What comes Wednesday figures to be an indication rather than a coronation for Mariners icon Edgar Martinez when the National Baseball Hall of Fame announces its voting results.
That’s not all bad.
Martinez, at 54, currently serves as the Mariners’ hitting coach, but the attention Wednesday will focus on his anticipated climb in the Hall balloting conducted among qualified members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Even Martinez admits, after displaying indifferent attention in previous years, that he’s interested in seeing the results, which will be announced at 3 p.m. on MLB Network.
Martinez is in his eighth of 10 possible years on the ballot after completing a marvelous 18-year career spent entirely with the Mariners. Election requires that a player be cited on 75 percent of an estimated 435 returned ballots.
It’s a tough standard — and Martinez isn’t expected to clear it. He is currently polling at roughly 66 percent, according to Ryan Thibodaux, who has compiled results from more than 220 ballots revealed by voters.
Thibodaux’s findings suggest only outfielder Tim Raines, first baseman Jeff Bagwell and perhaps catcher Pudge Rodriguez will clear the 75-percent threshold among the 34 candidates.
Rodriguez is currently polling at roughly 78 percent, but percentages typically drop for most players among voters who decline to reveal their ballots prior to the announcement.
Martinez’s final count is expected to be in the low 60-percent range and, while still far short of the threshold, it would represent a second straight major jump. He was at 27 percent just two years ago before finishing last year at 43.4 percent.
That momentum, if confirmed Wednesday, seemingly places Martinez on track for possible election in his two remaining years of ballot eligibility. (Even if he fails, he could gain election in the future through a Veterans Committee vote.)
So what’s changed? Several factors stick out.
While Martinez’s numbers and accomplishments are no different now than when he retired after the 2004 season, the manner in which they are evaluated are, for many voters, far different because of an increasing attention to advanced metrics.
"Without getting too deep into the numbers," wrote Jeff Fletcher, who covers the Angels for the Orange County Register. "I quickly realized I’d been under-rating Martinez.
"He had nine seasons with an adjusted OPS+ of 150, the most of any hitter on my list. I had been discounting his stats too much because of being a DH or not having a long enough career. He did enough. I voted for Martinez, for the first time."
Danny Knobler of www.BleacherReport.com expressed a similar view: "I never eliminated him because he had been a DH, but I set unrealistic standards for him because he was one. I switched this year, and I don't expect to switch back."
The Hall accelerated the growing emphasis toward new metrics by trimming its electorate. Voters must now not only be active BBWAA members for 10 consecutive years but also no longer enjoy lifetime status.
Those who have not been active members for more than 10 years were purged. The effect was a shift toward a younger electorate, which is more amenable to sabermetric evaluations.
That benefits Martinez because, while his .312 career average ranks 91st in baseball history, his 309 homers and 1,261 RBIs are more pedestrian (particularly for a DH) among Hall candidates at 127th and 131st.
In contrast, Martinez .418 on-base percentage ranks 21st in history, and his .933 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) ranks 33rd. Those numbers also rank eighth and 20th since the end of World War II.
It’s still not enough for some.
"Edgar Martinez stays on the outside for me," wrote Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, "and not because he was a DH. Just never thought of him as a dominant, feared hitter in his era."
That view, however, is coming under increasing fire, not only through sabermetric evaluation, but also in testimonials from Martinez’s peers.
Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez and former teammate Randy Johnson each identify Edgar Martinez as the best hitter they ever saw or faced. So, too, does Mariano Rivera, the game’s all-times saves leader.
"The toughest guy I faced I think — with all due respect to all the players in the league — was Edgar Martinez," Pedro Martinez said. "He had to make me throw at least 13 fastballs above 95 (each time we faced). I was hard-breathing after that.
"Edgar was a guy that had the ability to foul off pitches, and it (ticked) me off because I couldn't get the guy out."
Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. noted: "I played with the guy. I know what he’s done." Hall of Famer Paul Molitor said: "The amount of respect he has from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia faced Mariners lineups with Griffey, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki but said Martinez was, "The one guy you didn’t want to see come up there with the game on the line."
Molitor and Frank Thomas each spent more time in their Hall of Fame careers as a designated hitter than at any defensive position, but the anti-DH bias is now weakening, in part, because of attention centered on just-retired David Ortiz.
Tellingly, perhaps, Ortiz seems to suggest it would be hard to justify a vote for him without voting for Martinez.
"I used to watch…Edgar hit and I was like, ‘This is ridiculous,’" Ortiz said. "He’s a .312 career hitter. When you’re a .312 career hitter at this level, that means you pretty much got everything down."
Increasingly, voters seem to agree. Not enough yet, barring a major surprise, to get him elected. But enough, it seems, to place Martinez in a strong position to gain election before his time runs out.
"I didn’t need Randy Johnson and Griffey to stump hard for Edgar Martinez in order to appreciate that he is one of the greatest pure right-handed hitters in modern history," wrote Andrew Baggarly, who covers the Giants for the Bay Area News Group.
"But I was glad to hear the support, nonetheless. Hopefully enough voters realize that Edgar has better numbers than David Ortiz, who will be a reflexive first-ballot choice for a huge swath of the electorate in five years’ time."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners