Is this the year the Hall of Fame finally comes calling for a player who spent a substantial portion of his career with the Mariners?
The answer comes Tuesday at 11 a.m. for left-handed pitcher Randy Johnson and designated hitter Edgar Martinez when the Hall announces the vote totals for this year’s 34-player ballot.
Johnson, 51, looms as a shoo-in as a first-year candidate after winning 303 games in a 22-year career that included 10 seasons with the Mariners from 1989-98.
While much of his success came elsewhere, Johnson spoke to the importance of his time in Seattle when inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
“You, the fans,” he told the crowd in an on-field ceremony at Safeco Field, “got to see the unpolished version and then, toward the middle of my career, the pitcher I could become.
“You were patient with me, I appreciate that. You were always supportive.”
Martinez, 52, is on the ballot for the sixth year and faces mounting odds to reach the required 75-percent threshold for election through balloting by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The ongoing debate regarding players linked to performance-enhancing drugs, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, continues to create a packed ballot for the voters, who are limited to 10 selections.
That crunch struck hard a year ago for Martinez, who saw his percentage drop to 25.2 percent — down from a high of 36.5 percent in 2011.
“I’m not surprised that my percentage went down,” Martinez said a year ago. “We just have to wait and see for the future.”
That future isn’t promising.
This year’s balloting included Johnson and other strong first-year candidates such as pitchers Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.
Martinez also faces competition from eight players who garnered greater support a year ago:
Craig Biggio (74.8 percent), Mike Piazza (62.2), Jeff Bagwell (54.3), Tim Raines (46.1), Clemens (35.4), Bonds (34.7), Lee Smith (29.9) and Curt Schilling (29.2).
The Hall of Fame contains three players who spent relatively short tours with the Mariners: reliever Goose Gossage (1994), outfielder Rickey Henderson (2000) and starting pitcher Gaylord Perry (1982-83).
The Hall’s Veterans Committees in recent years also elected manager Dick Williams (1986-88) and general manager Pat Gillick (2000-2003). Broadcaster Dave Niehaus was the 2008 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
But no player who spent a significant portion of his career with the Mariners has ever been elected to the Hall of Fame. (Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. will be eligible next year for the first time.)
Martinez’s chances for election took a further blow a year ago when the Hall of Fame trimmed the maximum time a player can remain on the ballot from 15 to 10 years.
Candidates who receive 5 percent of the vote will still be held over, but Martinez now faces a 2019 deadline (ballots cast after the 2018 season) for election.
Johnson was 130-74 with a 3.42 ERA in 274 games for the Mariners. He also was picked as an All-Star on five (of his 10 career) occasions and won the first of his five Cy Young Awards in Seattle.
Martinez played his entire 18-year career with the Mariners from 1987-2004 and spent his final 10 seasons primarily as a designated hitter.
An All-Star on seven occasions, Martinez finished his 2,055-game career with a .312 average, a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage.
Martinez won five Silver Slugger awards for his offensive production, and Major League Baseball’s annual award for the game’s top designated hitter is named in his honor.