Martinez going out with the greatest of ease

Edgar Martinez can still hit with the best. It's getting around the bases that has become an adventure.

Originally Published: April 23, 2003
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

Some players leave the game with grass stains on both knees. Edgar Martinez leaves with moss on his north side.

Edgar has always been as slow as rush-hour traffic when you're late for work, but now he's really, really, really, really slow. He aggravated his perennially bad hamstring the first week of the season, forcing him onto the bench for a couple games. Rather than risk losing him further with a more serious injury, the Mariners have ordered Edgar to not push it on the basepaths, limiting himself to little more than a comfortable trot.

Edgar Martinez
Fans in NL cities should see Edgar Martinez as a DH, not just a PH.

So now he's gone from Elmers-Glue-Flowing-Uphill slow to Waiting-For-The-Cable-Guy-To-Show-Up slow.

Thus, the most entertaining thing in Seattle no longer is watching Ichiro run around the bases. It's watching Edgar not run around the bases. The Mariners could hold a between-innings promotion like the minor-league teams do, where random fans try to race from home to home faster than Edgar can get from second to home. Unless they pull Dr. Stephen Hawking out of the stands, my money is on the fan.

How slow is Edgar? During a game last week he nearly was thrown out trying to go from first to third on a double. He also was on first base when John Olerud doubled and Mike Cameron singled --- and Edgar still never got past third base.

Olerud lost two RBI that game because Edgar was so slow, but Olerud said that was all right. "If Edgar hadn't been on base, I wouldn't have had any RBIs either,'' he said.

That's exactly how the Mariners see it. Edgar is such a productive hitter -- his bat is as dependable in Seattle as a double tall of Starbucks espresso roast -- that they don't care how slow he circles the bases just so long as he is healthy enough to step up to the plate every game. As long as he can swing a bat, he's going to help them win.

"It's worth it,'' manager Bob Melvin said. "I know it's frustrating for him but the flipside is not having him in the lineup and I don't want that.''

Edgar talks about picking up the pace when his hamstring improves but Melvin isn't so sure. He talks about keeping Edgar on a leash even after his hamstring improves, for the entire season if needed. "Other than the speed issue, we're better off having the hamstring a little sore so that he doesn't go full-out,'' said Melvin, adding that he'll likely lift Edgar for a pinch-runner in late innings if the Mariners are behind. "The seventh inning is sort of my deadline.''

Second baseman Bret Boone says a slow-motion Edgar is fine with him, "As long as he bats behind me.''

The Mariners kid Edgar about how slow he is now -- "It's not the first time,'' Martinez said with a grin -- but this is a serious and difficult subject for him. He's a proud player who aches to win and the thought that being so slow could hurt the team bothers him. When he is unable to advance on a hit the way he knows he should have, "It make you think, man, we had an opportunity to score there and I didn't. But that's the way it is.''

The funny thing is, the "No Run, Walk" policy makes sense because Edgar is that good a hitter. He is 40 years old. He can't run. He can barely walk. And he's still hitting .360 with a .477 on-base percentage. He singled home a run in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday night, helping the Mariners rally for an 8-5 victory. Just another night in the career of one of the game's best hitters.

Edgar likely will retire after the season, which will be as much a loss for baseball as for the Mariners. He puts almost every player in the game to shame when it comes to dedication, professionalism and attention to detail. He keeps a scale at his locker to periodically weigh his bats, checking to see if they've gained a gram of weight from humidity. Heck, he lifts weights, reviews video and takes batting practice after games.

There is a reason, after all, that Edgar is so good despite the injuries. They may be able to slow him but they can't stop him.

Besides, what difference does it make how fast he can run on a home run trot? He'll still be faster than Barry Bonds.

Boxscore lines of the week
If the Twins get on track and repeat as AL Central champions, they can only hope they don't draw the Yankees in the playoffs. Minnesota is a brilliant example of how a small-market team can compete with the big boys -- except when it comes to the Yankees.

New York swept the season series from Minnesota for the second consecutive year, completing the sweep with a 15-1 embarrassment Monday at the Metrodome when starter Rick Reed allowed 11 runs. It was Minnesota's 13th consecutive loss to the Yankees. Minnesota hasn't defeated New York since May 10, 2001.

"I'd like to give you my glove and and you go out there and try to pitch to that lineup,'' Reed told reporters after the game. "I'm thanking God we're in the Central and not the East. That's unbelievable. Un-be-lieveable.''

Reed's line: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

"When it rains, it pours,'' Torii Hunter said. "And today it flooded.''

Lies, damn lies and statistics
Of course, the Twins aren't the only team who has trouble beating New York. How good are the Yankees? They have outhomered opponents 40-5. They have led in 129 of the 180 innings they've played and have been behind in only 22 1/2 innings. And remember -- they've done all that even though Derek Jeter has had only one at-bat. ... Forget the Yankees' big-league roster, New York's Triple-A Columbus roster probably has a payroll approaching the Devil Rays' big-league payroll. Jose Contreras is making $6 million, Drew Henson is making $2 million and Willie Banks is earning $750,000 (though the Red Sox are on the hook for it). The Devil Rays, meanwhile, have 19 players making the major-league minimum. The Yankees have only one. ... There are a lot of concerns about Seattle closer Kazu Sasaki, who blew his third save in his past four chances Tuesday night before leaving with a sore back. Coming off off-season elbow surgery, Sasaki has successfully protected only one one-run lead this season. His ERA is 9.00 and batters are hitting .333 against him. ... The Mariners, by the way, have blown seven save chances this season (they blew 20 all last year) but have only lost one of those seven games. ... How bad are the Tigers? After Tuesday night's loss to Oakland, Detroit has trailed 111 of the 166 innings it has played, while leading in only 23 innings. ... Among the more interesting news stories of the season was the Angels sale for just $180 million, barely $30 million more than Disney paid for the team, and $72 million less than Tom Hicks paid for one player. Sheesh, you would have thought the Rally Monkey would have been worth $40 million all by himself.

From left field
With Tom Glavine's move from the Braves to the Mets, Edgar Martinez now has spent his entire career with one major-league team longer than any active player except Barry Larkin. The active players who've spent the most years with only one team:

Years	Player				Team
18	Barry Larkin			Cincinnati
17	Edgar Martinez			Seattle
16 	Craig Biggio			Houston
15	John Smoltz			Atlanta
14	Frank Thomas			Chicago
13	Jeff Bagwell			Houston
13	Bernie Williams			N.Y. Yankees
12	Tim Salmon			Anaheim

Win Blake Stein's money
This week's category is: He Lasted In Baltimore Even Longer Than "Homicide.''

Which player spent the longest career with one team and one team only?

ANSWER: Brooks Robinson, 23 seasons in Baltimore.

Infield chatter
"I appreciate Petroskey's non-apology apology and his realization of the perils of paper trails.''

-- Timothy Robbins on Hall of Fame president/buffoon Dale Petroskey's "apology'' for sending a letter instead of phoning when he canceled a "Bull Durham'' event at Cooperstown.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com