Edgar Martinez, who played for the Mariners for 18 seasons, will be in Cooperstown on Sunday to watch former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. be inducted into a place many M’s fans believe he belongs in, too.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — On the cusp of the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, it’s time to look ahead to the 2017 class and who could possibly be inducted, while also assessing the chances for Edgar Martinez.
Let’s start with Martinez, who will be in Cooperstown on Sunday to watch his former teammate, Ken Griffey Jr., be inducted into a place many Mariners’ fans believe he belongs.
Unfortunately, enough members of the Baseball Writers Association of America don’t feel the same. Martinez has never come close to meeting the requirement of being on 75 percent of the Hall of Fame ballots cast.
But with three years remaining, there may be a glimmer of hope for Martinez. In the 2016 vote, he was on 43.4 percent of the ballots — the seventh highest total in voting.
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And while that’s well short of what is needed, it was his highest total since being placed on the ballot. The previous high came in 2012 — his third year on the ballot — when he received 36.5 percent of the vote.
“For me, I am really encouraged, and thankful, in the increase of votes,” he said in January after the voting was released. “I certainly didn’t expect to be elected today, but it is always a little disappointing when it becomes official.”
With a younger group of BBWAA members becoming eligible to vote and a change in analysis of offensive stats, Martinez has gained some momentum.
When asked about David Ortiz — another lifetime designated hitter — being Hall of Fame worthy, Griffey offered up his endorsement.
“Do I think he’s a hall of famer? Absolutely,” Griffey said. “The list of accomplishments that he’s done on the field goes on. You can’t take that away.”
While Ortiz’s greatness and numbers are without debate, the award for the league’s best designated hitter, something Ortiz has won seven times and willlikely win again this season, was named after Martinez in 2004 for a reason — he was the best.
Martinez played 18 seasons with the Mariners, appearing in 2,055 games and posting a batting average of .312 with a .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage. He hit 514 career doubles with 309 homers and drove in 1,261 runs. He played in seven All-Star Games and won four Silver Slugger awards.
So if Griffey gave Ortiz the nod to be in, he certainly will reaffirm his position that his former teammate and close friend deserves to be in as well.
“I can’t talk about that cause I got to talk about that later,” Griffey said.
That meant that a portion of his induction speech would center on why Martinez deserves to join him in the Hall.
He said as much in the hours after he was notified he’d been voted into the Hall of Fame.
“Do I think he should be in? Yes,” Griffey said in January. “I played with the guy. I know what he’s done. It’s just tough. They talk about him being a DH. But that’s not really his fault. He went out there and hit every day like he was playing in the field.”
Beyond breaking past the stereotype of being a designated hitter (it should be noted that 2014 inductee Frank Thomas played in more games at DH than first base, Martinez’s candidacy and chances of induction are just as much about the people that are also being voted on.
The addition of other worthy candidates each year and others in their final years of eligibility can also play a factor.
Looking at the 2016 ballot, it seems likely that outfielder Tim Raines and first baseman Jeff Bagwell will gain induction.
Bagwell came up just short with 71.6 percent of the vote, while Raines had 69.8 percent of the vote.
Of the last 17 players to appear on at least 70 percent of the ballots without getting in, 16 made it the following year, according to the Hall of Fame.
Next year will be Bagwell’s seventh on the ballot and it seems like he’ll be a lock.
Raines may actually get more votes since 2017 will be his final year on the ballot. The Hall of Fame changed the voting procedures in 2014, limiting players to 10 years on the ballot instead of 15. Raines enters his 10th year of eligibility. If he doesn’t meet the 75 percent, he’d have to wait for the Hall of Fame Expansion committee, which votes every three years, to consider him for induction.
Being the final year and lacking another overwhelming candidate might be enough to push Raines over the top for votes needed.
Closer Trevor Hoffman was on 67.3 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility. There is also a stigma against voting in relievers, particularly specialists like Hoffman. But 601 careers saves may be enough. What works against Hoffman is that he’s got nine more years of ballot eligibility.
The incoming class of 2017 could make things interesting. The three most prominent names are outfielders Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero and catcher Pudge Rodriguez.
Ramirez is one of the most prolific right-handed hitters in MLB history with a career .312 batting average and .996 on-base plus slugging percentage with 555 homers and 1,831 RBI. But he also tested positive for performance enhancing drugs twice. That pretty much makes him persona non grata with voters.
With Mike Piazza’s induction in 2016, Rodriguez, one of the greatest all-around catchers in terms of offensive production and defensive skill, is a curious case. He has 2,749 hits — more than any other catcher — 2,377 games caught, also the most of any catcher, and 13 Gold Gloves with an MVP award. But like Ramirez, he was also dogged by rumors of PED use. That slowed Piazza’s induction as well.
Guerrero has outstanding numbers — .318 lifetime batting average, .927 OPS, 449 homers, 447 doubles and 1,496 RBI. But voters can be picky about first-timers on the ballot.
Three voters didn’t pick Griffey this year.
It’s likely Bagwell and Raines will be in 2017 and Martinez will still be on the outside looking in. But another significant jump in his voting percentage along with Griffey’s endorsement in his hall of fame speech could still help in his final two years of eligibility.