Edgar hopes to ride ballot momentum into Cooperstown

Mariners legend looks to build on gains made during last year's vote

Edgar hopes to ride ballot momentum into Cooperstown

SEATTLE -- For Edgar Martinez and his Hall of Fame supporters, the clock is ticking. But his peers are also talking, and that could be a good thing for his candidacy for enshrinement in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Martinez, the former Mariners great and the team's current hitting coach, was again among the players on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot released on Monday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

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For the 53-year-old Martinez, this is his eighth year on the ballot. It means he's down to his final three chances to reach the necessary 75-percent voting threshold for induction before he hits the 10-year limit now in place for Hall of Fame ballot eligibility.

But momentum -- and support from former players and current Hall of Famers -- seemed to grow last year. Martinez was named on 43.4 percent of the writers' ballots in an election that saw former Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr. inducted in his first try.

Martinez's long-shot bid could be bolstered both by baseball writers' increasing focus on sabermetric analysis, as well as the growing crescendo of accolades from those who played with and against him -- like pitchers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera, as well as Griffey himself.

"Edgar deserves to be in," Griffey said after his own induction last year. "I played with the guy. I know what he's done."

Johnson, another former teammate who was inducted into the Hall in 2015 as a member of the D-backs, echoed the same sentiment for the man he played alongside for 10 seasons in Seattle.

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"I've never seen a better hitter, a better pure hitter," said the Big Unit. "That's no disrespect to other teammates I've had or people I've played against. But anyone from that era who watched Edgar realizes what a good hitter he was. I'll be pulling for him, because I know what he meant when I was on the mound."

Martinez went 11-for-19 (.579) with three doubles, two homers and three walks against the Yankees' Rivera. The greatest closer in the history of the game named Martinez when asked in 2013 who was the toughest hitter he faced in his own career.

"Thank God he retired," Rivera said. "I think every pitcher will say that. [He is a] great man, respected the game, did what he had to do for his team. That's what you appreciate about players, when a player comes and does what is right for the game of baseball, for his team and teammates."

Martinez's voting percentages since his first year on the ballot in 2010 have been 36.2, 32.9, 36.5, 35.9, 24.2, 27.0 and last year's 43.4.

"I think it's probably some of the sabermetrics giving more importance to the on-base percentage and things like that. I think it probably helps," Martinez said of his rise last year. "I was pleased with the jump. I didn't expect that big of a jump because the last few years I'd been going down. So I was very pleased."

It should also help that some of the ballot logjam has cleared, with nine players inducted over the past three years. Additionally, there is this for voters to ponder:

David Ortiz is considered by many as a future Hall of Famer -- after retiring following last season with a career .286/.380/.552 line, with 632 doubles and 541 home runs over 20 seasons. Ortiz had a .931 OPS, 141 OPS+ and 55.4 WAR in 2,408 games.

Hall of Fame talk surrounding David Ortiz (left) has fueled a renewed look at Edgar Martinez's credentials. (AP)

Martinez posted a .312/.418/.515 line, with a .933 OPS, 147 OPS+ and 68.4 WAR in 2,055 games over 18 seasons. His counting numbers are lower (514 doubles and 309 home runs), as he didn't become an everyday starter in the Majors until he was 27.

But the anti-DH argument wanes considerably if voters view Ortiz as a strong Hall of Fame candidate after a career in which 2,029 of his career 2,408 games were at DH. By comparison, Martinez's career included only 1,403 of his 2,055 games at DH.

Indeed, Martinez has the highest career batting average, on-base percentage and OPS of any DH in history with at least 3,000 plate appearances. That's precisely why former Commissioner Bud Selig changed the name of the annual Outstanding Designated Hitter Award to the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, following the Seattle star's retirement in 2004.

Among retired players with at least 7,500 plate appearances since the end of World War II, Martinez is one of only four players with a career on-base percentage of at least .418 (along with Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Frank Thomas) and one of only 13 with a career batting average of at least .312.

Voters can list up to 10 names on their ballots. The announcement of the Class of 2017 is slated for Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, and it will be simulcast on MLB Network and MLB.com. The induction ceremony will be held on July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.

"Is it his fault that somebody put him in the DH role?" asks Griffey. "No. He was part of a team and he did his part. He should be in. Guys like Harold Baines and Edgar did damage at DH and were feared baseball players. And when we were growing up, the definition of a Hall of Famer is a guy who was feared for 10 years."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.