<
>

Edgar Martinez absolutely Hall of Fame material, Griffeys say

NEW YORK -- Upon his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame a year ago, Randy Johnson pledged to spend the summer lobbying on behalf of Edgar Martinez, his former Seattle Mariners teammate, to gain entrance to the Hall.

Ken Griffey Jr., the latest Mariner to earn the trip to Cooperstown, is equally fervent in his support of Martinez. And his dad wholeheartedly agrees.

Griffey and his father, Ken Sr., both of whom played with Martinez in Seattle, offered strong endorsements of Martinez during a news conference at the New York Athletic Club on Thursday.

"Edgar deserves to be in,'' Griffey Jr. said. "Is it his fault that somebody put him in the DH role? No. He's part of a team, and he did his part. He should be in. Harold Baines should, too. There are a lot of guys with similar numbers who should be there, and Edgar's definitely one of them.

"He carried the team for a period of time. He was one of the most feared hitters in the game for 10-plus years. I root for him. Those decisions aren't up to me. They're up to [the writers]. But do I think he's a Hall of Famer? Yes.''

Martinez, a seven-time All-Star, won two batting titles and had a .312 career batting average over parts of 18 seasons in Seattle. His .4178 career on-base percentage is 21st-best in major league history, a tick ahead of Stan Musial, who ranks 22nd. Martinez's .933 OPS ties him with Albert Belle for 32nd all-time.

But Martinez amassed only 2,247 hits and spent the bulk of his career as a designated hitter, and Hall of Fame voters have yet to embrace him en masse. He was named on only 27 percent of ballots last year, barely a third of the way to the 75 percent plurality required for induction, before making a substantial move forward in Wednesday's voting. He polled a personal high of 43.4 percent but has only three years left on the ballot to get over the top.

Griffey Jr. described Martinez, who is currently Seattle's hitting coach, as a diligent practitioner of his craft.

"If you know Edgar, he has very short arms, and he didn't let the ball get in,'' Griffey Jr. said. "He could take that pitch almost off his chest and shoot it down the right-field line. There are not a lot of guys that can do that.

"Edgar was a student of hitting. He would tell guys what they needed to do to improve their hitting, whether it was, 'Your stride is too long' or 'Your elbow is flying,' things like that. He has a very keen eye for the art of swinging the bat.''

Martinez broke in as a third baseman with Seattle but never recovered fully from a torn hamstring that he suffered running the bases in 1993. He became a full-time designated hitter in 1995, and Mike Blowers took over at third base in Seattle.

"Edgar was a damned good third baseman,'' said Ken Griffey Sr., who played for Seattle in 1990 and '91. "The only thing he had was a Pete Rose arm. He didn't have that real strong arm.

"It still shouldn't matter. Paul Molitor was a DH, and he's in the Hall of Fame. To be honest with you, I think Edgar was a little better hitter than Molitor. He could hit a ball wherever, whenever, inside-out the ball, and do whatever he wanted with the ball. I think he belongs."

Molitor's principal edge with voters came through his longevity. He accumulated 3,319 career hits before making it to Cooperstown in his first appearance on the ballot in 2004.