Well, here we are again folks. Seems like just yesterday we were anxiously awaiting the results of the latest Hall of Fame vote, eager to see if our beloved once-mustachioed, baseball-destroying, cantina-namesaking, collective-dad-and-regional-baseball-protecting Edgar Martinez would finally achieve glory and be granted his spot amongst the greats in Cooperstown.
We do this every year, and we always know what's going to happen. The conversation picks up around November or so, and a few thinkpieces come out with the usual beef to stew: Why penalize Edgar Martinez for playing a position that every team in the American League is required to fill? If that is enough, will the same logic extend to David Ortiz in a couple of years? If you refuse to vote for Designated Hitters, then why include relief pitchers? HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN THE DOUBLE?
A few writers start tweeting their ballots, and you get frustrated because suddenly other names start appearing around the edges of the frame, like Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson. So then you start yelling louder. You note the statistics. You bring up the "light hitter" argument for crappy fielders already in the hall. You realize that he's still going to be on the ballot for a while, but the further away from 2011 we get, the less likely it seems his name will still carry the same weight each January. So then, the easy retreat: I don't care about the Hall of Fame. Its voting process is broken and absurd, its legacy is tainted and has been fostered through hypocritical logic, so I choose to ignore it.
That's fine. But it's silly, really. It's silly because I think a lot of people that like to trumpet their carefree disdain for the hall really do care about it a whole hell of a lot. Of course the whole thing is arbitrary and inconsequential. Of course its results don't matter. You know what else is arbitrary and inconsequential? Literally every baseball game you have ever watched in your entire life. It honestly doesn't matter if the Mariners win a single game this season, but I want them to, and you also want them to. And I also want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame.
I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame because he hit 514 doubles and slugged .515 over his entire career. I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame because his career OPS was .933, good for 33rd best of all time. I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame because he slapped the New York Yankees right in the face on National Television in 1995 and hit a double that made Dave Neihaus' voice crack with emotion, and then he saved Major League Baseball in the Pacific Northwest.
But mostly I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame because I saw him play baseball in my first ever game back in 1996 while on vacation in Seattle with my parents. Three things stick out to me from that afternoon. The first is the winding concrete maze encircling the Kingdome you would take to get to the top levels. The second is the realization that I wasn't going to catch a foul ball because we were sitting 500 feet away from home plate and there were nine hundred thousand other seats around me. And the third was the way it echoed through the stadium, bouncing from right to left field, from center straight as a strike past home plate and up to the top of the broadcast booth.
When you chant your favorite athletes name at a game, it's usually the vowels you yell from the top of your lungs. But What made the Ed-Gar chant so amazing was that the second beat was technically the letter 'R.' We were chanting a consonant. It was incredible, and although I didn't notice that at the time, I noticed how much louder it got immediately after he walloped all three of his hits in that single game. This is a really stupid thing to notice, a stupid thing that has no bearing on whether or not he makes it into the hall of fame, but dammit, I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the hall of fame.
I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame because the light bat commercial gave people more joy than some of the games he played in, and he played in a lot--2,055 to be exact. That's a stupid thing that has no bearing on whether or not he makes it into the hall of fame, but dammit, I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the hall of fame.
I want Edgar Martinez to make it into the Hall of Fame because he gave Mariano Rivera nightmares and because he's the greatest player to play every single one of his games for the Seattle Mariners. Because he was teammates with Ichiro, Willie Bloomquist, and Alvin Davis. Because he did play the field and once helped turn a triple play. Because he's one of the most important figures in Seattle sports history, and because he means a lot to me and to a lot of other Mariners fans still waiting for that first hat containing the letter 'S' to adorn the halls of Cooperstown.
This is the conundrum I face every winter when these voting totals are being released. You can acknowledge Edgar's statistics and wring your hands over the idiocy of the old guard not wanting to honor a designated hitter. You can point to unbiased support from outside M's fandom and argue for his inclusion based on merit rather than emotional attachment. But you wouldn't be doing any of those things out of some steadfast allegiance to the purity of the hall's constitution. You would be doing them because you want to see your guy get his due.
And if we're being honest, that's half the reason many of us watch sports in the first place. To forcefully paint the Hall of Fame as some objective and well-rounded representation of baseball's best is to ignore both history and the context by which we enjoy competition as entertainment. Pretending that the only reason we want Edgar in the Hall is because of his statistics is just as silly. And that's absolutely fine. There is a reason they didn't entrust us with votes, although something tells me it wouldn't make things much worse in the end.
So on Tuesday we will find out whether or not Edgar has made the Hall of Fame in his fifth year of his eligibility, and if we're being realistic we will note that he probably isn't going to make it again. He's never gotten more than 36.5% of the vote, and with each passing year the ballot gets more and more crowded with new names and new faces equally worthy of inclusion amongst baseball's best. Perhaps there is something to the I don't care camp in all this, and if you asked me about it on the street, that would probably be the verbatim answer I gave you. But if we're being honest, it isn't true, and even though the first comment on this post is going to be "I don't care about the Hall of Fame," something tells me you really kind of do, too.