Thursday, January 7, 2010

All You Need is Glove

There was a fascinating debate on Brian Kenny's ESPN radio show last night between Kenny, Joe Sheehan, and Rob Neyer regarding the Hall of Fame candidacy of Edgar Martinez.

The debate centered around this:  Edgar Martinez was a Designated Hitter.  He did not play a position that required him to ever bring a glove into the office.  Should this prevent him from going to Cooperstown?

The majority of Hall of Fame voters agreed with Sheehan, who comes down in the 'con' category.

I disagree.

The Hall of Fame has plenty of one-dimensional types, guys who could only do just one thing, but they did it well enough to be inducted.  Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams didn't care at all about the fine art of fielding.  Ozzie Smith and Bill Mazeroski couldn't hit.  After the DH was introduced, pitchers in the American League didn't have to hit, they just had to pitch.

Well, I don't subscribe to the notion that a guy who was a great hitter and an embarrassingly bad fielder or vice versa deserves to go into the Hall of Fame over a guy who was a great hitter and a non-fielder.

A precedent has been set with certain niche categories of baseball players, the sorts of guys who only affect a small percentage of each game like a DH does.  After a heck of a lot of wrangling over whether closers deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley are all in.  Mariano Rivera's a certainty to follow, and maybe Trevor Hoffman, too.

Edgar Martinez was as fine a Designated Hitter as any of those guys was a closer.

Due to Mariners idiocy, he was made a regular player late, at age 27, and then missed most of the 1993 season due to injury.  No matter.  From 1995-2003, he was phenomenal, compiling six different 100 RBI seasons and missing a seventh by two ribbies.  He was a doubles machine, mashing 514 of them (41st all-time) over the course of his shorter-than-it-should've-been career.  He finished with a .312 batting average, a .418 on-base percentage (22nd all-time), and a .515 slugging percentage.  Jim Rice and Andre Dawson wish they could've had those numbers.

If you don't want any DH to go into the Hall of Fame, here's an idea:  abolish the position.  Don't hold your grudge over the head of a guy who played by the rules, filled a starting role that every team in the American League has to fill, and did it in a historically excellent fashion.

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