"Thank you, sir"
Photo: Jon Wells
The patient man, patiently waiting his turn
January 23, 2019
“Thank you, sir.”
He had to wait 10 years, often with low vote totals, before a push of SABRmetric dudes, the Mariners organization and its fans, and, maybe most importantly, the pitchers who faced him—who kept calling him the toughest hitter they ever faced—all of those forces finally woke up enough old, tired baseball writers and pushed Edgar Martinez over the 75% mark and into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
YES!! About fucking time!
And Edgar's response when Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, phoned to tell him the good news?
“Thank you. Thank you, sir. Appreciate the call.”
Oh my god. So Edgar. So, so Edgar.
It seems appropriate that he’s going in with three pitchers—two first-ballot guys, with one, Mariano Rivera, Mo, the first player ever to be elected to the Hall unanimously—since he owned pitchers for so long. It's like Bruce Lee needing to fight three guys because he's Bruce Lee. Even with these pitchers, who are, you know, Hall of Famers, here's what Edgar did against them:
- Mike Mussina: .307/.337/.627 (83 PA)
- Roy Halladay: .444/.474/.722 (19 PA)
- Mariano Rivera: .579/.652/.1.053 (23 PA)
The national headlines are all about Mo, of course, but that's par for the course for Edgar. He spent a career overshadowed by others, in a west-coast city that often played while the east coast slept, so many people didn't know. Hell, the Mariners didn't even know. I‘ve written about this before. When Edgar was called up for his first cup of coffee in September 1987, after hitting .329 at Triple-A Calgary, director of player development Bill Haywood said this to The Seattle Times:
"His glove is his strength. Hitting over .300 is a pleasant surprise."
Again: That was the director of player development.
The next year, Edgar led the PCL with a .363 batting average and was awarded another cup of coffee. The M's turned him into a yo-yo. Up and down, up and down. In 1990, Bill James wrote, “What a sad story this one is. ... Martinez has wasted about three years when he could have been helping the team.” And even then, even when it was so obvious to Bill James, the M’s didn't know. In spring 1990, manager Jim Lefebvre bragged about his new starting third baseman to The Seattle Times:
"I think Darnell Coles is going to surprise a lot of people. He knows there is no one in the wings, just Edgar Martinez to back him up. I think it is time for him to realize that he belongs at third, because to play that position you have to be an athlete. And Darnell Coles is an athlete."
Again: That was the Mariners' manager.
Yes, I've written about this before. Yes, I’m repeating myself. But it's still amazing to me: “No one in the wings.” That's how the M's thought of him. That's how much they didn't know.
Hell, I didn't know, either. In that 2004 piece, I got it wrong, too. I wrote:
All but one of the .300/.400/.500 guys are in the Hall of Fame ... So does this means Edgar will go into the Hall of Fame? Probably not. His percentages are out of sight but his raw numbers aren't high enough to justify making him the first DH to be enshrined. If only he'd been able to play a few more good seasons. If only he'd been brought up earlier. If only Bill James had been running the team.
Although, in a way, I was right with the “first DH” comment. Because he's not. Frank Thomas played more than half his games at DH and he was enshrined in 2014. And it was after that that Edgar's numbers began to rise. He went from 27% to 43% to 58 to 70. He kept chipping away. He kept fouling off pitches. Yesterday, he went in with 85%. Another testament to patience. A rare instance of good coming to the good who wait.
The news was overshadowed a bit nationally but Seattle went nuts. We're flying the 11 flag atop the Space Needle. We’re lighting up the 520 bridge. He's our second Hall of Famer but favorite son. Edgar never complained and he never left. He just kept doing the work. And for that, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest, have one thing to say to him.
Thank you, sir.