Edgar Martinez and the Hall of Fame

This year’s balloting for the Baseball Hall of Fame was announced Wednesday, and perhaps the most interesting aspect was to see how the voters treated Edgar Martinez.

This was the first year of eligibility for Martinez, and he was named on 36.2 percent of the ballots. That’s far short of being elected, but it’s not bad for a first-timer. Andre Dawson received 45 percent his first year, and he was elected Wednesday on his ninth try.

But the interesting part is that Martinez’s candidacy can be viewed as a referendum on how voters will treat designated hitters. Martinez is really the first viable candidate who was a career DH. He played 2,055 games in his career, and he didn’t need a glove for 1,412 of them.

By one measure, Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, Martinez is likely to be inducted eventually. This gives points for things like hitting .300 in a season or being a regular on a pennant winner or reaching career milestones. Martinez has 132 points by this measure, and James determined 100 points as the cutoff for a likely Hall of Famer.

But there are some problems with using this metric: It was devised years ago, before offensive numbers became inflated; there’s no telling how voters will assess numbers from the Steroids Era, for users and non-users; and it can’t factor in how much voters will discount Martinez for his DH status.

By another measure, Martinez is an unlikely Hall of Famer. According to baseball-reference.com, the players with the most similar career numbers to Martinez are, in order: Will Clark, Todd Helton, John Olerud, Moises Alou, Bobby Abreu, Bernie Williams, Bob Johnson, Paul O’Neill, Ellis Burks, and Orlando Cepeda. Only Cepeda is in the Hall, and his selection was debatable.

I have Martinez ranked as the 15th-best third baseman in history. He didn’t play a lot of third base, but I had to rank him somewhere. Here are the leaders in this year’s balloting, with the percentage of the vote they received, their primary position, and where I have them ranked at that position:

Player Pct Pos Rk
Andre Dawson 77.9 RF 20
Bert Blyleven 74.2 P 34
Roberto Alomar 73.7 2B 9
Jack Morris 52.3 P 148
Barry Larkin 51.6 SS 9
Lee Smith 47.3 P 78
Edgar Martinez 36.2 DH 15th at 3B
Tim Raines 30.4 LF 7
Alan Trammell 22.4 SS 14
Fred McGriff 21.5 1B 28
Don Mattingly 16.1 1B 30
Dave Parker 15.2 RF 16
Dale Murphy 11.7 CF 15

Clearly, Tim Raines is getting the short end of the stick. He’s the best player on this list, and he has received 24.3 percent and 30.4 percent in his two years on the ballot. While voters for the MVP and Cy Young awards demonstrated an enlightened understanding of the game this year, the Hall of Fame voters still appear enamored with home runs and RBI.

The other inexplicable aspect is how Roberto Alomar just missed being elected while Barry Larkin received 52 percent of the vote. We’ll explore this more in a future post.

For now we’re looking at one of the most popular players in Mariners history. Martinez didn’t come close to induction this year, but he received enough support to give his supporters hope for the future.

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