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On Edgar Martinez

4,675 hits
4,675 hits

The first thought is that it's good news. In Edgar Martinez's second year on the Hall of Fame ballot, he received 32.9 percent support. In Edgar Martinez's third year on the ballot, he received 36.5 percent support. That's a bump - a bigger bump than, say, Larry Walker got, or Dale Murphy got - and Edgar's way ahead of where Bert Blyleven was at this point. It struck me that things are looking pretty good for Edgar to make the Hall of Fame sometime way down the line.

The second thought is that it's bad news. In Edgar Martinez's first year on the ballot, he received 36.2 percent support. Before he went up, he went down, such that after three years, he's basically where he was after one. Again, he's doing better than Blyleven was early on, but Blyleven only got in after an unbelievably exhaustive campaign on his behalf by a number of analysts. We can't count on the same campaign for Edgar. Maybe he won't get in. Maybe he'll be hurt by his peers, like Jeff Bagwell. Maybe a sufficiently large group of writers will never get past the DH hurdle. Maybe Edgar's stuck.

The third thought is that it just doesn't matter. Much, anyway. It matters a little, in that it's important to Edgar, and relevant to us because it's important to Edgar, but think about it. We're talking about the Hall of Fame. Players are voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. This year, the Baseball Writers' Association of America cast 321 ballots in support of Jeff Bagwell, and 382 ballots in support of Jack Morris. Bagwell was a superstar. He was a superstar, a bunch of times. Morris was pretty good, some of the time. No offense to the members of the BBWAA worthy of respect, but we're supposed to care what these people think?

There is no definition of a Hall of Fame-caliber player. There are guidelines, but the guidelines don't mean anything. Every decision is basically a judgment call, and while some judgments are obvious and easy, others are not, and that's a problem. Edgar isn't a hands-down, all-time great, and without an objective lower threshold, it's all a big subjective mess. You get arguments about his not contributing in the field. You get arguments about longevity. You get arguments about how his hit total's too low. Every voter is voting for his own personal Hall.

Moving beyond that, what is the purpose of the Hall of Fame? The purpose of the Hall of Fame, presumably, is to serve as a museum, educating visitors about the game's past. Do you think there are any Mariners fans who need to learn about Edgar Martinez? Do you think there are other baseball fans who need to learn about Edgar Martinez, and who will only learn about him if he's in the Hall? Induction is an honor, but it's an honor with little value beyond that, and it's an honor bestowed by the same people who made Barry Zito the 2002 AL Cy Young. Not that the BBWAA isn't getting better about its voting habits, but it's still a body of sportswriters.

Whether or not Edgar Martinez is ever voted into the Hall of Fame won't make a lick of difference when it comes to how he's remembered in the Pacific Northwest. Edgar's Edgar - one of the greatest Mariners to have ever worn the uniform. That's independent of his status in Cooperstown. And I can't imagine it'll make too much of a difference when it comes to how he's remembered elsewhere. Edgar was terrifying. He was one of the best right-handed hitters a bunch of pitchers ever saw. A plaque on a faraway wall doesn't solidify memories, just as a lack of a plaque doesn't allow those memories to dissolve any faster.

I think I'm rambling, mostly because I don't have much experience writing about this. Generally I avoid writing about the Hall of Fame, because the Hall of Fame doesn't do much for me, and this is my blog. I don't know if Edgar Martinez will ever make the Hall of Fame. I honestly don't know if Edgar Martinez deserves to make the Hall of Fame, the way it currently is, in that some of the arguments against him are not illegitimate. But I know that Edgar Martinez was one of the greatest hitters I've ever seen. I know that a lot of other people and a lot of other players and coaches feel the same way. Some hundreds of ballots cast by writers aren't ever going to change anything about that. If Edgar's inducted, there'll be some celebrations, but when the celebrations are over, we'll all go back to thinking about him the way we do today.