‘Gar …. case for HoF

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

I was listening to one of the national hosts on ESPN Radio earlier this evening (Brian Kenney, an admitted Yank fan) and he was, much to my surprise and delight, banging the drum HARD for ‘Gar.

He said, in his opinion, Edgar Martinez is a SURE FIRE Hall of Famer and sited some stats to prove his case. I’m going by memory, as I was in the car, so forgive me if it’s not totally accurate – he was looking at OBP, SLG and TB and pointed out that Edgar had at least 8 GREAT seasons where he was in the TOP 5 in those categories and 3 other seasons where he was in the TOP 10.

He also had two HoF voters on – Rob Neyer who thinks Edgar should be in and Joel Sherman who doesn’t. Sherman’s argument was the same-old, same-old, “he didn’t play defense” …. WEAK! Newsflash – Edgar was a DH – they don’t play defense. Last time I checked, AL pitchers don’t hit – we gonna leave them out too? It seems not uncommon for voters to refer to a particular player as the best “what-ever his position was” of his era. Maybe they should look up the DH position for most of the 90’s and into the early aughts … they just MIGHT notice ‘Gar’s name for more than several years…

The man has the friggin’ DH award named after him for cryin’ out loud!

Instead of looking at Edgar’s failure to reach 3,000 hits, I marveled over his staggering accomplishments. He was at an elite level when it came to the combination of getting on base and hitting for power.

There are numerous stats to choose from, but for the purpose of space, I’ll point out his .312 career average, .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage. Only 20 players in history have the .300/.400/.500 combination, and of the 12 eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Lefty O’Doul isn’t there (which is an outrage worthy of another column).

Martinez’s .418 career on-base percentage is surpassed only by Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Thomas by retired players since 1945 with at least 7,500 at-bats. His career OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .933 ranks 32nd all-time.

If you look at OPS-plus (the same stat adjusted for era and home ballpark), Edgar had eight seasons of better than 150, an epic total. As David Schoenfield of ESPN.com pointed out, only 24 players in history have done it that many times, most of them slam-dunk Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt. Alex Rodriguez, by comparison, has done it seven times.

For those who look past their prejudice against DH, Edgar Martinez stands out as a bona fide Hall of Famer.

An average well above average

Martinez is among six players since the 1940s to bat at least .320 in at least six straight seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn, plus Todd Helton.

Beyond the batting average

Martinez is one of 20 players in major league history whose lifetime batting average is better than .300, on-base percentage is over .400 and slugging percentage tops .500. Of the players eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Joe Jackson and Lefty O’Doul aren’t in.

In the company of legends

Martinez is among five players in history with at least 300 home runs, 500 doubles, 1,000 walks, a .300 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage. The other four — Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams — are in the Hall of Fame.

OPS percentage equals greatness

Martinez’s on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .933 ranks 32nd all-time, and he had an OPS above 1.000 in five seasons and above .900 nine times. Mark McGwire and Lefty O’Doul are the only players with a better career OPS who are eligible for the Hall of Fame but not inducted. Martinez ranks eighth on the career OPS list among right-handed hitters, and all seven ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

King of the DH

As a designated hitter, Martinez is unmatched in every major statistic except home runs. He has the highest DH average at .314 (Paul Molitor is next at .308), most RBI at 1,003 (leading Harold Baines’ 978), highest on-base percentage at .428 (Frank Thomas, .394), highest OPS at .959 (David Ortiz, .936) and most doubles at 370 (Hal McRae, 357). Martinez’s his 243 DH home runs are third (behind Ortiz’s 274 and Thomas’ 269).

He owned the Yankees

If the East Coast media wasn’t impressed by Martinez, they weren’t paying attention. He batted .317 with .423 on-base and .542 slugging percentages, plus a .965 OPS against the Yankees. The only team he hit better in his career was the Indians, with a .347 average. He also hammered future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, batting .625 with .700 on-base and 1.188 slugging percentages, and a 1.888 OPS in 20 career plate appearances. Robbie Alomar, also on this year’s ballot, was one of the few others to handle Rivera, yet his numbers pale compared with Martinez’s — a .455 average, 500 on-base percentage, .727 slugging percentage and 1.227 OPS.