Of all the players on the HOF ballot not tied to the performance enhancing drug scandal, none engenders more heated debate than Edgar Martinez. Purists scoff at the notion of a designated hitter being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, while those who study the art of hitting, as well as the numbers seem to suggest that there is little to warrant keeping Martinez out of the Hall. Let’s take a look at both sides.
1- A DH cannot be in the Hall of Fame.
No full-time DH has been elected to the HOF (Martinez played in 2,055 games with 591 coming as either a first or third baseman meaning less than 29 percent of his career games required a mitt). Personally, I think the DH is an abomination to the game – akin to Velcro on shoes – but it is part of the game so it makes no sense to simply ignore the “position.” It may not be a “position” like first or third base, after all there is no need for the fella to even bring a glove to the ball park, but should that preclude him from being elected to the Hall of Fame? It might be comparing apples to oranges, but do you know how many at-bats Mariano Rivera has in his illustrious career? Try two. Should he be kept out of the HOF because he only helped his club in one facet of the game? Of course not, so maybe we should view the DH in the same vein?
2- Martinez could flat out rake.
The numbers are pretty darn impressive. Let’s go through a few of them.
* Martinez was named to seven All-Star teams.
* Martinez won five Silver Slugger awards, including one while playing third base (1992).
* Martinez owns a .312 career average, 91st best in history. He won the batting title in 1992 and 1995 and five other times he finished in the top-8.
* Not just the producer of hits, the man also knew how to work the count. Martinez led the AL in OBP three times (1995, 1998-99) and eight other times he finished in the top six. He retired with a .418 career mark, 22nd all-time.
* A fair slugger (.515 SLG), Martinez owns a .933 OPS in his career, good for 34th overall. Six times he finished in the top-5 and two other times in the top-8.
* Martinez also had 514 doubles (41st all-time), knocked in 1,261 runs (115th), hit 309 homers (112th), and produced 2,247 hits (154th).
Those numbers are clearly impressive, and they only grow in importance when you line them up against others. Consider the following.
* Martinez hit .3115 in his career. That’s less than two percentage points behind Manny Ramirez (.3132).
* Martinez hit 309 homers. Ivan Rodriguez, a fair home run bat in his own right, has only 305 homers in his career in roughly 1,800 more at-bats.
* Martinez owns a .418 career OBP which is 22nd — ever. Think about that for a minute. Done thinking? There are only two players who are currently active and have at least 3,000 plate appearances who can better that mark – Todd Helton (.427) and Albert Pujols (.427).
* And finally, that OPS of Martinez which sits at .933, is good enough for 34th in the annals of the game. If that number is adjusted for era and park, he drops a bit with an OPS+ of 147, though it still ties him for 39th – ever.
The bottom line? If you value hitting, few did it better than this man. Considering that the final couple of years of his career that he resembled Bengie Molina in his ability to move around the bases, it’s pretty amazing that he was able to produce the numbers that he did (not to mention that the Mariners stupidly held him back from full-time work until he was 27 years of age). If he even possessed average speed throughout his career he may have hit .320 with an OPS over .950, and only 10 men who ever played the game reached both of those numbers.
It pains me to say it – I simply detest the DH – but I think Martinez should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was the best DH when he played, and even if I abhor the entire concept, it’s not like we can ignore its existence. Symbolically I wouldn’t vote for him on the first ballot, but sooner or later, I would pull the trigger.
To read my thoughts on others in my HOF series simply click on the following links:
By Ray Flowers