Edgar Martinez and the Hall of Fame

Flickr photo from user Camknows

I’m not a sportswriter. Nor am I a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. I also didn’t have a vote in this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election.

But, if I had a ballot to cast, Edgar Martinez would be on there.

Yet again, Edgar didn’t receive the required percentage of votes to make it in. With only 36.5 percent, he barely nudged above 36.2 percent, his first time on the HOF ballot. Around 40 percent of baseball writers can’t see the reason to put Edgar on their ballot.

To be frank, it’s a damn shame.

This year’s ballot was likely the last one to allow Edgar into the Hall of Fame for at least 10 years. On the horizon? Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson and Trevor Hoffman. All in the span of four years.

In short, the cream of the crop of previous Major League Baseball players is due for their HOF ballot run. Edgar is likely out for the next six or seven years, at the least.

Outside of the magic numbers of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, the biggest hang-up, critics say, is his lack of time spent in the field. Since he served as the Mariners’ designated hitter for a good nine or 10 years, it diminishes his value, they argue. Some even cite his WAR levels as not being at the same levels as others from the same era.

The DH has been in play for nearly 40 years now. I was born into it, as were practically all of today’s baseball players – and sportswriters.  To penalize someone for the position they played on the team, while they were as valuable as George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., and Ken Griffey Jr., is archaic at best. Just for the record, those players just listed had a WAR above 5.0 for at least nine years, and Griffey is the only one not in the Hall of Fame. Yet.

Some argue that the DH is a meaningless position and that the numbers of appearances not made by a DH in the field detract from that player’s value.

Then please, please, sportswriters, explain how closers earn their way into the Hall of Fame. The same goes for relief pitchers. Compared to the workhorses that are starting pitchers, a paltry 60 to 70 innings of work in a season is child’s play. Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage were both closers, or really just specialized relievers, who had under 2,000 innings of work. Sutter, specifically, had barely over 1,000 innings.

Edgar played over 2,000 games of hard baseball. But, his greatness still doesn’t really reveal itself to some local writers. Others, though, get it.

Local sportswriters serve two purposes. One, they’re there to cover games, players and moves that teams make. That’s the obvious part of the job. The other part, however, is to let other sportswriters get a feel for the local team and its fan base.

A writer based in Minnesota isn’t going to know the Seattle Mariners firsthand, unless they lived in the area for a while. But, they can get a sense of what the team means based on the articles from that Seattle sportswriter. With the Internet’s capabilities, we’re all connected at a national level.

Sure, writers aren’t supposed to sugarcoat their coverage. With their position, they can also be critical and have their own points of view. Even the team’s broadcasters have shown their displeasure with the season when things weren’t working. Sportswriters, though, should at least be able to weigh the value of a player and give them the recognition that player deserves. As Rick Lukens, a Spokane sportswriter (whom I greatly admire) says, “the HOF voters take their ‘sacred duty’ way too far,” when it comes to the way they approach elections.

Edgar deserves to be placed in the Hall of Fame. I’ll let others quote his numbers and spans of time where he was the most feared hitter in baseball. I’ll also let the critics keep talking about how Edgar being a DH meant he wasn’t in the field as often as others. They’re wrong.

Edgar had plenty of time on the field. You could find him on the base paths.

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