By Tom Baird
A few weeks ago, I bragged that we would produce some content discussing the 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot. I basically lied to you. That did not happen. With that said, the voting results have given us some blog fodder, and I was hoping to explore some of that with you. Here are the voting results below.
Jeff Bagwell, 381 votes, 86.2%
Tim Raines, 380 votes, 86.0%
Ivan Rodriguez, 336 votes, 76.0%
Trevor Hoffman, 327 votes, 74.0%
Vladimir Guerrero, 317 votes, 71.7%
Edgar Martinez, 259 votes, 58.6%
Roger Clemens, 239 votes, 54.1%
Barry Bonds, 238 votes, 53.8%
Mike Mussina, 229 votes, 51.8%
Curt Schilling, 199 votes, 45.0%
Lee Smith, 151 votes, 34.2%
Manny Ramirez, 105 votes, 23.8%
Larry Walker, 97 votes, 21.9%
Fred McGriff, 96 votes, 21.7%
Jeff Kent, 74 votes, 16.7%
Gary Sheffield, 59 votes, 13.3%
Billy Wagner, 45 votes, 10.2%
Sammy Sosa, 38 votes, 8.6%
If you listen to our podcast, or look at the internet, you know the important results. Raines, Bagwell, and Rodriguez all received the requisite 75% of voter support, while Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero barely missed the cut. Many of the first-timers failed to garner more than 5% of the vote and were subsequently removed from future consideration. Lee Smith, who was on the ballot for the 15th time, was removed from consideration and will now be subject to Veteran Committee approval.
It is important to note that Clemens and Bonds, whose gaudy WAR totals are equal to TWO Hall of Fame careers each (almost three for Bonds), have regained some support this year. The election of Rodriguez, who sustained multiple accusations of PED involvement despite not being named in the Mitchell Report, may help writers justify voting for Bonds and Clemens in the future.
Popular players like Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman showed significant gains, making for possible momentum and certain debate. Players like Sosa and Sheffield continue to be bogged down by PED ties despite their obvious qualifications. Jeff Kent still has a great mustache.
There are many questions that could follow:
1. Will PED users see some leniency from voters?
2. Will Hoffman's now-inevitable election help or hurt Billy Wagner?
3. Will Mariners fans finally see Edgar Martinez get considerable support from BBWAA voters?
4. Does Jeff Kent's mustache hurt or help is HOF chances?
I will explore only one of these topics, and only briefly. After all, we have Spring Training upon us and the people want to read about the upcoming season. And I am all about the people...
Does Edgar Martinez Belong in the Hall of Fame?
I have long identified as a Big Hall guy. This means that I tend to be more inclusive when it comes to deciding Hall-Worthiness. If one can show that a player was A) one of the greatest of his era, and B) is extremely comparable to players already in the Hall, then I will likely lend my support. This means that my opinion may fluctuate. If we elect someone that "lowers the bar" considerably, one might argue that I will argue that ALL players better than this player should go in. Not necessarily. We elect some players based on less tangible attributes, and comparing them strictly by stats without the context of their eras could be deceptive.
But on occasion, yes, I do believe that the induction of a few players should pave the way for others. I have disagreed with some inductions in recent years, but I also believe that these inductions redefine what the Hall will be going forward. I think that valid arguments could be made for all of the players whose eligibility I opposed, and now believe that their induction can serve as arguments for newly eligible players.
In addition to looking at their performance within the context of their eras, I find players to be eligible based on how they compare to other Hall of Famers and non-Hall of Famers. For example, please see the following WAR graph, courtesy of Fangraphs.
I believe that this shows why Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton, both of whom have been eliminated from eligibility, have strong Hall of Fame cases. Gwynn, Rice, and Dawson are all Hall of Famers. Edmonds and Lofton are not. I understand that WAR and WAR Graphs have their limitations, but I do believe that they are a significant aid to our conversation.
With that primer out of the way, I would like to discuss Edgar Martinez. The long-time Mariners DH has rarely been compared to all-time great hitters, at least until recently. The emergence of deeper statistical analysis and greater respect for on base ability have led to a stronger respect for Edgar among baseball writers. If you have any doubt that he is a Hall of Famer, and wish to read something written by an extremely smart person, please read Jay Jaffe's recent piece. I will not get nearly as in-depth as Jaffe. I only wish to help you see Edgar Martinez within some new context.
He is clearly the greatest DH of all time. That statement, in itself, is a weighted phrase. Most players revert to DH after beginning their careers at a position, and their play at these positions should matter when considering their greatness. It is important to remember that prominent DHs like Paul Molitor, Frank Thomas, and Edgar all began their career in the field. Edgar Martinez became a full-time DH in 1994 and amassed 1403 games played as a DH, which ranks fourth most all-time, ahead of Frank Thomas. First on that list? David Ortiz.
When considering Hall of Fame eligibility, it had been easier in past years to dismiss a full-time DH. Now that Thomas is in the Hall and David Ortiz is considered by many fans to be a no-doubt hall of famer, we have significant reminders of how a DH can impact the game. Obviously, we will look at their hitting with more scrutiny. Fans and voters need to see that their contribution at the plate outweighed the lack of contribution in the field.
Martinez ranks well among great hitters. His OPS+ ranks 42nd all time, tied with Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, and others. Among recent players, he ranks ahead of Mike Piazza, Vladimir Guerrero, and Chipper Jones.
Please see how he compares to David Ortiz and other DHs. Courtesy of Fangraphs.
When comparing DHs, it is important to note that Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, and Jim Thome all played at their respective positions more often than Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz. I included McRae, Baines and Davis because they were all long-time DHs like Ortiz and Martinez. It appears obvious that Martinez is in a class above Ortiz, before looking at titles and playoff performance (which obviously are significant). Based on individual performance, however, it appears that Martinez is much better than Ortiz.
If we add some good hitting first basemen and outfielders to the mix, and remove the mediocre DHs, we continue to see that Edgar ranks well in overall value among elite hitters.
These comparisons should be taken lightly, given that defensive value is considered for half of these players. I merely wish to show that Martinez' value should be considered among the elite players of the past thirty years.
Also, it would be easy to say that I am aggressively knocking David Ortiz' HOF case with this post. I will admit that I added Jason Giambi to show just how similar these two players are. I do not necessarily mean to bash Ortiz. I simply mean to show that in Ortiz, we have a very comparable modern player. For those that cannot remember Martinez, or simply were not paying attention to a DH playing in Seattle during the 90s, we have a similar player in Ortiz. If you believe that David Ortiz is a no-doubt hall of famer, then you might want to consider Edgar Martinez.
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