It's that time of the year again. No, not the excruciatingly long stretch between Thanksgiving naps and Christmas dinner, but the six weeks between the release of the Hall of Fame ballot and the announcement of its inductees, if any. Among Mariners fans, there will be the familiar refrain calling for Edgar Martinez's name to join 300 others in Cooperstown.
The argument for Edgar's induction hasn't changed. It's been regurgitated year after year: Edgar's statistics are phenomenal whether they're held against those of competing third basemen, designated hitters, or hitters across the board. Off the field, his contributions to the Seattle community and his reputation among MLB players and personnel (not to mention his doting fans) are both noteworthy and admirable.
There's already a moderate amount of support for Edgar's campaign, even among non-Seattle diehards and beat writers. Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus and SportsIllustrated.com developed a rating system called JAWS (Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score) that lends credibility to Edgar's career numbers. The Hall of Stats, created by Adam Darowski, Jeffrey Chupp, and Michael Berkowitz, also firmly places Edgar among the greats. Beyond the Box Score's Bill Petti refuted the idea that Edgar's defensive skills should keep him out of the Hall by pointing out the "light hitters" already enshrined in Cooperstown.
Still, Edgar has yet to crack 40% of the votes he needs for induction, and the incoming nominees are making it increasingly difficult to agree on any one player, especially one that has created such a divide among voters. Among the naysayers are variations on several themes: Edgar was a designated hitter, Edgar's career was too short, Edgar's contributions at the plate weren't enough to compensate for his lack of value on the field, Edgar was a good hitter but he wasn't the best hitter.
When picking through the arguments and rebuttals from bloggers and voters alike, one thing struck me that Grant Brisbee wrote for Baseball Nation back in 2011:
- The rules of baseball have, since 1973, required that every team in the American League fill a position known as "the designated hitter"
- Edgar Martinez was the best designated hitter in the history of the sport
Of course, there's no stipulation in voting requirements that necessitates an inductee from each position on the field, and it would be silly to induct the best designated hitter just because he's a designated hitter. If Edgar had been the best at his position and batted, say, .253/.299/.420, this wouldn't be a discussion. Equally silly, however, is the decision to disregard all designated hitters because they have been forced into a position that doesn't allow them to play the field.
The good news is that Edgar has at least a decade left on the ballot, barring a miraculous 40% spike in votes over the next month and provided that he can garner the support of 5% of BBWAA members each year. The long wait ahead of him is not helped by the lack of precedent in the Hall -- as CBSsports.com's C. Trent Rosencrans pointed out, only two designated hitters have reached Cooperstown so far, and both of them played DH for little more than 25% of their careers. Admitting a player who raked at the plate but spent nearly his entire career off the field will require voters to reassess the ways they value Hall-worthy nominees. Until that happens, all we can do is continue to remind them of the contributions Edgar made to this sport, in both conventional and unconventional ways.
What do you think it will take to get Edgar the requisite 75% of votes he'll need for the Hall of Fame? Is he a worthy candidate?