Eddd-gaaar: Next stop, Cooperstown | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | Aug 16, 2017

The Seattle Mariners have finally decided to retire Edgar Martinez’s No. 11 jersey. Way past time. I have supported Edgar's candidacy for the Baseball Hall of Fame for 18 years, and have had a web page for 16 years.

Baseball fans in Seattle had the opportunity to watch one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, and may not have appreciated just how good Edgar was. Baseball-reference.com says that 19,100 people have played in the major leagues. Of those, only 178 have a career batting average over .300. Edgar is No. 79 on that list with .312, according to Baseball-almanac.com.

Modern sabermetricians – SABR: Society for American Baseball Research – have come to recognize the importance of on-base percentage. You know the story if you’ve read the book or seen the movie “Moneyball.”

The Oakland A's based their entire team on the importance of on-base percentage and succeeded fabulously. On-base percentage includes walks in addition to hits. Only 51 players have accumulated a career on-base percentage over .400. Edgar Martinez is No. 20 on that list at .418.

Then there is the measure called slugging percentage. This measures if a player hit with power, getting doubles, triples and home runs. Again according to Baseball-almanac.com, 98 players have a career slugging percentage of .500. Edgar Martinez is No. 62 on that list at .515.

The statistic, which combines the ability to get on base and hit with power, is on-base plus slugging. Fifty-nine players have a career number of .900 or above. Edgar Martinez is No. 30 on that list at .933.

The combination of batting average of .300 or above, on-base percentage of .400 or above, and slugging percentage of .500 or above was called a perfect offensive season (POP) by a now defunct website out of New York.

According to franklybaseball.blogspot.com, only 23 players have a career batting average of .300, on-base of .400 and slugging percentage of .500. Edgar Martinez is No. 15 on that list. Hitting with that quality is an exceedingly rare occurrence.

Edgar is a member of another elite group.

For seven consecutive years, from 1995 through 2001, Edgar Martinez each year put up a greater than .300 batting average, .400 on-base and .500 slugging percentage. Only three players in baseball history have had a longer string of consecutive years with those quality numbers.

Lou Gehrig did it 12 seasons in a row. Babe Ruth and Stan Musial each did it eight years in a row. In fairness to Ted Williams, he almost certainly would have been in this select group if he hadn't fought in World War II and Korea. Williams is considered by many to be the greatest hitter of all time.

Those seven years of Edgar's consistent greatness are also the seven most successful years in Seattle Mariner history, from their 1995 comeback to their 116 wins in 2001, and their only four playoff appearances.

The Mariner stars came and went – Griffey, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro. Edgar was the glue that held all of those teams together, and his double in 1995 undoubtedly saved baseball in Seattle.

What is less well remembered is that Edgar Martinez saved baseball in Seattle twice during the 1995 playoffs.

During the fourth game of the Divisional playoffs, the Yankees held a 5-0 lead. The video of that game shows the desperation of the players and fans.

Everyone knew that they were watching the last Major League baseball game that would ever be played in Seattle if Seattle lost. Edgar came up and hit a three-run home run to put the Mariners back in the game. Later in the same game, Edgar hit a grand slam home run to put the Mariners ahead for good. And the next day everyone remembers the double that scored Ken Griffey Jr. and won the game for the Mariners.

So the Mariners have finally recognized that No. 11 should be retired for all time. No. 11 will be posted on the outfield facing with No. 42 for Jackie Robinson and No. 24 for Ken Griffey Jr.

But there will still be a guy hanging out in the dugout wearing No. 11 every day. The number is retired, but the batting coach of the Mariners will still wear No. 11 until Edgar Martinez decides to retire from that job.

 

Tim Raetzloff operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds. What he writes combines his sense of history and his sense of numbers. Neither he nor Abarim have an investment in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

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