Month: January 2016

Hall vote disappoints again

Edgar Martinez batting coach
Seattle Mariners hitting coach Edgar Martinez watches the field before the Seattle Mariners versus the Kansas City Royals game at Safeco Field Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

Yes, I know the Hall of Fame votes will be announced tomorrow, but I know the outcome. I won’t like it. Or, I guess I’ll half like it.

Ken Griffey, Jr. will be voted in, vastly eclipsing the 75% vote needed to win election to the HOF.  That is is great, it’s as it should be.  He may even challenge Tom Seaver for the highest percentage received by any player elected to the Hall.  He could even be chosen unanimously. And we should celebrate that one of our own players will walk into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Seattle Mariner and will make his speech on that sun drenched summer day as a Seattle Mariner.

But his teammate, Edgar Martinez, in his seventh year on the ballot, almost certainly will not be elected. Though it has been suggested that  in early balloting, Martinez had done substantially better, Shannon Drayer from MyNorthwest.com suggested that of the fifteen reporters holding votes at mlb.com, only two were voting for Edgar. You can see their votes here.

The Hall of Fame ballot is jammed, and time on the ballot reduced from fifteen years to ten. It seems like an increasing number of voters are waving the white flag and are voting to admit PED users like Bonds, Clemens, and possibly others, squeezing out candidates such as Tim Raines, Larry Walker, and, yes Edgar Martinez.  Though the Hall of Fame purged many from their voting rolls who no longer cover baseball in the hope they’d get fewer blank ballots, or more complete ballots, the mlb.com voters have several who submitted with far fewer than the ten names they were entitled to include.

Even more discouraging, is that with his announcement of his retirement at the end of the 2016 season, the case is being made for David Ortiz’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame.  Ortiz is a big man with over 500 home runs, has played on World Series winners, and plays in Boston. But he is not the hitter Edgar Martinez was.  Yes, he has the homers (503-309,) and chicks–and reporters–dig the long ball. But he has a lower career OPS .925 to .933, and far fewer WAR 50.4 to 68.3 than Martinez.    Ortiz also played far fewer games in the field than Edgar, with 272 games at first base, while Martinez had 580 games in the field, mostly at third base. If you have any doubts I encourage you to read another great article by Tony Blengino over at FanGraphs comparing Edgar’s career to others.

But by the time Ortiz is inaugurated on a Hall of Fame ballot, Edgar will be shifted to the tender mercies of the Expansion Era committee of the Veterans committee.  They’ve elected nobody within recent memory.

I’m going to commit a heresy here.   Though Griffey had the electric smile, and the most perfect swing ever to go with his 630 home runs, his slash .284/.370/.538  with wRC+ of 131 is almost as impressive as his quieter, steadier sidekick with his .312/.418/.515 with wRC+ 147.  Yes, there is a significant WAR differential 83.8 to 68.4 largely because of defense. But Edgar Martinez was a better hitter than Ken Griffey, Jr. And in an era that values plate discipline and judgment, Edgar Martinez was a disciple, a practitioner and a professor. I don’t understand why voters don’t get this.

It would be only fitting that Junior would enter the Hall with his Edgar at his side. We all remember that magical night in October 1995, when Griffey was waived in to score the go ahead run in game 5 of the ALDS.  We remember the made-for-the-morning papers grin on Junior’s face emerging from the bottom of the pile at home plate.  Don’t forget it was Edgar’s double that drove him in.

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