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Edgar Martinez Should Be Inducted Into Cooperstown: Future Mariners Hall of Famer

Friday August 26, 2011

 

Sam Evans (Intern Candidate- MLB reports):  When you think of the most consistent hitters during the 1990’s, most people think of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.  One name that always gets overlooked is Edgar Martinez.  He had a .312 career batting average, reached base more than 40% of the time, has never has been linked to steroids, and he arguably saved baseball in Seattle for years to come.

Some of the arguments against Edgar being in the Hall of Fame are that he hardly played in the field, was not a superstar, never won a world series, and that his numbers just aren’t good enough.  As a Mariners fan, I definitely have bias but I’ll try to explain why I think Edgar should legitimately be in the Hall of Fame.  First of all, if his numbers aren’t good enough, why was Andre Dawson’s statistics enough for him to be voted into the hall of fame?  Let’s compare the two hitters:

Edgar (Career) .312/.418/.515. Wins Above Replacement (courtesy of fangraphs.com): 69.9

Andre Dawson: .279/.323/.482 Wins Above Replacement: 62.3 

What’s the difference between these two?  The Hawk is in the Hall of Fame, which Dawson deserved.  Other Hall-of-Famers with a lower WAR than Edgar are Harmon Killebrew, Dennis Eckersley, and Jackie Robinson.  There are over 230 former MLB players in the Hall of Fame.  I think it’s amazing that Edgar is not one of them.

After Edgar missed the 1994 season due to injury, he became the Mariners full-time designated hitter.  He would go on to be the Mariners starting DH for the next ten years.  When asked how that would affect his Hall of Fame chances, Edgar replied, “There are a lot of different opinions about it.  What I think is that the DH makes a daily contribution to the team, just like any position player who plays every day.”  In 1973, major league baseball instituted the Designated Hitter as a real position.  So why should this prevent a primary DH from ever reaching Cooperstown?

In his first season as a DH, Martinez won his second American League batting title, hitting .356 with an OBP of .479 and a slugging percentage of .628.  Hall of famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays never had a season with an OBP over .425.  It is my estimation that Martinez wasn’t a superstar across the baseball scene because of where he played.  If he played in New York, chances are it wouldn’t be this hard for him to get into Cooperstown.  The low light of Edgar’s career is definitely though that he never won a World Series championship.  Superstars that win the big one tend to be favored in the eyes of Cooperstown voters.

During the 1995 season the city of Seattle fell in love with the Mariners.  After having just two winning seasons in their first sixteen years, Edgar and Ken Griffey Jr. led the Mariners to a 79-66 record.  In the 1995 ALDS series between the Mariners and the Yankees, Edgar reached base 2/3 of the time and had two game winning hits.  On October, 8, 1995, with the series tied 2-2, the Mariners battled back to score two runs and send the game into extra innings.  After the eighth inning, the crowd started chanting “Randy! Randy! Randy!”  Finally Lou Piniella gave in and Randy Johnson walked out to the mound to Welcome to the Jungle booming through the Kingdome’s outdated speakers.  However in the top of the eleventh tragedy struck.  A walk, bunt, and single put the Yankees in the lead, and with their stud pitcher  Jack McDowell coming in to pitch the M’s chances looked pretty slim.  With runners on first and third, Edgar ended up hitting a double down the left field line to win the series for the M’s.  The Mariners were eliminated in the ALCS at the end by the Indians, but the effect of Edgar’s hit had MLB fans everywhere truly excited about Mariners baseball for the first time ever.

The thing is that he wasn’t just successful in the playoffs; Martinez won Seattle one of the more beautiful MLB ballparks, Safeco Field.  Two months earlier, 50.1% of King county voters voted NO on a $410 million proposal for a new stadium, to keep the Mariners in Seattle.  The state legislature later approved a new stadium for the Mariners, mainly due to public pressure.  This led people to think what would have happened if it weren’t for Edgar’s clutch hit.

Edgar was known for his great batting eye, which resulted from a series of drills before every game he utilized to improve it.  He also gave back to the community by founding the Martinez foundation, which helps give minorities’ access to proper education.  When Edgar retired in 2004, Paul Molitor said, “He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long time in this league.  The amount of respect he has from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was.”

In 2010, Edgar’s first year eligible for the hall, he received 36.2% of the BBWAA votes.  Martinez  missed the 75% cutoff.  This year he received 32.9 % of the vote.  Who knows if Edgar will ever be in the Hall of Fame, this year definitely wasn’t encouraging.  But in Bert Blyleven’s (elected in 2011, after 14 years of eligibility) second year on the ballot, he received only 14.1% of votes.  So there is reason for optimism.  Whether Edgar ever makes it to Cooperstown or not, he will always be a hero to Mariners fans and one of the best pure hitters in major league history.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by one of our intern candidates, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

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Andre Ethier: Chasing Joe DiMaggio and #56

MLB reports: In the history of baseball, 53 players have been able to achieve a streak of 30+ consecutive games with at least one hit.  Andre Ethier, the 29-year-old outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers is ironically sitting as of today on a 29 game hitting streak.  Ethier missed yesterday’s game with elbow inflammation and his team has a day off today.  On Friday, assuming reports are correct that Ethier will play, he will attempt to become player #54 of this exclusive major league club.

The current members of the 30+ consecutive games hitting streak club are as follows:

Hitting Streaks: Players With At Least 1 Hit in At Least 30 Consecutive Games
Rank Year Name Team League Games

1.

1941

Joe DiMaggio (AL Record)

New York

AL 56

2.

1896-1897

Willie Keeler (NL Record)

Baltimore

NL 45

3.

1978

Pete Rose

Cincinnati

NL 44

4.

1894

Bill Dahlen

Chicago

NL 42

5.

1922

George Sisler

St. Louis

AL 41

6.

1911

Ty Cobb

Detroit

AL 40

7.

1987

Paul Molitor

Milwaukee

AL 39

8.

2005-2006

Jimmy Rollins

Philadelphia NL 38

9.

1945

Tommy Holmes

Boston

NL 37
10. 1896-1897 Gene DeMontreville Washington NL 36

11.

1895

Fred Clarke

Louisville

NL 35

 

1917

Ty Cobb

Detroit

AL 35
  1924-1925 George Sisler St. Louis AL 35

 

2002

Luis Castillo

Florida

NL 35
  2006 Chase Utley Philadelphia NL 35

 16.

1938

George McQuinn

St. Louis

AL 34

 

1949

Dom DiMaggio

Boston

AL 34

 

1987

Benito Santiago

San Diego

NL 34

19.

1893

George Davis

New York

NL 33

 

1907

Hal Chase

New York

AL 33

 

1922

Rogers Hornsby

St. Louis

NL 33

 

1933

Heinie Manush

Washington

AL 33
23. 1922-1923 Harry Heilmann Detroit AL 32
  1996-1997 Hal Morris Cincinnati NL 32
25. 1885-1886 Jimmy Wolf Louisville AA 31
  1899

Ed Delahanty

Philadelphia

NL 31

 

1906

Nap Lajoie

Cleveland

AL 31

 

1924

Sam Rice

Washington

AL 31
  1965-1966 Vada Pinson Cincinnati NL 31

 

1969

Willie Davis

Los Angeles

NL 31

 

1970

Rico Carty

Atlanta

NL 31
  1975-1976 Ron LeFlore Detroit AL 31

 

1980

Ken Landreaux

Minnesota

AL 31

 

1999

Vladimir Guerrero

Montreal

NL 31

35.

1876

Cal McVey

Chicago

NL 30
  1895-1896 Dusty Miller Cincinnati NL 30

 

1898

Elmer Smith

Cincinnati

NL 30

 

1912

Tris Speaker

Boston

AL 30
  1922-1923 Charlie Grimm Chicago NL 30
  1927-1928 Lance Richbourg Boston NL 30
  1929-1930 Sam Rice Washington AL 30

 

1934

Goose Goslin

Detroit

AL 30

 

1950

Stan Musial

St. Louis

NL 30

 

1980

George Brett

Kansas City

AL 30

 

1989

Jerome Walton

Chicago

NL 30

 

1997

Sandy Alomar, Jr.

Cleveland

AL 30

 

1997

Nomar Garciaparra

Boston

AL 30

 

1998

Eric Davis

Baltimore

AL 30

 

1999

Luis Gonzalez

Arizona

NL 30

 

2003

Albert Pujols

St. Louis

NL 30
 

2006

Willy Taveras

Houston

NL 30

 

2007

Moises Alou

New York

NL

30

  2009 Ryan Zimmerman Washington NL 30

Rank

Yearn

Name

Team League Games
30+ Game Hitting Streaks | Hitting Streaks Records

Quite the list of the who’s who in baseball.  Pete Rose at 44 and Paul Molitor at 39 are two of the most recent players in recent memory that attempted to break “the record”.  One of the most, if not the most holy records in all of sports, is Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in 1941.  Many players have tried but few have come close to DiMaggio’s magic number.  Consider that six players EVER have hit for 40+ consecutive games and only two have achieved the feat since 1922.  Pete Rose with a 44 game streak back in 1978 and DiMaggio with the record 56 games in 1941.  That’s it.  It’s not like DiMaggio has the record by a short margin either.  Sitting at #2 is Willie Keeler with 45 games between 1896-1897.  A full 11 game difference.  To put the record in another context:  Keeler has the record for 44 years until DiMaggio breaks it.  Now DiMaggio has been the holder for 69 years and counting.  The consecutive games hitting streak record is one that does not fall very often.  Given the pace of DiMaggio’s record, we may never see anyone break it.  Ever.

Pete Rose and Paul Molitor were two of the recent athletes that were approaching “the streak”.  Jimmy Rollins had a 38 game streak between 2005-2006.  From there, Luis Castillo and Chase Utley had 35 games each respectively and Benito Santiago had a 34 game streak back in 1987 (the juiced ball year, as often described by baseball experts).  If you throw out 1987, you would be left with very few modern-day players at the top of the game hitting streaks leaderboard.  23 out of the top 30 streaks occurred before 1970 and the majority were in the early 1900s.  For all the talk of steroids and “cheaters” shattering hitting records, I do not see any of the accused or suspected hitters from recent times on the list.  Barry Bonds as a prime example of a hitter that was considered with a near perfect batting eye in his hey-day…not on the list.  But aside from Bonds, think of Ichiro Suzuki competing for batting titles year-in and year-out.  Not on the list.  John Olerud batting close to .400 for much of 1993…not on the list.  From there, let’s point to some of the greatest hitters of all time.  Stan Musial had a 30 game streak in 1950.  Ty Cobb had a 40 game streak as well as a 35 gamer back in the day.  But…no Ruth.  No Williams.  No Mantle.  No Ripken.  No Puckett.  No Rickey.  For all the accomplishments of so many of these great hitters, hitting the consecutive games leaderboard was not in the cards.  This really starts to put into perspective the difficulty of achieving Dimaggio’s record and how amazing his accomplishment really was back in 1941.

Fast forward to 2011:  Andre Ethier going into Friday’s action is at 29 games.  He is just over halfway the mark to beating DiMaggio’s record.  I have long been an admirer of Ethier’s capabilities on the baseball field and it does not come as a surprise to me that he would reach this point. Ethier has a .295 lifetime AVG with a .367 OBP.  This man knows how to get base hits and to take walks, as he has a great eye at the plate.  A couple of years with 160+ hits is nothing to sneeze at.  With Matt Kemp hitting behind him and still under 30 years of age, the sky is the limit for Ethier.  The talent and tools have always been there and now it is just a matter of putting it together.

With a hit on Friday, Ethier will become only the 54th baseball player EVER to reach at least 30 consecutive games.  If his streak was to end at that point, a pat on the back will be well deserved for a job well done.  In my estimation, anything beyond 30 games will be gravy and good luck to Ethier to try to climb as high up the leaderboard as he can.  But as far as breaking DiMaggio’s record?  Forget it.  Don’t write me off as being pessimistic or anti-Ethier.  Far from it.  I want to paint a realistic picture of what the record means and the hill that Ethier would have to climb.  As already discussed, throughout the history of time, the MLB record books show that few players in our generation have come even remotely close to making a dent in this record book…and for good reason.  As time goes by and the years continue, it will become even more impossible for a hitter to break DiMaggio’s record.  I could shoot out a million reasons, but let me give you my top factors behind Ethier being unable to surpass DiMaggio:

1)  Injuries:  Ethier would need to keep perfect health or close to it, in order to hit in 28 more consecutive games.  Consider that Ethier missed Wednesday’s game with elbow inflammation.  While being fairly durable for most of his career, like most players, Ethier will miss the occasional game to rest his broken down body during a long baseball season.  Few players can play as many consecutive games as Cal Ripken and few would want to.  When Ethier misses a game, the streak stays intact.  But if he ever has to come out of a game after receiving an at-bat, the streak would be broken.  Considering the ailments that he could suffer during a game (including the current elbow issue), the chances of being able to play nine innings in every game and produce at least a hit per game is nearly impossible.

2)  Lineup protection:  Right now the Dodgers offense is based on Kemp, Ethier and hope.  With very little solid hitters surrounding him in the lineup, there is a strong chance that teams will be tempted to pitch around both Kemp and Ethier throughout some games.  We are not looking at a Yankees type lineup where nearly every hitter is an all-star.  Loney, Barajas, Carroll, Uribe and Gwynn are not names that will strike fear into the heart of any opposing pitcher.  With so many opportunities to be pitched around, Ethier will have some games where he will be lucky to see maybe a handful of fastballs.  As the streak would lengthen and with games on the line near the 8th and 9th inning, I would not count on Ethier receiving quality pitches.  If Ethier walks an entire game, the streak remains alive until the next day.  But if Ethier is out at least once or has a sacrifice fly with no hit, the streak would die.  Unless some of his teammates have rebirths at the plate, the odds are against Ethier having enough pitches to hit every game in order to keep his streak alive.

3)  Schedule:  Take the month of May alone.  The Dodgers have games coming up against the Giants, Brewers and Marlins, plus the Phillies in early June.  Ethier may be going up against Lincecum, Cain, Greinke, Johnson, Halladay and Lee.  Some of the best pitchers in baseball, who tend to be very stingy with hits allowed.  Not only are the above named pitchers great, but they are also very proud.  Lincecum and Johnson would have no issue bringing their “A” game and shutting down Ethier for a night.  We are talking powerful pitchers with big egos, which is not the best combination for a hitter attempting to keep a hitting streak alive.  Friday brings Jon Niese and the Mets, which would be considered a good matchup for Ethier.  But not all games are created equally and with a tough schedule ahead and little lineup protection, the odds are against long-term success.

4)  Relief Pitching:  Once upon a time when starting pitchers used to stay out for 150+ pitches per game and pitch complete games, hitters like Ethier had easier chances for a consecutive games hitting streak.  Check again the timing on the above leaderboard and you will see since the dawn of specialized pitchers, the number of hitters that have achieved 30+ consecutive games hitting streaks is miniscule.  This is neither an accident or fluke.  We are in an era where starting pitchers go 5-6 innings per start on average, with specialized 7th and 9th inning relievers, right-handed and left-handed specialists and of course, the closer.  Take Kansas City, that can throw Collins, Crowe, Jeffress in the middle innings of a game and then turn the ball over to Soria.  The Braves have Kimbrel and Venters.  The Reds with Chapman and Cordero.  Keep in mind Ethier bats left.  All opponents will have no problem in throwing out a left-handed specialist in the late innings to get Ethier out in a tight game.  Check out the splits this year:  In 84 at-bats against right-handed pitchers, Ethier has a .429 batting average.  Contrast that to 35 at-bats against lefties and he is hitting to the tune of .229.  The lefty-on-lefty matchup will likely be Ethier’s downfall as he is susceptible to more frequent outs against lefties.  The game as it is set up today allows for fresh, hard-throwing pitchers to enter games in strategic times to neutralize hitters.  Chapman and his 105 mph fastball could end up making or break this streak for Ethier.

5)  Pressure and Luck:  With the turmoil surrounding the Dodgers team ownership, fans and media are clamouring for any feel good story to grab and hold onto.  Ethier is already starting to face a huge amount of pressure in this day and age of internet and instant access (yours truly included) to information and reports for fans.  As the streak continues, the amount of attention faced by Ethier will be mind-boggling and while professionals are supposed to block out distractions, the reality is that baseball players are human like you and I, not machines.  Ethier cannot help but think about the streak as it is brought to his attention and mental can make physical.  If the pressure gets to Ethier in some form, the streak is unlikely to stand a chance.  Combined with luck and chance, Ethier has the odds naturally against him.  Strong contact and well-timed hits can turn into outs based on the defenses that oppose the Dodgers on any given night.  For Ethier to sustain a hitting streak approach DiMaggio’s, he would need lady luck on his shoulders in addition to hard work and strong effort.  They say that some people can be lucky for some of the time. But nobody can be lucky all the time.  Ethier will need the luck with skill to thrive and the fortunes say that luck has to run out on at least one night during Ethier’s run.

My sincere congratulations to Andre Ethier for what he has accomplished to-date.  I will be watching every Dodgers game and Ethier at-bat with interest to see how far he gets.  Nobody would cheer for him louder than me if he could come close to Joe DiMaggio.  While wishful thinking is hopeful that there is a chance, logic and reason dictate that this is likely, if not impossible to happen.  Baseball today is not built the way it used to be and while there are exceptions to the rules, the law of averages tends to win out every time.  I cannot even begin to fathom that Andre Ethier would be able to accomplish what Williams and Ruth never could.  In our lifetime we have seen home run records shatter, baseball crown a new all-time hits king, no-hitters thrown on almost a monthly basis (including 2 by Halladay last year alone, the second in the playoffs nonetheless)…heck, even the saves record fell.  But the legend of Joe DiMaggio and #56 continue to live in the records.  Together with Cy Young and 511 wins, Cal Ripken with 2632 consecutive games played and Pete Rose with 4256 career hits are all records that are virtually impossible to break.  Until Andre Ethier reaches 40+ consecutive games with hits, let’s leave the legend of Joe DiMaggio apart from the equation.  Ethier is on a nice run but has ways to go before coming close to greatness.  Good luck Andre:  all the best from MLB reports! 

 

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