Excuse me while I get caught up in a wave of nostalgia ...
The first highlight was from Game 5 of the 1995 Division Series, one of the most exciting playoff games ever played. MLB Network has been re-airing its series from a few years ago on baseball's greatest games -- this one was No. 14 -- so, being a Mariners fan, I recorded it from the wee hours of Friday morning and just watched it again. Yes, Buck Showalter still leaves in David Cone to throw a gut-wrenching 147 pitches and Edgar's double is still a thing of joy.
The show on MLB Network had Cone and Lou Piniella in the studio talking about the game and Cone called Martinez the best right-handed hitter he ever faced. It's easy to see why he'd say that; many pitchers from that era would agree. Check Martinez's year-by-year on-base percentages from his first year as a regular in 1990: .397, .405, .404, .366 (injured), .387, .479, .464, .456, .429, .447, .423, .423, .403, .406, .342 (called it a career).
That's 11 seasons with an OBP over .400. You know how times a right-handed batter has posted a .400 OBP over the past five seasons combined? Twelve. Not different players, 12 times total. Yes, different era, less offense ... but ... still ... 11 seasons with an OBP over .400.
Martinez, of course, as you regular readers of the blog know, is my favorite player of all time. So I'm a little biased. He's on the Hall of Fame ballot for the sixth time and he's not getting in despite that career batting line of .312/.418/.515. After getting between 32.9 and 36.5 percent of the vote his first four years, he dropped to 25 percent last year, squeezed out by the 10-man limit and overstuffed ballot.
Yes, he was primarily a DH and because he didn't play his first full season until he was 27, his career was somewhat abbreviated even though he played until he was 41. Aside from those issues, however, one aspect I believe Hall of Fame voters consistently undervalue is greatness. That may sound silly in a Hall of Fame sense -- all these players we discuss as potential Hall of Famers were great players -- but there are two kinds of greatness. Players who are great for long periods of time and players who are GREAT, capital letters, those guys who have those multiple monster seasons, maybe win MVP Award along the way, the kind of players opposing pitchers years later will call the best they ever faced.
This is an area where Martinez excelled. It's why Pedro Martinez will deservingly get elected this year even though he won "only" 219 career games. It's why Curt Schilling should be considered a better Hall of Fame candidate than John Smoltz. But how do measure something like that?
Baseball-Reference has a measurement called Wins Above Average. It's similar to Wins Above Replacement except it compares players to an average level of production rather than replacement-level. (Average is about two wins about replacement-level.) A player who plays a long time and is merely average or slightly above can still rack up a lot of Wins Above Replacement. There's real value in that but when you think of "Hall of Famer" you're not really thinking of average. You're thinking of greatness.
Edgar Martinez had more Wins Above Average than Ryne Sandberg. Or Paul Molitor. Or Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Duke Snider, Reggie Jackson, Carlton Fisk, Roberto Alomar, Willie Stargell, Ernie Banks or Dave Winfield. Not exactly a group of cheap Hall of Famers there. More than Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, Pete Rose or Jim Thome. More than Derek Jeter -- quite a bit more than Jeter, actually, 38.4 to 30.5.
I can't express this any more simply: Edgar Martinez was great. If that's what you want in a Hall of Famer, than Martinez deserves more support than he's been getting.