Ahead in the count: M's Edgar Martinez inching closer to Hall
Edgar Martinez is ahead in the count.
There's still a month to go, but early returns in Hall of Fame balloting indicate the former Mariners designated hitter might be inching closer to enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Martinez, 54, has been named on 82.6 percent of baseball writers' ballots tracked by noted hall vote tabulator Ryan Thibodaux. Martinez, who has two years of eligibility remaining, needs to be on 75 percent of the ballots for election, but with only a small percentage currently turned in, Thibodaux advises caution.
"I don't think Edgar fans should get their hopes up too much for this year," Thibodaux told SeattlePI on Wednesday. "It was always going to be incredibly difficult for him to make up all the ground he needs to this year alone."
Martinez made a big jump in last year's voting, when he was named on 58.6 percent of 442 ballots cast. That continued a trend: He set his previous high of 43.4 percent in 2016 after never surpassing 36.5 percent in his first six years of eligibility.
That momentum was encouraging for Mariners fans, but Martinez was going to need another big jump this year to earn a spot in the hall. He is currently selected on 38 of the 46 ballots Thibodaux has tracked, and while Thibodaux thinks the jump to 75 percent is unlikely this year, he encouraged M's fans not to give up hope.
"I think fans should be feeling somewhat confident about his chances of getting in next year, his 10th and final year on the ballot," Thibodaux said. "He needs to get his overall support up into the high 60s this year, and then a final year push should get him over the line in the 2019 cycle."
Martinez has already gained eight votes from writers who didn't select him last year. Only Larry Walker -- the former Expos, Rockies and Cardinals slugger who is also in his eighth year of eligibility -- has more new votes so far, with 10. Two writers who previously voted for Martinez didn't this year. Writers are allowed to select a maximum of 10 players on their ballots.
Thibodaux credits the Mariners organization and a groundswell of support on social media for Martinez's chances improving, as well as several straight years with multiple players being elected to the hall, which makes the ballot "a bit less crowded."
"For some voters, who may have ranked Edgar 11th or 12th on their ballots in previous years, they may now be able to fit him into their top 10, and thus be able to cast a vote for him," Thibodaux said. "The final thing working in his favor is that he was an incredible hitter who deserves the support!"
Martinez, who now serves as Seattle's hitting coach, was a career .312 hitter over 2,055 games spanning 18 major league seasons. The seven-time All-Star won two American League batting titles (1992 and 1995), hit 309 home runs and 514 doubles and drove in 1,261 RBIs over his career, which began in 1987.
The winner of five Silver Slugger Awards, his career .933 OPS ranks ahead of Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron (.929), Frank Robinson (.926) and former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. (.907), who became the first player ever inducted into the hall as a member of the Mariners in 2016.
The award for baseball's best designated hitter, won by Seattle's Nelson Cruz in 2017, was named for Martinez in 2004.
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