Edgar Martinez Is Symbol Of The Designated Hitter


When they name the award after you, you know you’ve done something special. When the Seattle Mariners’ designated hitter Edgar Martinez retired in 2004, Major League Baseball announced that henceforth the best DH in the sport every year would receive the Edgar Martinez Award. There is no doubt that the two-time American League batting champion with a lifetime .312 average commanded respect.

But just how much respect will he get from Hall of Fame voters in this year’s election ending Dec. 31? Trying to break clear of the shadows cast by the big-name, big-number additions to this year’s ballot, Martinez is in danger of being lost in the shuffle as so much attention is diverted to did-he or didn’t-he debate about performance-enhancing drugs.

Last year the baseball writers elected one player to the Hall of Fame, Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. It takes 75 percent of the vote for selection and Martinez received 36.5 percent of the vote. That made him one of the top holdovers heading into this election for the class of 2013. No one expected Martinez to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he is a worthy Hall of Famer.

Former Seattle Mariners star Edgar Martinez received a special award before a 2011 game in Seattle after playing 18 seasons for the club with a lifetime .312 batting average. Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Although born in New York City, Martinez is of Puerto Rican heritage and graduated from high school in Puerto Rico. He played 18 seasons, all with the Mariners, and in addition to his very impressive batting average Martinez hit 309 home runs, drove in 1,261, and scored 1,219. He collected 2,247 hits and he was a doubles machine, accumulating 514.

Martinez scored at least 100 runs five times and led the AL in 1995 with 121. He had six seasons of 100 or more RBIs and in 2000 led the AL with 145. He had 10 full seasons of hitting .300 or better and that included batting .343 in 1992 when he captured his first American League batting title, and .356 in 1995 when he won his second title. Also that season Martinez compiled a .479 on-base percentage. In fact, his lifetime on-base percentage was .418.

A seven-time All-Star, Martinez won the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s highest humanitarian honor for service to the community.

Martinez, who did not make his Major League debut until he was 24 and was not a full-time player until he was 27. Martinez started out as a third-baseman, but a severe leg injury in 1993 limited him to 42 games and consigned him to the designated hitter role after that.

Baseball introduced the position of designated hitter in the American League in 1973. Martinez was one of the ultimate beneficiaries of the role since his career might otherwise have been ended by injury. He brought class to his position and was certainly productive at the plate over a long period of time.

Martinez literally stands as a symbol of the designated hitter, but more than that he stands as a symbol of the DH to Hall of Fame voters. If Martinez cannot get elected, then the statement is being made by selectors that no DH is worthy of Hall recognition.

After Martinez retired, the city of Seattle renamed a street located near Safeco Field for him. He has since been elected to the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame and the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. Martinez has devoted so much time to community and charitable causes in the Seattle area over the years that he was elected to the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, Idaho in 2007. Sports fans may be familiar with that organization because of the college football bowl game known as the Humanitarian Bowl.

During his playing days Martinez earned the award as baseball’s best designated hitter five times. Now the best designated hitter in baseball each year receives the Edgar Martinez Award. It is interesting to note that baseball does not have nearly as many of its annual awards named after people as some other sports, such as college football. Only Cy Young, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente and Martinez have that distinction.

It would be appropriate for Martinez to join that group in the Baseball Hall of Fame.