But not the tenth.
My friend Nathan, who also likes to waste time writing about unimportant things like sports and politics, is quite the baseball fan. He loves the Giants, then adopted the Nationals during his stint in D.C. He’s an officer in the Navy, so you will address him as “sir,” or not at all. Now he lives in the the Seattle area, which means he’s kinda stuck watching the Mariners, like it or not.
(Truthfully, the 2018 Mariners were very watchable for most of the season, in the antediluvian months of the year. But I
So naturally, Nathan and I made time to catch a game this season at Safeco, for the first time ever together — I even bought Diamond Club seats off the street when the Dodgers were in town. It didn’t go well. The game. Dodgers hit four early home runs and the wheels came off. Still, the view was spectacular and the conversation was scintillating, even when it turned to the Hall of Fame.
Nathan, you see, doesn’t think Edgar belongs. Smartly, he waited until after I’d bought him a $10 beer to deliver his indefensible take.
“You cannot be serious! Sir!” I remember exclaiming. What ensued was the usual volley of criticisms detractors will lob at Martinez’ candidacy.
A) He doesn’t have the raw numbers.
B) He didn’t play the field.
C) He didn’t win enough.
D) He’s a borderline candidate, but it’s not the Hall of Very Good.
Three of the four arguments above are strong, on one level. Of course they are. Please do not call my friend stupid. Look, it’s true Edgar never got to 3,000 hits. It’s factual he didn’t set records. It’s true he didn’t play defense for a decade. You can look it up. It’s even true the Mariners didn’t win a single pennant with him, although blaming him for the franchise’s general ineptitude is a little silly, so that’s the weak link.
It’s definitely, admittedly, unavoidably true that Edgar spent many years as a borderline candidate. There’s a reason he languished on the ballot (BUT NO MORE!!1!1!!) for nine years — it’s because you have to look beyond the surface to see how powerful his case really is. Was. Who cares now? He’s IN.
Edgar made it. Watch him react, in the endearing, everyman way that endeared him to virtually every man.
But you see, even the best arguments his detractors put forward, all four objections listed above, they all poof under closer inspection. Poof, poof, poof and pooooooooof.
A) Edgar does have the raw numbers.
His career 147 OPS+ is the same as Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Mike Schmidt — all first-ballot Hall of Famers. First ballot. Imagine waiting ten years to put Schmidt in the Hall.
His .418 OBA is the fourth-best in the last 50 years. Yes, among all the players of the last half-century.
His 68.4 WAR is 115th all-time. That doesn’t sound so impressive. Until you remember there are only 226 players in the Hall of Fame. Oh. Edgar’s already ahead of half of them. That’s. Interesting.
The voters weren’t looking at the right stats ten years ago, when Edgar first graced the ballot. (I use “graced” on purpose, because it’s the best word.) But the voters learned. They adjusted almost as well as Number 11 did between at-bats.
B) He did play the field, if you re-define “field” as “an assigned position.”
Edgar played 3B well enough for a few early seasons, ten years between AAA and the majors, then he played a position the American League requires its teams to fill: the hitter dude who allows pitchers to not embarrass themselves at the plate.
The DH is a position. You might not like that it is, but to deny that it exists is a more than a little flat-earthy.
Bottom line? It’s not Edgar’s fault the Mariners had the foresight, for once in their history, to use a player in the way that maximized their chance to win any given game. Should he have talked them out of it? That would have cost the team wins, because a much worse hitter would have taken his spot.
C) Speaking of winning, he very much did win enough.
Seattle Mariners, years where Edgar played <50 percent of games: 2,087-2,729
Seattle Mariners, years where Edgar played >50 percent of games: 1,138-1,061
The M’s were .433 in the before-and-after Edgar times. They were .518 in the Edgar times. He may not have brought a championship to Seattle. He sure as hell helped bring wins, though.
D) He was a borderline candidate. With emphasis on the word actually emphasized.
Then, as priorities shifted from volume to efficiency, from milestones mattering to peaks mattering more, from batting average to WAR, he became an obvious choice.
Happily, the old guard of baseball writers relented in the last couple months and conspired with the new guard to induct two DH’s, one who had a nice enough career, that being the pretty-good Harold Baines, and another who spent 15 seasons Robert Redfording the ball in relative obscurity. We know who that second guy is.
And for one day, maybe the only day this whole month, sports injustice was given a day off. Bad anti-Edgar takes were rendered moot. Objections were overruled by 425 judges. Strict traditionalism lost, forward thinking won, and nobody got physically hurt.
Sorry Nathan. But let’s do it again next July. Sir.