In past years, it was just another day to Edgar Martinez. Maybe he’d focus on one of his many businesses or charitable endeavors, or more recently focus on the looming spring training and his duties as the Mariners’ hitting coach.
Really, there was no reason for him to make the day that the Baseball Hall of Fame voting results are announced a priority. He wasn’t going to get voted in, so why worry?
But this year, it will be different.
Edgar’s Hall of Fame credentials
.312 batting average
.418 on-base percentage
.515 slugging percentage
Five-time DH of the year
WAR: 68.3 (tied for 77th all-time)
JAWS*: 56.0 (HOF standard is 54.6)
* Jay Jaffe’s “Wins Above Replacement Score”
On Wednesday at about 3 p.m. Pacific time, Martinez will flip his television to the MLB Network to watch the announcement of the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class.
“This time I will,” he said. “In the past, I knew I didn’t have any chance. And even this year, it’s only a slim chance that it will happen. But it looks like there might be a good increase from last year. I’m interested to see how much it will increase.”
Indeed, Martinez has never really sniffed the necessary requirement of appearing on 75 percent of the ballots cast for induction. Last year, he reached a high of 43.4 percent. In previous years, he had never eclipsed the 40-percent barrier.
Based on vote tracking, Martinez won’t get the necessary 75 percent needed this year. But the increase should be significant enough that Martinez could reach induction in his final two years of eligibility.
Checking on the latest vote-tracking results compiled by Ryan Thibodaux, Martinez has received votes on 134 of the 200 ballots already publicly released, which is 67 percent. The 200 ballots are just less than half of the expected Hall of Fame votes to be cast.
Many Hall of Fame votes are not made public — which will change next year based on a recent decision by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — so some level of decrease seems likely.
But if Martinez can appear on 55 to 65 percent of the ballots this year, it would be a solid base that could push him forward and into Cooperstown in the next two years.
Martinez opened a Twitter account early in the 2016 season (@11EdgarMartinez) and has used it to keep track of Thibodaux’s work (@NotMrTibbs).
“I take a look once in a while,” he said. “I check to see how the numbers are doing. If that’s fairly accurate, it’s encouraging to see where it’s going.”
Feb. 14: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Peoria, Ariz.
Feb. 19: First full-squad workout.
Feb. 25: Mariners’ spring-training opener, vs. San Diego, 12:10 p.m.
April 3: Mariners’ season opener, at Houston
April 10: Mariners’ home opener, vs. Houston
Why the jump in numbers?
“I think it’s a combination of things,” Martinez said. “Obviously, Randy (Johnson) and Junior (Ken Griffey) talking about it during their Hall of Fame inductions helped. The words coming from Pedro (Martinez) and Mariano Rivera and a number of people making comments about it, I think that helps.”
Rivera, who is viewed as the most dominant closer in MLB history, told Charlie Rose this about Martinez:
“The only guy that I didn’t want to face, when a tough situation comes, was Edgar Martinez,” Rivera said. “It didn’t matter how I threw the ball. I couldn’t get him out. Oh my god, he had more than my number. He had my breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
The Mariners also had an aggressive campaign for Martinez, including a highly informative package of stats, comparative numbers, comments from players and essays commending Martinez as a candidate, which was sent to every member of the BBWAA.
“I think the writers are starting to consider more of the sabermetric numbers … and all those numbers are helping,” Martinez said.
Even before the usage of advanced measures, it should be noted that Martinez posted a career slash line of .312/.418/.515. Only 18 players in baseball history have posted a .300/.400/.500 slash line for an entire career.
By advanced metrics, Martinez’s numbers are beyond Hall of Fame worthy.
Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who does an annual look at the Hall of Fame class and worthiness, has crunched a massive amount of data on Martinez, including his Wins Above Replacement rating — a metric used to measure overall player value. By its formula, it greatly punishes designated hitters like Martinez, by lowering their overall value.
And yet, as Jaffe points out:
“From his age-27 season onward, Martinez created more value (67.6 WAR) than all but 20 position players, 19 of whom are in Cooperstown; (Barry) Bonds is the lone exception. Of the top 35 on that list, only A-Rod (Alex Rodriquez), Bonds, Chipper Jones, Pete Rose and the still-active Adrian Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki aren’t already enshrined.”
Younger and more sabermetrically inclined writers, who also grew up in the era of the DH, are earning Hall of Fame voting status, which you achieve by being in the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years. As a result, there is a change in thinking in evaluating a player like Martinez.
The pre-eminent modern designated hitter should also be helpful to Martinez. David Ortiz, the much praised DH of the Boston Red Sox, retired after the 2016 season. While upon initial glance, Ortiz would seem like an automatic Hall of Fame inductee, Martinez’s numbers are better in many categories:
Career Fangraphs WAR: Martinez 65.4, Ortiz 46.1
Career Baseball Reference WAR: Martinez 68.3, Ortiz 50.4
Career on-base percentage: Martinez .418, Ortiz .378
Career on-base plus slugging percentage: Martinez .933, Ortiz .931
Years with a .400 OBP or higher: Martinez 11, Ortiz 3.
Martinez also won two batting titles, Ortiz has none.
Ortiz’s main advantage is in counting numbers like home runs. He belted 549 homers, while Martinez hit only 309.
“Ortiz is going on the ballot in five years,” Martinez said. “He was a DH and he should be in.”
And yet, Martinez’s numbers are just as good, if not better, in many categories. Of course, he won’t say that. Martinez won’t say much about his candidacy. He would never campaign for his induction.
Reached on the phone in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he had just worked a batting practice session with Mike Zunino, Danny Valencia and Leonys Martin, it was clear Martinez was uncomfortable talking about the entire situation.
“It’s just not my thing,” he said, laughing. “I don’t feel comfortable with that. It’s just an honor to be mentioned and to be part of the process. It’s just an honor to be on the ballot with those players.”