Longtime Mariners slugger tallies 58.6 percent of BBWAA vote
By Doug Miller
SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez's sterling Major League career was defined by patience that paid off. His Hall of Fame quest just might be following the same blueprint.
The results of the National Baseball Hall of Fame election for 2017 were revealed Wednesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and even though Martinez did not gain entry, the longtime designated hitter and Mariners legend made the most significant jump in vote totals in the eight years he's been on the ballot.
Martinez, now the Mariners' hitting coach, finished sixth among the 34 players listed on the ballot, jumping from his 43.4 percent total in '16 to 58.6 percent this year. The increase of 15.2 percent was the biggest of any returning player this year, and the result left Martinez within realistic reach of the 75 percent that's required for enshrinement with two more years to get it done.
"In general, I would have loved to be over 60 [percent], but at least I'm closer to 60 than to 50," Martinez said on a conference call with Seattle-area reporters. "The jump is encouraging. I still have two more years to go, so I think it's moving in the right direction now."
On Wednesday, Jeff Bagwell (86.2 percent), Tim Raines (86 percent) and Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) received enough votes for induction. Trevor Hoffman (74 percent) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7 percent) are knocking at the door, and the same goes for Martinez, who received a higher total than Roger Clemens (54.1), Barry Bonds (53.8) and Mike Mussina (51.8).
Martinez, who also played some third base, compiled a lifetime .312 batting average and .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, as well as Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones (eligible in '18), Todd Helton ('19) and the still-active Albert Pujols.
Martinez's career .418 on-base percentage ranks 21st all-time, while his career OPS of .933 is the 34th best in Major League history and the fourth-best among right-handed hitters in the modern era. He is 44th in career walks with 1,283 and 50th in doubles with 514.
He's still not a Hall of Famer, though, and aside from a perennially crowded ballot, the main reason is the question of whether a player who played DH should be considered worthy of enshrinement over position players who played defense.
"It appears that the argument about the DH, people are getting comfortable about it," Martinez said. "There's been more discussion about my situation, almost like there's been a debate about it. People are taking a different look about the DH and the sabermetric numbers and taking into consideration all those numbers, and it's helping. It's helping my case."
One thing that's always been in Martinez's favor is the "eye test." Martinez has been actively pushed for Hall induction by former teammates and Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr., and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez once called him "the toughest guy I faced."
BBWAA voters can select up to 10 players on their ballots, and players who earn 5 percent or more are eligible to remain on the ballot for 10 years.
Martinez said he's excited to see how it all plays out.
"We knew it wasn't going to happen this year, but this year was more a look-and-see to how it will increase and how close I'd get to the 75 percent," Martinez said.
"It was an honor to play [in Seattle] and it's a little humbling to see the support of the fans, that they want me to get in really bad. I'm almost at a loss for words."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.