Designating A Spot in Cooperstown for Mariners’ Edgar Martinez
Thursday, December 11, 2014
The Frank Thomas Argument
A true designated hitter has yet to be inducted into Cooperstown. However, there is a shift in the landscape already on the horizon. Last year saw Frank Thomas earn a spot in Cooperstown. Many fans, myself included, think of Thomas as a first baseman. However, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times cited a stat last year that Thomas started more games as a DH than first base. In fact, it was significantly more: 341 games (1,310 at DH vs. 969 at 1B). While he certainly is not a dedicated designated hitter, his election may signify a shift in the sentiment towards designated hitters.
The Rollie Fingers Argument
Since its inception, baseball has developed a lot of niche roles, playing smaller parts in the game. Among these, is the reliever and, eventually, the closer developed. An example of this can be seen in the frequency of complete games in baseball. In 1904, a whopping 87.6% of all starts went down as complete games. 110 years later, only 2.4% of all starts were completed. The trend has been significant and mostly without variation throughout this period. As a further example, the career leader in complete games is Cy Young, who completed 749 of his starts. Among active MLB players, the leader is CC Sabathia. Sabathia has only completed 37 of his starts.
This is no incrimination on starting pitchers. The game evolves. This does not mean that players in evolving roles should be shunned. The induction of closers is rare but has happened. I draw a specific comparison with Rollie Fingers. One of the few inductees who spent the vast majority of his career as a reliever, Fingers became a renowned closer (and wielder of one of the best mustaches ever). In his 17 year MLB career, Fingers faced 6,924 batters. Edgar, by comparison, had 8,674 plate appearances in his 18 year career. To me, that means that Edgar had 1,750 more opportunities to perform his job well. And we all know Edgar did his job as well as anyone in the sport. Do remember that the award for the best DH is called the Edgar Martinez award.
The Anti-Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire Argument
The Steroid Era of baseball has brought an interesting conundrum on the hands of Hall of Fame voters. Users of P.E.D.s have been denied access into Cooperstown. In 2014 voting, McGwire was included on only 11% of ballots. Sammy Sosa on only 7.2% of ballots. These players, who have Hall of Fame numbers by all accounts, will not be getting inducted any time too soon.
If players can be punished for their behavior in the eyes of voters, Edgar Martinez should be rewarded for his conduct. He spent the entirety of his career in one location, something quite rare in today’s sports culture. He has remained in his community, becoming an iconic part of the Seattle landscape. Even more importantly, Edgar is a renowned philanthropist, even being inducted to the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. Edgar has been a star on the field and a true star off the field, a figure for baseball to celebrate.
Don’t Give Up Yet
While Edgar Martinez was only on 25.2% of ballots in 2014, Mariner fans must not lose hope. Last year’s Hall of Fame class was incredibly difficult, featuring a few obvious first ballot Hall of Famers like Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas. Hall of Fame ballots can only contain 10 players. With these three overwhelmingly elected, there may be more space on ballots for Edgar. The results of 2015’s ballot, released on January 7th, will be telling about Edgar’s chance. While I still think it unlikely, I still dream of making my way to New York for the induction and giving the famous “Eeeeed-gaaaaar” chant I knew in my youth.