Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Edgar Martinez
Here's Eric's take:
Cranks finding a reason to hate on Frank Thomas aside, no player personifies the debate over the designated hitter than Edgar Martinez (at least until David Ortiz hits the ballot).
We’ll start with the bad news. A combination of not breaking into the bigs for good until age 27 plus a few injury plagued seasons in his prime mean his total counting stats aren’t particularly high. He finished with 2247 career hits and 309 home runs. He also of course provided basically no defensive value (although the stats of his work at third early in his career were positive).
However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Edgar Martinez could hit and hit and hit. His first full season in 1990 he hit .302/.397/.433. A year later his OBP went up to .405, the first of ten seasons where Edgar had an OBP over .400. A year later, in 1992, he won the batting title and led the league in doubles. In 1995, he led the league in batting, OBP, OPS, OPS+, runs scored, and doubles, and ended up a playoff hero in Seattle’s first ever postseason series win.
The hitting didn’t stop even as Edgar hit the mid-30s. In 1998 and 1999 he again led the league in OBP. In 2000, he led in RBIs, for those who care. Even in 2003, at age 40, he still was able to hit .294/.406/.489. It was only the next year, when he was 41, that Edgar’s hitting really started to fall off, and he recognized it, retiring at the end of 2004.
Overall, his career batting line is .312/.418/.515. That OBP is 21st all-time, and every 20th century player around that list is an easy Hall of Famer. Despite the low hit numbers, Edgar’s ability to get on base and draw walks put him 80th all-time in times on base, also near mostly Hall of Famers (this is compared to 165th all-time in hits).
It is for those reasons that I’ve been a yes on Edgar throughout his time on the ballot. I get why people don’t agree with that, but I’m of the opinion that he was so good as a hitter that it transcends the other shortcomings. However, for now I am a MAYBE on this ballot because of the 10 vote limit. If there were no limit, I’d vote yes, but I really only have one open spot, and Edgar is one of many that could take that spot.
WILL HE GET IN: Certainly not now. This is Edgar’s 5th appearance on the ballot. The other four times he’s been right in the low-to-mid 30s. That would normally give him a sporting chance in normal times when people actually get elected. However, I suspect his vote total this time is going to drop big time as voters just run out of room. I could see his vote total as much as cut in half through no fault of his own.
For at least a few more years, Edgar Martinez is the greatest designated hitter of all time. David Ortiz will likely take over that title, and some believe he already has. But for now, Edgar Martinez is the best. There's a reason the yearly award for the best DH is named after him.
Martinez was an outstanding hitter for an awful long time. He won two AL batting titles, he led the league in OBP three times, and had a career slash line of .312/.418/.515.
Lots of people will try to discredit Martinez as a designated hitter, and they'll say that his lack of contribution in the field hurts his Hall of Fame case. This is a ridiculous argument, since most people completely disregard examples of awful defensive players who waste time playing a position. Derek Jeter, for example, has a career dWAR of -9.2, meaning he cost his team 9.2 more runs in the field than an average replacement player. Martinez had a career dWAR of -9.7, meaning his contributions in the field were overall remarkably similar to Jeter's. Next year, it's likely that Jeter's dWAR will drop below Martinez. By that metric, considering Martinez is the far superior hitter, it would be illogical to make a HOF case for Jeter (which almost everyone will do) without also making a case for Martinez.
That having been said, this might not be the year for him. In fact, it almost certainly won't be. As Eric said, the ballot overcrowding has dropped Martinez down below the top group of players. He's a deserving Hall of Famer at some point, but voters only have 10 votes, and I'm not convinced that he's one of the 10 best players on the ballot right now.
WILL HE GET IN: Unfortunately, there's no way that's going to happen this year. Perhaps eventually, but for now he just needs to be concerned with getting enough votes to stay on the ballot.