The Commish Online                                                                                
Edgar Martinez - Deserving of the Hall?
August 12, 2004

With Edgar Martinez announcing his retirement at the end of this season, there has been plenty of talk about his chance at the Hall of Fame.  Some feel that a DH is too one dimensional, while others say that his hitting statistics more than make up for his lack of defense.  So what opinions do Bunker and Dewey have on the subject?  Let's find out!

This week's topic:
Does Edgar Martinez belong in the Hall of Fame?

Dewey: Yes, no question.  His OPS is similar to Ken Griffey's, and his other stats are about equal as well.

Bunker: You're out of your mind.  Martinez only played the field in 560 games.  Think of how many more outs Griffey made in the field over the past 15 years.  Each out counts for something.  And by the way, Griffey has almost 200 more home runs than Martinez.

D: I certainly don't disagree that Griffey is more deserving than Martinez, but not by as big a margin as you'd think.  As for the offense, Griffey's extra home runs are meaningless.  Griffey and Martinez have an almost identical OPS (.951 for Griffey, .948 for Martinez going into '04).  Over their careers, Griffey has averaged 108 R and 117 RBI over 162 games, while Martinez has averaged 99 R and 101 RBI.  Griffey's numbers are better, but Martinez is only a tiny notch below him;  that is, only a tiny notch below the best player of the '90's.  How is that not Hall of Fame worthy?

B: First of all, enough with the OPS garbage.  Talk to me in English.  Griffey has over 500 ding dongs; Martinez has 300.  Griffey won ten straight Gold Gloves with Seattle; Martinez doesn't even own a glove.  You can't forget the importance of defense just because you can't measure it!

D: Actually, you can measure it to a degree, using Range Factor and other stats, but I'm guessing you don't want to hear that.

B: You guessed right.  Just think of it this way:  while Griffey was winning those Gold Gloves, he probably saved the Mariners and Reds a run at least once a week with a catch or throw that an average outfielder couldn't make.  That's roughly 26 runs per year, or somewhere around 300 runs over his career.  Those runs are as good as RBIs because each run saving catch was one less run the Mariners or Reds needed to score that day.  Martinez offers none of that.

D: That's why I agree that Griffey is obviously the better player, but Martinez should be viewed at as neutral defensively rather than a non-entity.  Imagine the big sluggers that field a position simply because they can hit the ball hard.  They are actually costing their team runs because they are making errors, not getting to balls, and therefore costing their team more runs than that of an average fielder.  Have you seen Frank Thomas play first base in the past eight years or so?  Every time he's out there, the opponent goes right at him.  Night to night, he might get away with it, but over time, he probably cost the White Sox quite a few runs when he played regularly.  He would have been more valuable to the Sox if he could have handled a DH role, but for some reason, his offensive stats dropped when he wasn't playing the field.

B: What does that have to do with Martinez?

D: By not playing the field, Martinez provides a neutral return on defense, not a negative one.  For several years, David Bell was playing third while Martinez DH'd.  Put Martinez at third and Bell at DH and the team is worse overall.

B: That's true, but that's only taking one aspect into account.  Having Martinez handcuffed to the DH position might provide for a better defensive third base, but it severely hurts the flexibility of the whole team.  What if an outfielder is coming back from a hamstring injury?  Sorry, but he has to play the field because Martinez is our DH.  As a whole, a player that can't field a position is a negative effect, not a neutral one.

D: I disagree, but I see your point.  To summarize, I believe that someone with the offensive stats comparable to the best player of the last decade should be in the Hall of Fame, regardless of the lack of defense.  Defense is important, but not that important.

B: I don't think Martinez compares to Griffey quite as closely as you claim, and I think defense is very important.  Edgar posts a nice career batting average, displays a little pop and has knocked in more than his share of runs.  Oh yes, and he can't field a lick.  Those are not the qualities of a Hall of Famer.

The Commish's verdict:  Bunker
Both guys took their arguments to the extreme this time, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  The "neutral on defense" attempt by Dewey was a nice touch, but Bunker pointed out the faulty logic quickly.  I have to give the slight edge in this argument to Bunker, because, while Edgar's stats are better than Bunker wants to admit, the combination of being a DH and falling well short of the big unofficial benchmark for middle-of-the-order hitters (500 HR) puts Martinez just short of a trip to Cooperstown.