Rodney M Bliss

Baseball Geek’s Delight. (Mariners Edition)

Right now the Mariners looking for the tie. They would take a fly ball. They would love a base hit into the gap and they could win it with Junior’s speed.

The stretch. . and the 0-1 pitch on the way to Edgar Martinez, swung on and lined down the left field line for a base hit!

Here comes Joey, here is Junior to third base.

They’re going to wave him in!

The throw to the plate will be late!

The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship!

I don’t believe it!

It just continues!


Edgar Martinez with a double ripped down the left field line and they are going crazy at the Kingdome!
Dave Niehaus calling the winning play in the decisive game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the New York Yankees

That was a seminal day in the history of the Seattle Mariners baseball club. A club that in its 42 year history has never played in a Fall Classic. A team that for the first 18 years of its history had only three winning seasons. A team that until the 2016 election of Ken Griffey Jr, didn’t have a single player in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

People love to talk about the history of losing that plagued the Chicago Cubs, or the Boston Red Sox, or the Cleveland Indians. But, Mariners fans can tell you that those franchises, at their worst had no claim on futility like the M’s. (Never been to the World Series is a lot longer than 108 years of losing.)

But, on that day in 1995, we all had something to cheer about. And today, 24 years later, we have another one of those days. Today, Edgar Martinez, a man who played his entire career for the Seattle Mariners, most of it at the Designated Hitter position, was voted into the Hall of Fame.

The actual induction ceremony won’t be until July, but today was the important day. Edgar’s (all Seattle Mariner’s greats are known by their first name) path to the Hall mirrors the tortuous path the Marines had through the years.

To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, a player has to have been retired for 5 years. The baseball writers of America vote for the players. Each writer can choose ten players on their ballot each year. If a player appears on 75% of the 425 ballots he’s in. After 10 years of eligibility the player is removed from ballots.

Edgar Martinez was first on the ballot in 210. Here’s how the voting went for him over the last decade:

  • 2010 – 36.2%
  • 2011 – 32.9%
  • 2012 – 36.5%
  • 2013 – 35.9%
  • 2014 – 25.2%
  • 2015 – 27.0%
  • 2016 – 43.4%
  • 2017 – 58.6%
  • 2018 – 70.4%

And then there was this year. First let’s talk a little about Edgar’s credentials. Edgar came late to the Major Leagues. He was called up in 1987 at the age of 24. He spent 17 years in the Major Leagues, all of it with the Seattle Mariners.

Hits: 2247

BA: .312

HR: 309

RBI: 1261

These are good numbers, but not outstanding. He went to the All Star Game 7 times, earned two battling titles and won five Silver Slugger Awards. He also five times was named the Outstanding Designated Hitter.

And that’s the problem the Designated Hitter, or DH. It’s one of the key difference between the American League where the Mariners play and the National League. The DH is a player that does just that. All he does is hit. He doesn’t play the field. The DH takes the place of the pitcher in the batter order.

The DH is a controversy that has raged since 1973 when it was implemented. It’s been 46 years, but for a game that counts records in centuries, 46 years is still the trial period. The question for the Hall of Fame voters was, “Does a Designated Hitter belong in the Hall of Fame?” And it was that question that kept Edgar’s numbers so low for so many years.

What’s not in doubt is that Edgar Martinez was the greatest Designated Hitter in the history of the game. In fact, Edgar Martinez is so revered as a Designated Hitter, that after he retired Major League Baseball renamed the Outstanding Designated Hitter award to the Edgar Martinez award.

But, being famous is not enough to get someone into the Hall of Fame. Tommy John was a pitcher who had a career saving surgery named after him. Many pitchers who had Tommy John surgery are in the Hall of Fame. Tommy John isn’t one of them. Roger Maris broke one of the most famous records in baseball when he hit 61 home runs to 1961 to break Babe Ruth’s 34 year old record. Babe Ruth is in the Hall, part of the inaugural class in 1936. Roger Maris, despite his fame at breaking the record is not. The record was later broken by Barry Bonds when he hit 73 in 2001 in what many consider a number boosted by performance enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds is also not in the Hall of Fame. And I’m of the opinion he never should be. But, that’s a discussion for another day.

What finally put Edgar over the top was a combination of things. First, just longevity. After coming so close in 2018, it was a near inevitability that he would get in the following year. In addition, the Baseball writers changed their membership. The reduced the number of eligible voters, forcing out many of the older voters. The younger voters didn’t have as much of a bias against the DH.

And finally, Edgar got in with a little help from his friends. Or actually his opponents. In what was possibly a deliberate decision on the part of some of baseball’s greatest pitchers, Edgar got some help.

Pitcher Pedro Martinez, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015. He had this to say about Edgar,

The toughest guy I faced I think — with all due respect to all the players in the league — was Edgar Martinez.

And it wasn’t that Edgar had great success against Pedro Martinez. In 33 meetings Edgar went 3-for-25. That’s a batting average of just .120. (For you non-baseball types, that’s a terrible batting average.)

Randy Johnson, was also elected to the hall in 2015. He played with Edgar for many years, while throwing 99 MPH fastballs and a wicked slider named “Mr Skippy.” Randy Johnson had this to say about Edgar.

Edgar Martinez is, hands down, the best hitter that I’ve ever seen.

Randy Johnson was the best pitcher that many players ever faced. His words counted for a lot.

This year Edgar got 85.4% of the vote. The voters seemed to realize that being a great player, being a Hall of Fame player is about more than batting averages and OPS percentages. If the best pitchers in the game claim you are the not just one of the best hitters, but the best hitter, it certainly counts for something.

Edgar joins an impressive Hall of Fame class.

  • Mariano Rivera
  • Roy Halladay
  • Mike Mussina
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Lee Smith*
  • Harold Baines*

*elected in December

It’s the most diverse class in Hall of Fame history. Smith and Baines are African-American. Edgar and Rivera are Latino. In addition, for the first time ever, a player, the great Yankee’s closer, Mariano Rivera, was elected unanimously. The player that previously had the highest total? That was Mariner’s great, Ken Griffey Jr, elected in 2016 with 99.32%.

Let’s return to that play back in 1995 that Dave Niehaus called. Not only was it the most memorable Mariner’s play of all time, it was perfectly captures the greatness of the Mariners. Because with the election of Edgar there are now three Mariners in the Hall of Fame. Edgar, who hit the decisive double down the line, Junior who scored from first on that double, and the first Mariner ever elected to the Hall of Fame, Dave Niehaus, the Hall of Fame broadcaster.

Me holding an Edgar Martinez gamed used bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum on 1/15/2019

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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