We continue our countdown of the 25 Best Hitters of the Free Agent Era. The rest of the posts can be found here.
Over 20 years ago, Edgar Martinez broke my heart.
I am, of course, a Yankees fan. And we all know what Edgar did in Game 5 of the 1995 Divisional Series against the Yankees. There’s no need to hash it out. Still, despite my the scar Edgar Martinez and the M’s left on my heart that year, after years of waiting to see Don Mattingly play in the postseason, it’s hard not to respect what the he did with the bat.
Edgar made his career as a Designated Hitter. It’s hard to put him higher on this list because he didn’t really play both sides of the game. He only registered 560 starts in the field versus 1,396 starts as a DH. Overall, he logged 8,674 plate appearances, all with Seattle.
His resume batting record screams one thing: Professional Hitter. That’s an odd thing to say about a guy in the big leagues, but that’s how I describe a guy who bats . 312 and struck out less (1,202) than he walked (1,283). As a result, he sports a career .418 on-base percentage. That’s just absurd, and the reason for his high placement in the top 25. In fact, it’s third out of all 25 players, and 12th all-time among players with over 8,000 PA.
Edgar batted over .300 in 10 of his 18 seasons, including batting titles in 1992 (.343) and 1995 (.356). While his power didn’t come on until later in his career (309 lifetime homers), he was a doubles machine, drilling 514 two-baggers including 52 in ’95 and ’96, and 46 in ’92 and ’98. Only once did he top 30 homers (37 in 2000), but still sports a .515 career slugging percentage. Add that to his stellar on-base, and you’ve got yourself a .933 career OPS and a 147 careers OPS+. In five different seasons, Martinez sported an OPS over 1.000 for the season.
While he and David Ortiz were two very different hitters, Martinez has a large advantage with 68.3 to Ortiz’s 50.7.
Many thought Martinez might finally get the call to Cooperstown this year, but voters were not able to overlook the “DH” stigma. I’m torn myself. I think the best argument that he should get in is that pitchers aren’t judged by their hitting ability. They play only one facet and aren’t punished. But, pitchers do go out every inning while DH’s only appear once every 2 or 3 innings. Either way, this is a list based purely on hitting prowess, and Edgar Martinez was one of the premier hitting machines of the late 20th century.
So I guess it’s time to post a video. Sigh.
I took take solace that four of the next five seasons, the Yankees won the title. So this was just part of the growing pains. A painful memory, but great baseball. If you listen closely, after The Kid slides into home, you’ll hear the sound of a hat being thrown violently against a wall by a young man in his brother’s room somewhere in northern California.