Mariners retire Edgar Martinez's number
There’s a street, a cantina, a jersey at Safeco Field, and an MLB designated hitter award that have Edgar Martinez’s name adorned to them.
It’s a name almost synonymous with Seattle Mariners baseball.
But, for now, he’s still waiting for it to find its way onto a plaque in Cooperstown.
Despite significant gains in Hall of Fame voting from compared to when he first became eligible, Martinez finished just below the threshold required to earn admittance into baseball’s most hallowed halls. Martinez received 70.4 percent of the vote, falling short of the 75 percent needed.
There were 422 ballots and players needed to receive 317 for induction. Four players were selected on Wednesday. They were Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman. The four will be inducted on July 29.
Martinez received 297 votes, falling 20 short. Maybe next year. That will be Martinez’s 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot.
Not that he was too down about it.
“I didn’t think this year was going to happen, especially looking at the track from the last week or so,” Martinez said. “So I was fine with it. It’s more nerve-wracking for the guys who know they are going to get in.
"Getting 70.4 percent is a big improvement. All I can think is that it's looking good for next year. It would have been great to get in this year, but it's looking good for next year."
He said he knew before Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson opened an envelope and announced the selections on MLB.com that it wouldn’t be his year. But he still watched along just to see how close he came.
“So I didn’t have any expectations at that point to hear my name mentioned,” Martinez said.
He entered the day with a razor-thin margin. He had accrued 77.3 percent of the public votes accounted for by tireless Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux. But those included just 57 percent of the total votes, which would finally be revealed Wednesday afternoon.
The good news? The last 10 players to finish in the 70-74 percent range reached induction the following year. There have been 29 players in MLB history to get 70 percent or more votes and not get in that year, but all eventually were elected.
For comparison, Tim Raines was at 55 percent of the votes with two years remaining on the ballot and he was elected to the Hall of Fame last year with 86 percent. Martinez was at 58.6 percent with two years remaining.
“I’m disappointed for Edgar,” said his former teammate Harold Reynolds, who’s an analyst for MLB Network. He went on to push for the public voting to go away because he said it can give writers a false sense of security that a player might or might not get in.
But feel bad for The Tampa Bay Times.
Because Everett native and self-proclaimed longtime Mariners fan Steven Souza of the Tampa Bay Rays tweeted that the paper is on probation from interviews.
“Until my childhood hero, Edgar Martinez is rightfully voted in to the Hall Of Fame. This may seem unprofessional and unfair, but I say to you ‘My oh My.’”
Even the Mariners’ headline offseason acquisition, Dee Gordon, got in on the Hall of Fame push.
“This guy deserves it!” Gordon said. “Don’t @ me.”
So what makes Martinez worthy of Hall of Fame consideration?
He spent all 18 years of his major league career with the Mariners, who retired his No. 11 jersey this past summer.
There are other former Mariners enshrined in Cooperstown, New York. There’s Gaylord Perry, Rickey Henderson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr. But only Griffey is portrayed with a Mariners cap on his plaque, and even that was in question.
But Martinez? That’s no question.
Of the Washington-based baseball writers who were eligible to vote and made their ballots public – including The News Tribune’s sports columnist John McGrath – all voted yes for Martinez.
The question is: Are Martinez’s counting numbers – his total hits, runs, RBIs, home runs and such – too low to sway the rest of the skeptic ball writers?
And a number of them indicated their hesitancy to vote a specialist like a designated hitter into the Hall of Fame, though Martinez played a smaller percentage of his games at DH than seemingly shoo-in David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, who reaches the ballot for the first time in 2021.
Martinez wouldn’t be the only DH in the Hall of Fame. Frank Thomas played the majority of his games at DH and Paul Molitor played about half of his games there, too.
But even more impressive than Martinez’s near induction has been his journey.
He was born in New York City and raised by his maternal grandparents in the Maguayo neighborhood of Dorado, Puerto Rico, because of his parents’ divorce shortly after his birth.
Just to get a big-league look was a longshot. He was making $4 an hour on an assembly line at a pharmaceutical plant, taking classes at American University in San Juan and playing semipro ball on the weekends when he was first noticed by a Mariners scout, who signed him for a $4,000 bonus.
And Martinez suffers from strabismus, an abnormality that prevents his eyes from working in tandem. So he became one of the game's hardest workers, lifting weights, studying video and hitting relentlessly in batting cages, while also performing eye exercises as part of his daily pregame routine.
Martinez seemed destined to remain out of Cooperstown when just 25.2 percent of writers voted for him in 2014, and then 27 percent in 2015.
“At that time, I thought I’d never get to this point,” Martinez said.
But then a shift – Martinez became the focal point of analysts, such as Jay Jaffe and Ryan Spaeder – emphasizing advanced statistics helping to prove Martinez’s credentials.
As Spaeder pointed out, the last player with at least 7,000 plate appearances to equal Martinez’s career slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .312/.418/.515 was Ted Williams. And there are only five other players to have accomplished that, and all are in the Hall of Fame: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth and Dan Brouthers.
Of the 10 players who had at least a .415 on-base percentage and 830 extra-base hits in their career, eight are in the Hall. The two that aren’t: Barry Bonds and Edgar Martinez.
But there was also anecdotal support from some of baseball’s greatest pitchers. Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Randy Johnson had all said Martinez was the toughest hitter they’ve ever faced and seen.
During Griffey’s Hall of Fame induction speech, he made sure to plug Martinez.
“Yes, he belongs in the hall,” Griffey said.
It just might have to be in 2019.
Jones and Thome made it 54 players elected in their first year of eligibility.
Jones was an eight-time All-Star third baseman for the Atlanta Braves. Thome hit 612 home runs, putting him eighth on the career list, and played mostly for the Cleveland Indians.
Guerrero was elected in his second try. The nine-time All-Star slugger played half his career with the Montreal Expos.
Hoffman was chosen in his third year. The former San Diego Padres closer had 601 saves, second all-time to Mariano Rivera’s 652.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677