Well that took a decade longer than it should have. (We can put away the pitchforks and torches now.)
After 10 years on the ballot — and in his final year of eligibility — Mariner legend and batting savant Edgar Martinez will finally be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. After nine years of falling short of showing up on 75 percent of the voting baseball writers’ ballots, a continued groundswell of support helped Martinez earn 85.4 percent this time around. He will be joined in the 2019 class by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and starting pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina. Martinez and his peers will officially enter the Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Cooperstown on July 21.
Martinez was absolutely undeniable as a hitter. In addition to being a two-time batting champ and seven-time All Star, his career batting line sits at a stellar .312/.418/.515. He ranks 21st all time in on-base percentage, and had more career walks than strikeouts. The popular player value stat WAR (wins above replacement) severely penalizes designated hitters for not playing in the field, yet Martinez still managed to put up 68.3 career WAR, more than the average Hall of Famer.
For those who decry the stat nerds, Edgar was arguably the most-feared hitter of his time, according to the top pitchers of the era. His Hall of Fame classmate Mariano Rivera once said, “The toughest [hitter] — and thank God he retired — [was] Edgar Martinez. Oh, my God. I think every pitcher will say that, because this man was tough.” Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez agreed: “The toughest guy I faced, I think, with all due respect to all of the players in the league, has to be Edgar Martinez. He would make me throw at least 13 fastballs above 95 [mph]. I would be hard-breathing after that. Edgar was a guy who had the ability to foul off pitches, and it pissed me off when I had to throw 13 pitches to get a guy out.” And because things are better in threes, HOFer Randy Johnson, a longtime teammate of Martinez, also concurred: “Edgar Martinez is, hands down, the best hitter that I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I didn’t have to face him too much. Having seen him play from ’89 to all the way when I left, I got to see him a lot against great pitchers. Like I said, hands down, he is the best pure hitter that I got to see on a nightly basis.”
The cases against Marintez were always largely based on him playing DH instead of a defensive position for the majority of his career. The arguments were absurd not only because players like Frank Thomas — who started at DH in 57.4 percent of his games — were already enshrined, but inferior hitters who hurt their teams with their defense were HOFers (see: Rabbit Maranville, a infielder who had 30-plus errors in 12 separate seasons). On top of that, Edgar even won a batting title in 1992 while playing as a third baseman, before injuries made playing the position less feasible. And for heaven’s sake, the award Major League Baseball gives out every season to the best DH is the Edgar Martinez Award.
For Mariners fans, Edgar Martinez means more than any numbers can quantify. Not only did Martinez provide the franchise’s signature moment — driving in the game-winning run that clinched the 1995 American League Divisional Series (while it’s often referred to as “The Slide,” “The Double” is far more accurate) — but he was the pure Mariner. With Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and Alex Rodriguez, the franchise saw plenty of all-time greats in the 1990s, but Edgar was the constant. When the others left via free agency or trades, Martinez held down the fort. In modern sports, a truly great talent playing his entire career with one team is a total anomaly, one that builds a bond of loyalty between the player and his fan base.
Edgar Martinez is more beloved in Seattle than the Mariners franchise itself. And finally, finally, our guy is a Hall of Famer.