games. Martinez had a great season himself in 2001 — his last truly dominant year, one in which he hit .306 with 23 homers and 116 RBIs, with .966 OPS. Ichiro was a revelation with his .350 average, 242 hits and 56 steals.
“We knew he had a great career in Japan, and it was only a matter of time for him to get used to the league,” Martinez said. “But I didn’t expect right away for his first year to be such a good year. He got used to the league very quickly. It just tells you what kind of player he is — a smart player. He has amazing ability, too.”
Ichiro went on to set the major league record for hits in a season with 262 in 2004 — the same season that Martinez bowed out of the majors.
“I remember that well,” he said. “I was at the end of my career, and Ichiro was near the beginning of his. He had an amazing year. He was pretty much at his peak.”
Ortiz also came through the Mariner organization, though he was a minor leaguer still known as David Arias when the Mariners traded him to the Twins for Dave Hollins in 1996.
“I don’t remember him when he was with the Mariners but I remember him as a young player with the Twins,” Martinez said. “He went to Boston and really took off.”
When he broke the RBI record, Ortiz told MLB.com, “Well, that’s something when they mention your name with the caliber of Edgar Martinez and those guys, it makes you feel good.”
Said Martinez of Ortiz: “We’ve had a good relationship. Every time we see each other, we have a conversation. He’s a great guy. He’s a worthy person to hold the record.”