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Edgar takes step forward in Hall balloting

SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez started his Monday like any other day, getting his three kids off to school and taking care of business around the house before turning his attention to the Internet to check on this year's Hall of Fame voting.

Just as with his Major League career, Martinez takes an understated approach to the whole Hall of Fame candidacy, and that quiet patience figures to be necessary in what appears will be a long process after the longtime Mariners designated hitter received 36.5 percent of the vote in this year's National Baseball Hall of Fame balloting.

That number is a step forward from last year's 32.9 percent, but still well shy of the necessary 75 percent necessary for election.

"I know this is going to take a while," Martinez said from his home in Bellevue, Wash. "But it's encouraging that it at least went up from last year. What I've seen in the past with players that get about 30 percent, it just takes awhile for the numbers to get up to close to 75."

That's why Martinez didn't spend any restless time Monday in anticipation of the voting, which saw Barry Larkin as the lone Hall of Fame selection with an 86-percent tally.

"I didn't raise my expectations too high on this," Martinez said. "Believe it or not, you don't remember this on the day-to-day basis. You reflect when you talk about it. But other than that, it doesn't affect me too much. I don't have too high of expectations at this moment. But if the numbers climb close to 75 percent, I can tell you it will be a different reaction."

Martinez, who turned 49 last week, earned 36.2 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot in 2010 and 32.9 percent last year, when he finished eighth among eligible players, so Monday's numbers were the highest he's reached.

A candidate must receive votes from three-quarters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters to gain election and can be on the ballot for 15 years, as long as they receive at least five percent of the votes.

Martinez received votes from 209 of the 573 BBWAA members who voted and finished seventh among this year's 27 candidates, behind Larkin (86.4 percent), Jack Morris (66.7), Jeff Bagwell (56.0), Lee Smith (50.6), Tim Raines (48.7) and Alan Trammell (36.8).

Martinez will thus be back on the ballot again next year for his fourth try, though competition figures to get increasingly difficult when a host of strong candidates become eligible for the first time. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa will be among the 2013 nominees.

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas hit the ballot for the first time in 2014, followed by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield in 2015, then Ken Griffey Jr. and Andy Pettitte in 2016.

"Some of the players who are coming in have long careers and big numbers, so who knows what happens?" Martinez said. "If more of the votes go to them, I don't know what to expect, but there are some big names, so it'll be interesting to see how things go."

What it means is Martinez is going to need to see his case persevere over the long haul to make any inroads, much the way Bert Blyleven finally was elected last year in his 14th time on the ballot.

That won't be an easy task, but Martinez does have a resume that could be appreciated more as sabermetric supporters gain a larger voice in the future. He's hoping for now that further study over the years will help his case.

"In my situation, I only played in the American League, and that could be a factor," he said. "I don't know if that has something to do with the writers' decision. If they didn't see me play in their league for a long time, it might impact their decision. I don't know. Education could help in that way, but they have a tough decision and there are a lot of players they have to look at. There have been a lot of arguments with the DH about whether it deserves to be in the Hall or not. It's going to take awhile for some of the writers to make a decision on that."

Because he didn't become a full-time starter in the Majors until age 27, his career totals -- 309 home runs, 2,247 hits and 1,261 RBIs -- don't scream out at some Hall voters. But Martinez was clearly one of the premier right-handed hitters of his time, with a .312 batting average, .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage.

The OPS+ statistic, which uses OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and adjusts it for era and home ballpark factors, is one that shows Martinez's strength. The Puerto Rico native posted a 150 or better OPS+ in eight different seasons, something only 24 players in baseball history have achieved.

Martinez played his entire 18-year career with the Mariners and made seven All-Star teams, won five Silver Slugger Awards and two American League batting championships, and Commissioner Bud Selig named baseball's annual designated hitter award after him in 2004.

Martinez joins Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig as the only players in Major League history with at least 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average higher than .300 and a career on-base percentage higher than .400. That's exclusive company and the sort of statistical grouping that his supporters cite in his Hall of Fame candidacy.

That registered with 36.5 percent of the voters in the 2012 election. Whether that number grows enough in coming years to get Martinez to Cooperstown is a question that will only be answered with time.

Seattle Mariners, Edgar Martinez