One of my favorite books is a collection of short stories called, somewhat unfortunately, You’ve Got to Read This, in which various contemporary writers choose their favorite stories and write brief introductions to them. This was such a gift to me as a developing writer: a chance to read both a collection of wonderful stories, and also learn about what some of my favorite writers thought about them, to examine what they valued and envied and loved. I value what Joy Williams has to say about a Jane Bowles story because Joy Williams has written one of my favorite short stories ever (“Taking Care”); I know that Joy Williams knows what it takes to craft a perfect short story, and I trust her evaluation of other stories. This logic is intuitive: have the person who knows what it takes tell you what is good.
But for a long time, election to the Baseball Hall of Fame has depended on writers who have never played the sport at an advanced level telling each other what is good. There is no Joy Williams writing about Cooperstown. In all the ballot apologia that come out, we never see a writer citing what other players have said. Perhaps it seems gauche, to cite the players directly, or maybe it’s seen as cheating, cribbing off other players’ responses. But why not listen to the men who have played the game, especially the ones who actually faced the players in question? The ones who know how it feels to muscle a ball into the opposite field, or locate a change-up on the outside corner, or those who know what it feels like to be on the other side? Because if we give credence to the voices of players, Edgar’s Hall of Fame case becomes a lot less marginal.
Former teammates and Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Junior have both supported Edgar’s case for the Hall, but if you think that’s too much homerism, there are plenty of other examples outside Seattle. Famed closer Mariano Rivera called him the toughest hitter he had ever faced, and Pedro Martinez shares the sentiment. Dusty Baker called him one of the greatest right-handed hitters he’d ever seen. Less heralded players have praised Edgar, too, like new Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. Even fellow DHs Paul Molitor and David Ortiz have offered Edgar praise.
Recently, the Tigers’ Victor Martinez spoke about Edgar:
“When you talk about Edgar Martinez, I think you’re talking about one of the best hitters in the game,” Victor Martinez said. “Myself? Not in his class.”
You could argue that the V-Mart was built long after Edgar moved out of town, but it’s a strong statement when a player is willing to say he’s not in another player’s class.
At some point, the writers should start listening to the men who have actually played the game, If they did, they would hear a chorus of voices in support of Edgar.