Edgar loses ground in fifth year on Hall ballot
Longtime Seattle designated hitter earns 25.2 percent -- his lowest vote total yet
SEATTLE -- Patience and discipline were hallmarks of Edgar Martinez's Mariners career, and those attributes are clearly going to be required as one of the game's premier designated hitters awaits word on whether he'll ever earn enough votes to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
With an influx of star power onto this year's ballot, Martinez saw his vote total drop to 25.2 percent when the 2014 results were released Wednesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
In his fifth year of eligibility, Martinez finished 13th among the 36 players listed on this year's ballot, as his percentage fell to its lowest point yet, in large part due to the arrival of a flank of first-timers that included new inductees Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
After no players were inducted in 2013, the Hall gained three new members Wednesday with Maddux (97.2 percent), Glavine (91.9) and Thomas (83.7) all surpassing the necessary voting requirement, while second-year eligible Craig Biggio just missed at 74.8 percent of the vote.
"The class going in is well-deserved, first-ballot players for sure," Martinez said. "That is great. I kind of was expecting that it was a pretty good chance my percentage was going to go down. I wasn't sure how much, but it was so crowded and writers can only vote for 10. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it's never pleasant to go down in percentage. So we'll see."
BBWAA voters can select up to 10 players on their ballots, with a 75-percent mark needed to earn induction into the exclusive Hall. Players who earn five percent or more are eligible to remain on the ballot for 15 years, so Martinez will be back for his sixth shot in 2015.
Martinez, who turned 51 last week, was named on 144 of the 571 ballots revealed on Wednesday. But his hopes took an expected hit in the crowded field, and things don't figure to get a lot easier next year, when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield are among the new additions, with Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman to follow in 2016.
"A lot of good players are still coming in the next few years, so I'm realistic and not expecting a big jump," Martinez said. "Hopefully I can improve my percentage every year from now on. But I think it's going to be a tough haul."
Martinez fully expects Johnson, his former teammate, to be elected next year when the Big Unit becomes eligible.
"I hope so," Martinez said. "I can't see how not. He was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history and won the World Series and was a key player on so many of those teams. He was very consistent for so many years. He's a first ballot in my mind."
Martinez was named on 36.2 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility in 2010, then followed with 32.9 percent in 2011, 36.5 in '12 and 35.9 percent in '13. Thus, Wednesday's results were the first significant drop for the man whose name was put on the award for baseball's top annual DH by Commissioner Bud Selig following Martinez's retirement from the Mariners in 2004.
Martinez clearly was hurt by the addition of the big-name newcomers, but he continued receiving solid support from about a quarter of the voters who recognize the impact of two American League batting titles, five Silver Slugger Awards and seven All-Star berths by a player regarded by many as one of the premier right-handed hitters of his era.
Martinez boasts a career .312 batting average and a .418 on-base percentage, and he remains one of just 10 players in Major League history to have put up 300-plus home runs, 500-plus doubles, 1,000-plus walks and post a batting average over .300 and on-base percentage over .400.
The others are Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, recent retirees Manny Ramirez (eligible in 2017), Chipper Jones ('18) and Todd Helton ('19) and the still-active Albert Pujols.
Martinez's career .418 on-base percentage ranks 21st all-time, his career OPS of .933 is the 34th best in Major League history and he is 44th in career walks with 1,283 and 50th in doubles with 514.
Clearly it's going to be difficult for Martinez to make the long climb to 75 percent approval in his remaining 10 years of eligibility, but there is precedence. Bert Blyleven, who was elected in 2011 in his 14th year on the ballot, received just 26.3 percent of the vote in his fifth year, and then gradually worked his way up as voters looked more closely at his accomplishments.
Bruce Sutter, elected in his 13th year of eligibility in 2006, was at 31.1 percent after five years. Jack Morris came up short this year in his 15th and final shot, garnering 61.5 percent, after climbing from 26.3 percent in his fifth year.
Most players who earn induction move through the process quicker -- as evidenced again this year by the trio who made it -- and it's going to take a significant turn of events for Martinez to garner enough growth in his support on future ballots to earn himself a spot in Cooperstown.
"Just being on the ballot and being mentioned as a potential candidate for the Hall of Fame is a great honor," Martinez said. "I've been fortunate to have many people making a case for me, and that's a great honor in itself. The ultimate honor is to get in, but I've been blessed to play the game and play for a long time and having people mention me as a potential candidate. We'll just see what happens from here."