It’s DINGER FRIDAY and to celebrate the excesses of the holiday season, today we’re looking at the king of home runs: a grand salami.
Edgar didn’t hit a ton of grand slams, partly because he didn’t hit a ton of home runs and partly because in order to hit a grand slam, you have to have three teammates capable of reaching base ahead of you, a luxury Edgar did not always enjoy. His 9 career grand slams tie Sammy Sosa’s number, and are just a couple ticks ahead of teammate Mike Blowers’s 7. (Trivia time: which current Mariner is tied with Edgar?) Bonds and Ortiz each had 11, Pujols has 13, Junior had 15, and Alex Rodriguez leads everyone with 25.
Edgar hit almost half of his grand slams in one season, the 2000 season, when he hit four. That mark still stands as a club record. Edgar was 37 that year.
37-year-olds aren’t supposed to hit four grand slams en route to hitting 37 home runs, and bat .324/.423/.579, and drive in a league-leading 145 RBI. We all know about the hitter aging curves, and how players fall off after their age-30 seasons. But Jeff Zimmerman at Fangraphs found that great hitters don’t peak; they plateau, and then fall off sharply, considering they have so much further to fall than a regular player.
Here’s Zimmerman’s chart on how Hall of Famers age compared to regular players:
I suspect if I was able to graph Edgar’s career onto this, he’d have some pretty wild outlier data points. He wouldn’t exist on the first quarter of the chart, for starters; we can really only start from 1990, his age-27 season and first full season. Edgar put up consistent numbers in his first three seasons (5.5, 5.7, and 6.0 WAR) before two injury and strike-shortened seasons drive his numbers down to .2 and 3 WAR in 1994, his age 31 season. Then, where other hitters are tailing off, Edgar begins to lift off, putting up a career-high 7.0 WAR in 1995. He falls off a little after that but continues to produce at a steady rate well into his 30s, putting up around 5 WAR until 2001, after which he experienced the sharp production dip seen in the graph. (David Ortiz is another outlier here, but only because he went out with a bang in 2016, posting 4.4 WAR; in other ways, his career tracks exactly as described above. Also, he never got near to Edgar’s lifetime offensive WAR production, that editor of Baseball America who “sighed” at me on Twitter can suck a lemon.)
But this was supposed to be fun, not an examination of aging curves. Here’s a 37-year-old Edgar Martinez hitting an eighth-inning go-ahead grand slam against the Yankees, which is maybe the most beautiful sentence I have ever typed.
I am turning 37 this year, and I’m struggling a little with it—37 is so close to 40, and I’m starting to feel anxious about not being where I want to be in the world, or where I feel I should be, or where society feels I should be, and ouch why does that hurt that never hurt before. But here’s Edgar to show us that even if you get a late start, you can still be your best; your good days can still be ahead.