Saturday, September 25, 2004
Updated: September 27, 11:30 AM ET
Martinez is beloved by Seattle fans; what about Hall voters?
SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez has been swinging his bat in
Seattle so long, he seems as much a city fixture as the Space
Needle and Pioneer Square.
Unlike the landmarks, Martinez won't be on display much longer.
Retirement is looming for the 41-year-old Seattle Mariners star,
regarded as one of the best right-handed hitters of his generation.
"I know when I get to that final homestand, I'm going to feel
very emotional about it," Martinez said. "I know I'm going to
miss the competition and everything that goes with baseball."
Martinez will retire as a seven-time All-Star and two-time
American League batting champion. He'll be remembered as one of the
nicest guys in baseball, beloved by Seattle fans and an exceptional
"Edgar is very special person," Mariners president Chuck
Armstrong said. "He's a very loyal person, a great teammate."
His retirement also is likely to test the limits on one of
baseball's most fiery debates. Martinez will be the most
accomplished career designated hitter to contend for a plaque at
"I think the writers have spoken in my case and they will again
in the future," said Seattle hitting coach Paul Molitor, inducted
into the Hall of Fame this summer after playing the final eight
seasons of his career at DH. "They're not going to hold it against
you. It's part of the game and should be included as such."
Ask anybody in Seattle whether Martinez belongs in the Hall of
Fame, and the answer is as certain as winter rainfall. Outside the
Pacific Northwest, however, it's less clear-cut.
"If you look purely at numbers, he's borderline," Anaheim
manager Mike Scioscia said.
Martinez is a career .311 hitter with 308 homers, 2,240 hits,
1,258 RBIss and an on-base percentage of .419. With 10 games
remaining this season, he was hitting .268 on the year with 11 home
runs, 121 hits, 60 RBIss and a .351 on-base percentage.
Martinez's 1,000 RBIss as a DH are the highest total by anyone
who played at least 1,000 games at that position. The same goes for
Martinez's .315 average as a DH and his 242 homers as a DH.
He's the seventh player with at least 300 home runs, 500 doubles
(514), 1,000 walks (1,282), a career batting average of at least
.300 and a career on-base percentage of at least .400.
The others are Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou
Gehrig, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. Hornsby and Martinez are the
only right-handed hitters on that list.
"He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long
time in this league," Molitor said. "The amount of respect he has
from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was."
Martinez is well short of the magical numbers that usually
guarantee a spot in Cooperstown: 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
For every rule there's an exception: Kirby Puckett was enshrined
in 2001 with a .318 career average, 2,304 hits and 207 homers.
Puckett, though, was famous for his defense, something that
works against Martinez, and Puckett's career was cut short because
glaucoma blinded his right eye.
It's worth noting that Martinez played 563 games at third base
and 28 at first before settling in as a full-time DH in 1992, when
he won his first batting title with a .343 average.
Martinez hit .356 in 1995 to win his second batting crown. That
year, he had the highest average by a right-handed AL batting
champion since Joe DiMaggio hit .381 in 1939.
Martinez also had the biggest hit in franchise history.
His 11th-inning double in the fifth game of the 1995 AL division
series touched off a frenzy at the Kingdome when Joey Cora and Ken
Griffey Jr. scored, lifting the Mariners to a thrilling 6-5 win
over the New York Yankees.
"A lot of people remember that double when they talk about my
career," Martinez said. "I'd say, yeah, that would define my
In "Out of Left Field," a book by Seattle Post-Intelligencer
columnist Art Thiel, former M's manager Lou Piniella called it
"the hit, the run, the game, the series and the season that saved
baseball in Seattle."
At the time, the state Legislature was considering funding for
what eventually became Safeco Field and a local ownership group was
fighting to keep the team in Seattle. The excitement of the
franchise's first postseason series victory built invaluable
How fitting that Martinez was the player who delivered the
"In my mind, he's a Hall of Famer. I think he's the Tony Perez
of our generation," Scioscia said. "If you talk about a guy who
consistently hit the ball hard on an at-bat by at-bat basis, Edgar
is in an elite group.
"You're talking about some all-time greats you would compare
him to. He's definitely the one guy you didn't want to see come up
there with the game on the line," Scioscia said.
Martinez said he'll just sit back and let the Hall voters think
"There are a lot of different opinions about it," he said.
"What I think is that the DH makes a daily contribution to the
team, just like any position player who plays every day."
Martinez's meticulous preparation is the stuff of legend. He
selects bats using a digital scale at his locker and begins his
hitting routine under the seats three or four batters before he's
due on deck.
Raised by his grandparents in Puerto Rico, Martinez credits his
grandfather for his perfectionist approach. One week after each
season ended, Martinez was in the weight room.
"Edgar defined the position of the DH," said Anaheim's Troy
Glaus. "He was the first guy to take it on as a role, not just as
a guy who's banged up and had to DH for a week. He's done it at a
very high level, and that's not an easy thing to do."
Without question, Martinez's history of injuries contributed to
his job as DH. He's had to play through some kind of affliction
nearly every year since 1990, his first full season in the majors.
In recent years, Martinez battled a notorious hamstring injury
and performed eye exercises to maintain sharpness in his vision.
Last year, he played the final month with a broken toe in his right
As of midweek, he hadn't played since fouling a pitch off his
left foot Sept. 18. Had he ever played on a National League team,
Martinez believes he could have handled first or third every day.
"And the way he hits, believe me, Edgar would have been playing
out on the field somewhere," Seattle manager Bob Melvin said.
Martinez ranks among those rarest of modern athletes by spending
his entire career with the same team. He signed in December 1982
and made his major league debut on Sept. 12, 1987 against the
Chicago White Sox.
"It is important. Not many players do that any more," Martinez
said. "I always felt great here. I love to play here. I've always
enjoyed it immensely to play here. I always wanted to stay."
Armstrong noted most fans think of Cal Ripken when they think of
the Orioles. With the Padres, it's Tony Gwynn. The Red Sox had Ted
Williams and Carl Yastrzemski and the Yankees had Mickey Mantle and
"As the years go by, I believe when people think of the
Mariners they'll think of Edgar Martinez," Armstrong said.