BBA HoF Ballot Discussion: Edgar Martinez

by on December 31, 2009 · 11 comments

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Edgar Martinez

Nick: As a National League honk – I’m inclined to just dismiss any player that was primarily a Designated Hitter out of hand.

As a baseball fan, I know that I would be dismissed out of hand by fans of the American League. Just because I don’t like the Designated Hitter in baseball doesn’t mean that players who excelled in that role should be barred from the same rights as others who played the field.

It does mean, however, at least to me, that the player must hit enough to make up for added value other players provide on defense.

Edgar Martinez dominated at the plate in 1995. His seven year stretch from 95-2001 was one of the more remarkable stretches of professional hitting by any right-handed hitter during his career.

We must consider that injury cut Martinez down during a few of his prime years. His counting numbers (2247 hits, 309 HR, 1261 RBI) aren’t terribly impressive for a career spanning parts of 18 seasons.

His percentage stats ARE impressive – .312 avg, .418 OBP, .515 SLG, 147 OPS+.

I’m on the fence – what say you, Josh?

Josh: Things don’t get any easier on the 2010 ballot, now do they?

Would love to do some research to find out which HOF class had the most inductees, but I feel the record may fall very soon. Edgar Martinez makes a strong case based on the fact he was out there everyday with a smile and reminds me a lot of the AL version of Todd Helton at the plate. But to me first ballot consideration takes a lot, and I’m not sold on Mr. Mariner in that capacity.

The DH thing also plays a role, no matter the circumstances. Injuries happen in sports, and it is commendable that he fought back to play as long as he did. But that still doesn’t mean that not playing defense gets thrown out the window. Case in point again is Andre Dawson, who may have struggled in the field but still did it.

Nick: To be fair, re: Dawson – corner outfield might as well be the DH of the National League, right?

The DH has been around a long time – and of those who spent at least 50% of their time at the position, Edgar Martinez ranks second.

I’m not going to invoke my “founder’s rights” to force Martinez onto the ballot, but I’m seeing the case for him in a stronger light.

FWIW, Edgar topped your boy Dawson in career WAR by about 10 – WITHOUT the help of defense.

Nick (again): Oh, and one more point.

I’ve never really put stock in the “he’s not a first ballot guy, I’ll vote for him next time.”

If a player deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, vote for him upon eligibility. It’s not as if his numbers are going to improve.

Should someone point something out to you, or make a case based upon something you didn’t previously consider, fine – put him on your ballot later.

But not voting for a guy because “first ballot” is sacrosanct is silly, IMO.

< / end rant >

Josh: I understand your point but have to disagree about the first ballot angle. When I look at the Jim Rice and Andre Dawson’s in particular — I see guys who quite honestly only get considered because their credentials for the HOF were much like their career. They lasted a long time, fought hard to maintain their positions in the game’s top tier of players but didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor.

To me that is the exact reason Edgar Martinez will have a very hard time making it. He is a good player, even great at times but to use one of your previous reference quotes — not one of the 1% in baseball. No dice for me this time around.

Nick: In my opinion Edgar Martinez is currently the second best designated hitter in baseball history – behind only Frank Thomas. That should gain him entry. On the other hand, I’m somewhat torn by his relatively short period of excellence. He was really, really good for those seven years 1995-2001, but injuries cut short his other years and he took a while “getting out of the box” so to speak.

We’re definitely entering uncharted territory, as you can’t really claim positional scarcity in the HOF at the DH position, because it’s such a young position comparatively. On the other hand, Martinez definitely ranks at that position as one of the best to date.

Josh: Martinez was not going to be a yes vote by me, for a couple of different reasons. I agree he is one the best DH to play the game thus far, but the injury thing sways the vote. He also is well behind the Big Hurt for making it as a one-sided player.

Nick: How does the “injury thing” sway you on Edgar?

Because he was injured, he didn’t log enough time to justify election? Because injury forced him to DH, he’s no longer an elite player/hitter?

We agree that Roberto Alomar was an outstanding choice for election – both offensively and defensively. Alomar’s position, second base, is not one that is as important defensively as a SS or CF – but it ranks on the plus side of zero when figuring positional adjustments for the purpose of calculating win shares.

All that said, Edgar Martinez ranks 66th in career WAR versus Alomar’s 85th. Edgar 67.2 WAR to Robbie’s 63.6. Their careers basically spanned the same years 1988-ish to 2004.

Alomar had almost 2000 more at-bats than Martinez.

So if Alomar was elite both defensively and at the plate – and Edgar still outperformed him in wins above replacement, even AFTER the massive reduction the WAR calculation uses for designated hitters and without the benefit of increased runs from defense – why is Robbie a first-balloter and Edgar is on the sideline looking in?

Josh: Your argument would work much better in a Frank Thomas-like situation. I understand the WAR stats, but the injury issue for me is much bigger. Edgar was never going to play in the NL while Robbie swapped back and forth between leagues with remarkable ability. Even Thomas had success at multiple locations, while Martinez did not.

I’m not punishing him for staying with Seattle, but I don’t picture him as a HOF for this final reason alone. Up and down the line I have judged all of the candidates by one measuring stick so to speak. To me the basic, bottom-line check in the box for induction is could the guy be a star no matter the situation. Follow along with me as I mentally used this to end up including Larkin and Trammell while excluding the Mariner great.

1. Dawson — won MVP with last-place team, complete overall player (IN)
2. Murphy — Great NL player with a 30-30 season to his credit who may have strengthened his candidacy by DH-ing (OUT)
3. Larkin — NL MVP to his credit, didn’t HAVE to complete career with Reds — definitely could picture him leading an AL club as well (IN)
4. Burks — Solid pro in both leagues, never looked at as top tier and dismissed right out of the HOF talk early (OUT)
5. Trammell — spent entire career in AL with up-and-down team success, you have now proven he is interchangeable with Larkin (IN)
6. Martinez — Amazing hitter who kept Seattle news-worthy but the fact is he never left his comfort zone and isn’t a 1% (OUT)

Nick: So wait, now you’re penalizing Martinez because he spent his entire career with one team?

What difference does that make?!

Frank Thomas spent his entire career in the American League, majority of that time as a DH. How is that any better than being a DH in one place your entire career? It’s not as if Frank went to the Dodgers and started winning Gold Gloves at first base.

Comfort zone? News-worthy? Has nothing to do with a player’s achievements. In my opinion, Edgar Martinez is in the top 1% of all players who have spent time as a DH. Does that get him within the upper 1% of the entire history of MLB? Only time will tell as the designated hitter rule moves on within the league.

I do know this. Martinez was an elite hitter, one of the best of his time. He overcame the lack of ability to improve his candidacy through defense by being that much better at hitting.

We have argued back and forth about a few of these players and comparables – in other words, if this one guy is in, so should another.

Let me ask you – if Ozzie Smith is in based upon his defense alone, how can you exclude Edgar Martinez because he didn’t play a position in the field? If Ozzie played left field and didn’t do backflips before games, he is Osborne Earl the not-even-close-to-Hall-of-Famer. (Ducks hurled items from fellow Cardinal fans.)

One-dimensional players are Hall of Famers too – right or wrong – and Edgar Martinez deserves to be in for his bat. After all, if he wasn’t one of the best hitters around, would any team make him their Designated HITTER?

I fear this discussion is boiling down to a number of sabermetric stats arguing strongly for Martinez versus an approach of “just doesn’t feel/look like a HOFer to me” – should we leave this last vote up to the readers/commenters to decide???

Josh: Will agree to disagree about Edgar, so feel free to open it up to the readers.

—–

There you have it folks. It’s up to our loyal readers (all three of you) to make the decision. The other names are agreed upon by Josh and I, but we need help deciding whether or not Edgar Martinez makes the cut.

I plan to post our final results here at PH8 tomorrow sometime. In the meantime, make your opinion known in the comments below! Is Edgar a Hall of Famer? Most ‘yays’ or ‘nays’ holds weight on our final tally tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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{ 10 comments }

Steve Sommer December 31, 2009

I’m going to go with, put him in. Too much WAR not to IMO (but ya’ll knew I was going to say that). Peak was great enough and long enough. Did ya’ll catch Justin’s graphs at BtB? They’re pretty cool. http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/12/15/1200949/the-2010-hall-of-fame-ballot#storyjump

Josh January 2, 2010

Winning the PH8 fantasy football league gets me two votes right? Seems like I am definitely in the minority right now around baseball but my gut still thinks Edgar is going to fall short of the 75%

Steve Sommer January 2, 2010

You might be right. I don’t have a very good feel for how the mainstream media feels about him. Clearly all the saber guys are behind him, but that’s all I really follow closely.

PH8 January 2, 2010

Tsk tsk partner. This is not an exercise in whether we think he WILL get elected or not. That’s a debate for another day….

We’re putting together our own ballot, and there’s no reason for us to be as short-sighted as the actual voters. :)

Josh January 5, 2010

I just got Tsk tsk(ed)! Am I back in junior high?

Maybe the loyal readers should also know of the deal you made to get Trammell elected…

PH8 January 5, 2010

What deal? I’m just incredibly convincing, and Trammell’s stats speak for themselves.

Josh January 5, 2010

Hmmm, I recall it a bit differently…something about saying yes for one and no for the other. Of course my way of thinking will be justified when the announcement comes out.

PH8 January 2, 2010

That stuff is fascinating Steve, thanks for the link.

I’m particularly intrigued by Appier. Where do you sit on him?

Lee January 2, 2010

As one of the absolute worst teams in the PH8 FFB league, I would like to weigh in with my half of a vote. Frankly, both of your arguments make sense to me. I get both the “excelling in a one-dimensional role” angle as well as the “I’m not really feeling Edgar.”

But I think Edgar’s a HOFer and here’s why: You can’t ignore the final percentages and WAR. You just can’t. The guy finished with a 147 OPS+. Sure, he didn’t play the field but, as Nick pointed out, if he’d been a sluggush left-fielder for the an NL team his whole career would we really be discussing this? Poor defensive play might have been a knock against him, but I think we would have all agreed that his bat made up for it. Sure, we can discuss the maybes and what-might-have-beens, but I think Edgar maintained solid numbers over 15+ years, including 7 years of true dominance at the plate. I mean, that was ostensibly what happened with Koufax, right?*

* Please note: I am NOT suggesting that Edgar ever dominated his position as Sandy did, but the fact remains that Koufax–despite having 5 or 6 ridiculously dominant seasons–didn’t hit any of the typical pitching milestones and only played 12 seasons. It’s not really apples to apples, but I think it’s worth considering.

Sorry I missed commenting on all the previous ballets (just got caught up). Here are my “yes” votes in case someone’s counting:

* Alomar
* Blyleven
* Dawson
* Larkin
* McGwire
* Raines
* Smith
* Trammell
* Martinez

PH8 January 2, 2010

Lee, I think you make a great point in comparing with Koufax. Because Edgar’s 18 seasons were affected both by injury and only getting a handful of at-bats in the first couple of call-up years, doesn’t mean his best seasons were any less dominant. He just didn’t get an opportunity to really rack up the counting stats.

Thinking along those lines, we may be in for an interesting discussion by the time Ichiro’s name reaches the ballot…

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