Hall of Fame Debate: Edgar Martinez
This is a good debate full of caveats to explore and analyze. Martinez broke into the league a little late, not playing his first full season until age 27. He did prove to have some longevity by playing 18 years into his early forties. Somewhat of a rarity these days, Martinez played his entire career with the one team, the Mariners. Before we begin, here are some selected career stats for Edgar Martinez.
2055 G, 7213 AB, 1219 R, 2247 H, 514 2B, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, .312/.418/.515
Mc - There's no question that for a handful of years, Edgar Martinez was a very feared hitter in the American League. He was also very consistent, proving to be a doubles machine and displaying homerun power and strong run production capabilities. There are a couple of facets to Edgar Martinez's career that make his Hall of Fame argument hard to make.
First, none of his career numbers, taken individually, rings the automatic Cooperstown bell. He didn't have 3000 hits, 500 HR, multiple MVPs, or scads of World Series Rings. Therefore, his collective numbers have to be enough to sway voters. His numbers are strong, and were good enough to maK. Martinez a perennial all star, but not good enough for enshrinement. Second, one of the chief complaints about Martinez's HOF legitimacy involves his long tenure as a DH in the league. Baseball is a game of five tools; speed, fielding, throwing, hitting, and hitting for power. By spending the last 9-10 years of his career as an exclusive DH, Martinez seldom had to perform the fielding and throwing components. An exlusive DH cannot be as complete of a player as someone who is in the field every day, even despite the fact that hitting is regarded as the overwhelmingly more important component. Finally, I think Edgar Martinez missed too much time, either by injury or breaking into the league, to amass the numbers necessary to make the Hall of Fame.
First, let me state on the record that I am not a fan of the DH. I think that both leagues should play under the same rules and if I had to vote one way or the other, it would be to do away with the DH. That being said, the professional hitter has become an important part of the game. The DH is no longer extended job security for washed up position players; it has become an extra weapon for an American League lineup and like it or not, Edgar Martinez is the man that revolutionized the position.
Martinez is the epitome of a professional hitter. His .312 career batting average and .418 on-base percentage are certainly among the best that have ever played (his on-base percentage ranks 22nd best, all-time). His on-base plus slugging, a measure that many stat guys look at to measure the true greatness of a hitter, is 35th all-time. A right-handed hitter, Martinez would easily make the list of top twenty-five greatest right handed hitters of all-time and by the numbers I think he's a hall of famer. The knock on 'Gar is obviously the fact that he is not a position player but since the DH is there and since he is undoubtedly the greatest DH of all-time, I see no way he doesn't get in. It seems like a huge injustice to have a role available for a professional hitter and then not recognize the accomplishments of the greatest player to ever fulfill that role (no disrespect to David Ortiz but in my opinion, Edgar is still the greatest DH of all-time).
But even if that's your argument, then there's another problem with that argument and his name is Paul Molitor. The Hall of Famer given the nickname the Ignitor played nearly 500 more games at DH than he did at 3B, the position which he was officially inducted. There should be no argument when I say that Edgar was the better hitter between the two. The only difference is that the Mariners didn't feel the need to slot Edgar in the field. They saw the value of building around Edgar's talents as a hitter (not focusing on his flaws). The way I see it, Edgar didn't need to play in the field so he didn't play in the field. If he had played a position and if he had committed an exorbitant amount of errors, would that be enough to keep him out? It wasn't enough to keep out Willie McCovey or Cap Anson. Have you ever heard of a guy with legitimate hall of fame worthy offensive numbers not getting in because he committed too many errors? If Edgar had signed with an NL team and butchered first base, there may have been no debate here. My eye tells me that he was one of the most feared hitters of his era and one of the best right handed hitters of all-time and that, to me, is enough to earn him a spot in Cooperstown.