Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#315 Edgar Martinez

About the Front: Thank the heavens that Edgar Martinez's bat is not literally on fire, as is the case in the photo atop this article about the former Seattle great.

About the Back: As you can see, the moribund Mariners didn't slot Edgar into the starting lineup until after his 27th birthday, and he won his first career batting title two years later. Imagine what he could've done if he hadn't been taking repeated tours of AAA in his mid-20s.

Triple Play:

1. Martinez was a two-time AL batting champ, with his other top season coming in 1995. That year, he led the loop with 121 runs scored, 52 doubles, a .356 average, a .479 on-base percentage, and a 185 OPS+. He played all 145 games for Seattle in the strike-shortened season, also setting career highs with 29 doubles, 113 RBI, and a .628 slugging percentage. All that, and he still finished third in MVP voting behind dubious winner Mo Vaughn (.300/.388/.575, 39 HR, 126 RBI) and runner-up Albert Belle (.317/.401/.690, 52 2B, 50 HR, 126 RBI).

2. Edgar played through 2004, retiring as a career-long Mariner at age 41. He batted .312/.418/.515 (147 OPS+) for his career, with 514 doubles, 309 home runs, and 1,261 RBI. His on-base percentage is 20th-highest all-time; four of the players in front of him played the bulk of their games in the 19th Century, and a fifth (Ferris Fain) played barely half as many games as Martinez. He was a seven-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger, and his feats as a designated hitter were so prodigious that MLB created a namesake award after his retirement to honor the best DH in the American League each year. However, the pinheads in the BBWAA have let him languish on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years and counting, penalizing him for the dual crimes of not playing a defensive position and daring to play during the past few decades, when big, bad, scary steroids ruined the sanctity of baseball. Ugh.

3. He is a noted humanitarian and an entrepreneur, with his own namesake endowment for muscular dystrophy research at the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. In June 2007, he was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, ID, which I have just learned exists. In 2005, he was a cofounder of Plaza Bank, the state of Washington's first hispanic financial institution. In 2013, he collaborated with the Mariners and local chefs and bartenders on Edgar's Cantina, a bar and grill inside of Safeco Field.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was thrilled when Martinez roped "The Double", a two-run walkoff hit off of New York's Jack McDowell in the 11th inning of the decisive Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS. It has become possibly the most memorable scene in Seattle's team history, securing a series win in the club's first-ever trip to the postseason. At the time, I was just a big Ken Griffey, Jr. fan who hadn't yet grown to strongly dislike the Yankees. But in hindsight, I enjoy that moment all the more.

Bill James Said: "Martinez, one of the best hitters in baseball, severely pulled his hamstring in April, tried to come back too quickly, and then a) didn't hit, and b) re-injured the hamstring." If you look back at Edgar's career stats, the 42 games played and .237 average in 1993 stick out like a sore, um, hamstring. Yet he still drew enough walks (28 in 165 PA) to give him a .366 OBP and a perfectly average 100 OPS+. I feel like most fans still don't grasp just how good a hitter he was.

On This Date in 1993: November 5. The back-to-back World Champion Blue Jays release Jack Morris. After going 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA in 240.2 innings in his Toronto debut in 1992, the longtime Tigers ace plunged to 7-12 with a 6.19 ERA in a rocky 1993 campaign. He will sign with the Indians for 1994, but find himself out of work again that August after putting up a 5.60 ERA in 23 starts in Cleveland.

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