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#EdgarHOF - Day 28

Why were the 2016 Mariners so much better with RISP? Maybe it has something to do with their hitting coach

Mariners v White Sox
vintage Edgar who has just been given a sneak peek of modern-day Yankee Stadium, that concrete mausoleum
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Mariners don’t have a great track record with batting with RISP. In the last ten years, they have ranked in the bottom third of the league in OPS with RISP every year, and dead last four times, including in 2015. This year, however, they muscled their way into the top ten of OPS for the first time since 2007, with an OPS of .770. The primary factor in that high OPS is a .433 slugging percentage, good for eighth-best in the league. All those walk-off dingers, they were so delicious.

It would be irresponsible, of course, to suggest that Edgar’s first full year as hitting coach would necessarily contribute to this, or that Edgar, a career .300 hitter with RISP, has a magic wand that counteracts a decade of offensive underachievement. The simple answer is that the Mariners have better hitters now, and those better hitters hit well enough to offset their more offensively anemic counterparts. Still, when players like Ketel Marte, Shawn O’Malley, and Luis Sardiñas poked home runs over the fence, or Mike Freeman nailed a clutch hit to the gap, you couldn’t help but think to yourself of that quote from Gravity’s Rainbow: “This is magic. Sure—but not necessarily fantasy.” (also hold up there is a Tumblr called fyeahThomasPynchon? Internet, you minx, always full of surprise.)

Everyone knows the story of the clutchiest clutch hit that ever clutched, and besides, like an Advent calendar, it’s not time to open that particular double-paned window yet. Today I would like to present as evidence of Edgar’s clutchness a game from April 25, 1990 against the Yankees (with thanks to msb, who magically had a copy of the original game story, and to any Seattle Times person reading this, fix your archives please and thanks).

Early in the 1990 season, Edgar Martínez wasn’t yet Edgar Martínez. Out of spring training, the third base job had been given to Darnell Coles. But Coles struggled both offensively and defensively, committing errors and hitting a paltry .174 to start the season, and manager Jim “you give me” Lefebvre tapped Edgar for the starting job. After five-plus years of toiling in the minors, Edgar would have an opportunity to play full-time, and he would make the most of it.

Edgar came up to bat for the first time in the third inning with the Mariners in an early 0-1 hole, after the previous six hitters had gone down without a fight (three groundouts, two flyouts, one K), and led off the inning with the Mariners’ first hit, punching a single to RF. Something called a Mike Brumley then doubled past future Mariner Mike Blowers at third base and Edgar scored (from first base! what a time to be alive, which I was and recognize many of you reading this were not! Writing on the internet is not at all damaging to my self-concept!). Brumley would later score on a wild pitch, giving the Mariners a 2-1 edge, and it was all started by the soft-spoken fill-in at third base.

Martínez would single again, when he came up in the fifth inning (his teammates would strand him), and would later single in his final at-bat in the ninth, giving him a perfect four-for-four on the day, but the real damage he did was in the seventh inning. The game was still close, with the Mariners holding on to a 3-1 advantage. The Yankees decided to replace starter Lee Guetterman, who had just given up a triple to Griffey followed by a Pete O’Brien RBI single, with fireman Eric Plunk. Edgar deposited Plunk’s 1-1 fastball into Monument Park to give the Mariners a 5-1 lead and an almost certain victory. Fun fact: Deion Sanders pinch hit for Mike Blowers later in this game. The game went two more innings, but for all intents and purposes Edgar ended it here. Despite the fact that the game took place across the country, this was a coming-out party for the Mariners’ new third baseman. His ability to bring home runners on base was something Mariners fans would get to enjoy for the next decade and a half. We may know Safeco as the House that Griffey Built, but it’s fair to say Edgar had a part in that too, and for him, it all started one night in the House that Ruth Built.