Pure Hitter

Martinez returns to BBWAA ballot for fourth year

December 19, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Edgar Martinez (NBHOF Library)

Edgar Martinez has been elected into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame and the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

Now he’s got his sights set on Cooperstown.

Martinez, who played his entire 18-year career with the Seattle Mariners, is one of 37 players on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Martinez returns to the ballot for his fourth year after receiving 36.5 percent of the vote in 2012.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives votes on at least 75 percent of all BBWAA ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born Jan. 2, 1963 in New York City, Martinez was raised in Dorado, Puerto Rico. In 1982 he was signed to a minor league contract by the Mariners and worked his way through the minors before making his major league debut in September of 1987. It wasn’t until 1990 that Martinez finally earned a starting job and replaced Jim Presley at third base.

In 1992, Martinez was elected to his first All-Star Game, won his first batting title and Silver Slugger Award, finished 12th in MVP voting and led the league in doubles. But in 1993, Martinez tore his hamstring. He played minimally in the next two seasons before becoming a full-time designated hitter in 1995. He found instant success with the move.

“Edgar should be a Hall of Famer,” said manager Lou Piniella. “He’s the best DH the game has ever seen.”

In 1995, Martinez led the league in games, runs scored, doubles and on-base percentage. He earned his second batting title, All-Star Game appearance and Silver Slugger Award and finished third in MVP voting.

Martinez is the first and to date the only player to win a batting crown as a designated hitter, and did so with a .356 average in 1995. In the postseason, Martinez continued his success batting .571 in the ALDS against the Yankees. He was on base 18 times in five games.

He hit a grand slam and a three-run homer, setting the single-game postseason RBI record in Game 4 (with seven) to even the series score at two in a best-of-five series. In the deciding Game 5, Martinez hit a two-run double in the 11th inning – with the Mariners down 11-10 – to win the series.

“Edgar takes great pride in doing things professionally and doing it the right way,” said Buck Showalter, manager of the 1995 Yankees. “I think, through thick and thin, he has been the benchmark of what a Mariner player is supposed to be all about. It’s been a very classy organization with good people, and a lot of it fed off the example set by Martinez.”

Martinez went on to secure five more All-Star nods, three more Silver Slugger Awards and another top 10 MVP finish. He hit 20-plus home runs in eight seasons and retired in 2004 with 2,247 hits, 514 doubles, 309 home runs, 1,219 runs scored and a .312 batting average.

“Baseball is magic,” said Martinez upon retirement. “You feel sad when a player retires. But you feel good for them, too. They don’t have to chase any more sliders.”

Along with Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton and Chipper Jones, Martinez is one of only nine players with 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average higher than .300, a career on-base percentage higher than .400 and a career slugging percentage higher than .500.

“When you look at Edgar, you say, ‘He’s one of the best hitters of all time, and he’s one of the best people you’ve ever met,” said teammate Scott Spiezio.

Major League Baseball renamed the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award in his honor after his retirement. Martinez won the award five times.

“The respect he gets around the league from the other side is as much as anyone I’ve ever seen,” said former Mariners manager Bob Melvin. “I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Edgar Martinez. And in this game, that’s almost impossible.”

Samantha Carr is freelance writer from Rochester, N.Y.