Posted By Jeff Fletcher on December 24, 2011 9:00 am
So far, I’ve checked the names of Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and Tim Raines. I eliminated Alan Trammell after giving him another look, so I’m down to just four more guys on my bubble: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker and Bernie Williams. Here we go with a close look at Edgar…
For starters, let me say that, when I was a kid, I was a die-hard Seattle Mariners fan. And I died a lot. From 1980 to 1997 (when I became a full-time baseball writer and abandoned by team allegiances), the Mariners mostly sucked.
Anyway, I rooted pretty hard for them. And Edgar Martinez was a big part of things when they finally turned it around and became good. In fact, his hit to win the 1995 NLDS against the Yankees is probably the pinnacle of my entire life as a sports fan.
But I have to put all that aside now.
The question is whether Edgar Martinez belongs in the Hall of Fame.
First, the DH question. I don’t believe that being a full-time DH disqualifies you from the HOF, but it does make it tougher. If you are only going to do half of the work of the other players, you’re going to be held to a higher standard at the half you’re doing. The same logic, by the way, holds true for relief pitchers when compared to starters.
So, Edgar starts off in a hole.
I like to use OPS+ as my starting point for these things, because I think it’s the best single number that takes into account a player’s offensive contribution in relation to his era and his ballpark. It doesn’t say anything about defense, but I’d rather have no defensive stat than a faulty one. And in this case, there’s no defense to measure anyway.
So, here’s Edgar lined up against all the other players during his prime (1990-2004), in terms of OPS+…
He’s 9th. Not 9th all-time, mind you, but 9th during the exact time frame of his prime. (He’s 34th all time.) He’s right there with Jeff Bagwell, who I’ve already voted for, and some other guys who I will vote for, like Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Mike Piazza, Vladimir Guerrero and Ken Griffey. But those guys weren’t full-time DHs. Thomas actually played 971 games at first and Thome played 1,595 between first and third. Edgar played 592 games in the field his entire career.
Is it fair to penalize Edgar for not playing in the field? The rules said someone had to DH, right? True. But it’s also not fair to give him credit for something he didn’t do. I can only judge players by what they did and did not do, and Edgar did not do what those other guys did, namely, play in the field.
So if I’m going to vote him in based solely on his bat, he’d better be an absolute slam dunk offensive HOFer, not a fringe HOFer, which is what he is. You see Brian Giles, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield right there next to him on that list?
Now, take a look at the players most similar to Edgar. There are zero Hall of Famers on that list.
So, I’m not voting for Edgar. He had a great career, and he provided me with a personal highlight, but I just don’t think he’s quite there.