The Hall of Fame will announce the 2010 inductees on Wednesday. Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for at least 10 years vote on eligible players. A player is eligible for the Hall of Fame five years after retiring. A player is inducted if 75 percent of ballots include their name. They may stay on the ballot up to 15 years, as long as they garner votes on at least five percent of the ballots cast.
This is Edgar's first year eligible. The good news is that it looks he will easily be on five percent of the ballots. The bad news is that it looks like he will also easily fall short of 75 percent.
Let the debate on Edgar's Hall of Fame credentials begin.
First of all, there is plenty already out there. Locally, the movement is well underway. First and Edgar is dedicated to getting 'Gar into the Hall of Fame, and also includes links to pro-Edgar articles/arguments. If you have Twitter, you should add this twibbon too.
On the national level, the Mariners sent this to every BBWAA member with a Hall of Fame vote. Furthermore, Edgar's candidacy is receiving attention from major national sports media outlets . Check out this article by David Schoenfield at ESPN if you haven't already. Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated dedicated this article mostly to Edgar's case as well.
I have been on the fence about a blog post on Edgar for a few weeks, especially with what has already been written. I like to try to add something a little different, and for the most part I find myself nodding in agreement with what's being written about Edgar. I don't have any new statistics to add that demonstrate Edgar's hitting prowess. I would cite the same players in the articles I've linked to above when it comes to comparisons as well.
Ever since Edgar retired, it has been obvious that he would be one of the more intriguing Hall of Fame cases in a long time. He is an inner-circle, no-brainer according to just about any sabermetric hitting statistic. However, he is easy to discard by the traditional counting statistics, with the exception of his career batting average. Compounding that are the facts that he played in Seattle, baseball's outpost, and that he was a designated hitter, a position half of baseball has not adopted, and that many frankly don't like. Just last month, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he wants the DH eliminated as a member of an advisory committee formed by Bud Selig.
Edgar Martinez, more than anyone else in a while, is going to make voters think about what makes a Hall of Famer a Hall of Famer. He is not like Jim Rice, Jack Morris, or Bert Blyleven, where he is relatively easy to categorize, and the debate is if his numbers warrant induction compared to players similar to him. Edgar is a highly unique case, thanks to the M's ineptitude that kept him in the minors until his late 20s, and then his hitting prowess once given a full-time job - but mostly as a designated hitter.
As I have read debates and considered the thinking both for and against Edgar Martinez, one thing continues to get overlooked. One of the most fundamental purposes of the Hall of Fame is to preserve the history of the game. Why else would it collect bats, balls, gloves, spikes, jerseys, and hats from important moments and games? The bronze busts and plaques made for enshrined players are an incredible individual accomplishment, but together they say something about the game of baseball. They lift up what makes baseball great. They make a commentary on what baseball is, and what it looks like at its finest.
The debate rages on over whether the designated hitter should be a part of baseball or not. However, like it or not, it is more than a fad. It is undeniably a part of baseball history at this point. It is an accepted part of the game. Yet, when it comes to the Hall of Fame, the position is being marginalized in a similar fashion to gambling and drug use. That's simply inexcusable.
For those who argue relievers were marginalized in the same way, they never were. The fundamental nature of bullpens has changed within the past few decades. Bullpens used to be comprised of pitchers not good enough to make the starting rotation. Now, some arms are groomed for the high-leverage, late-inning situations. Reserving a good pitcher for those situations revolutionized the bullpen, and I believe is also the primary reason starters do not work as deeply into ballgames nowadays. Consequently, the Hall of Fame has acknowledged the revolution by inducting some of the better relievers of all-time.
Whether or not Hall of Fame voters like the designated hitter, they need to acknowledge its role as an accepted part of the game in the American League for over 40 years. There is no better way to do that than inducting Edgar Martinez. He was one of the greatest hitters of his generation, and is among the best hitters baseball has seen since World War II. Statistics back that up, and the pitchers that faced him back that up too.
Edgar is much more than a sabermetric wonder. His 1995 ALDS against the Yankees is legendary, particularly the grand slam he hit off of John Wetteland in game 4, and "the double" in game 5, both with the Mariners trailing late in elimination games. He is one of the biggest reasons the Mariners continued to win despite losing Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in their primes in back-to-back seasons. The DH of the year award was named in his honor upon his retirement too.
Like any of the best hitters of all-time, Edgar's anecdotal evidence supports the sabermetric evidence. He wasn't just a great designated hitter, he was an exceptional one. The best of all-time, hands down, and few would argue that.
Would Hall of Fame voters keep the best shortstop of all-time out of the Hall of Fame? What about the best starting pitcher, or the best closer, or best first baseman? No, absolutely not, unless they used steroids, or gambled, or agreed to throw the World Series. The designated hitter is unlike other positions, and I will concede that it is less demanding than most. However, it is still a position. That's a fact.
The best designated hitter of all-time should be in the Hall of Fame, especially when he compares favorably to many of the best hitters of all-time in many ways. Ultimately, that is why Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer in my eyes.