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Edgar Returns

The Mariners re-assigned Howard Johnson to the minor leagues. This move is mildly surprising. HoJo, the M's hitting coach, has probably been a dead man walking for a bit with how moribund and hopeless the Mariners offense has been, especially in June. These kind of woeful performances tend to cost hitting coaches their jobs. To a degree, this is what happened to Johnson, but he's actually still employed by the Mariners! That's sort of interesting.

Still, nothing the Mariners do or don't do to or for Howard Johnson could overshadow his replacement. Edgar Martinez is back in the Mariners dugout.

Let's be reminded why nothing could overshadow Edgar. Skip ahead to 4:00 in the video if you want to see only Edgar, but I personally enjoy savoring the bottom of the 11th in game 5 of the 1995 ALDS in its entirety:

That inning above remains the high water mark in all of Mariners history. It will remain the best moment in Mariners history until the Mariners make the World Series. It might even take the M's winning the World Series to top The Double. Even then there might be room for debate, depending on how a future M's World Championship unfolds.

More than anything it would be really nice to have this debate. Really, really nice. But for now nothing touches The Double. Nothing.

Long-time readers of this blog know my feelings about Edgar. His outline is the one I use for the little icon that shows up in your browser tab. Every January I look for a way to trumpet his case to make the Hall of Fame. Quite simply, he is my favorite baseball player of all-time, and at this point there is a good chance nobody ever topples his place in my own heart and memory. It probably helped that he came along in the back half of my childhood, that part where you are still very impressionable but start to figure out your own favorite things.

I latched on to Edgar even when the M's still had Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, and all those guys you just gotta love (except Bobby Ayala and a host of other unfortunate pitchers). He was quiet, almost stoic in the way he went about his business. He let his bat do the talking, and it spoke plenty loud enough. As my fandom matured and I opened my eyes to sabermetrics, I appreciated Edgar on new levels. Then, he stuck around longer than the rest of that late '90s team - outlasting some guys like Buhner and Wilson, and sticking around while other M's stars flew to new heights elsewhere. Edgar left his impression on my heart and mind as I grew up and became the baseball fan I am today. This is why I'm pretty certain nobody will ever touch him in my own little baseball fandom world.

So OF COURSE the thought of Edgar back in a Mariners uniform is exciting! It gives me all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings. I'm sure it gives many people really good feelings. This is not a normal midseason coaching replacement.

Unfortunately, Edgar isn't about to hit for the Mariners again, and that would be quite helpful at this moment. Furthermore, nobody on the Mariners roster right now is a budding Edgar Martinez, so that's a problem too. An MLB hitting coach isn't useless - I think that's harsh - but they can only do so much. Edgar's most tangible tools are a hitting tee, a pitching machine, tennis balls with numbers on them, and whatever time players are willing to put in with him. It sounds a bit more like the context for a good finale to a MacGyver episode than the kind of move likely to alter a team's fortunes.

With that said, there are reasons to think Edgar will be a good hitting coach. He wasn't a great hitter in the same way that, say, Vladimir Guerrero was. Could you imagine Vlad the Impaler as a hitting coach? It would be hilarious! He would be so confused as to why none of the hitters under his tutelage can hit dingers with broken bats or fish pitches out of the dirt for doubles.

Edgar worked very hard at his craft. He didn't have particularly great eyes by MLB standards, so he had pitching machines fire tennis balls at him with numbers on them. It helped him train his eyes to identify seems. He placed balls on tees in all sorts of tough to hit positions, and worked on making sure his swing path could get to those places and hit those pitches hard. He studied pitchers mercilessly. Martinez was obviously a gifted hitter, but what truly made him great were practices and a mentality that other can learn and implement on their own.

Still, let's get real about this move: It's not about to save the Mariners offense. These are pros who have had multiple batting coaches throughout their life. Batters by the time they hit the majors are only so impressionable, and only so much can be seen in the remaining 300-400 at bats most of these players have left in this season.

The best part of Edgar Martinez becoming the M's hitting coach is having Edgar back in the dugout. Nobody has worn 11 since he retired, and it will be back. That's really cool. Martinez might not have any real impact the rest of the season, but I don't care. I'm excited - not so much about the future of the 2015 Mariners, but just to have Edgar back around. I've missed him. It's great to have him back.