As a baseball fan, I've always understood why some are against designated hitters getting into the Hall of Fame. I've just never subscribed to it, and I've caught myself getting more and more fired up about the situation watching one of my childhood heroes fall short of baseball immortality during the past few years.
Admittedly, I'm a little biased in this case. Edgar Martinez was one of the key pieces to a mid-1990's Seattle Mariners team that got me hooked and took my baseball fandom to another level. To me, he's a clear Hall of Famer, so seeing him not get the respect from the voters that I think he deserves is frustrating as a fan.
So let's tackle some arguments here. Yes, the designated hitter is a limited role. You bat four to five times a game and, for the most part, watch your teammates play the field from the comfort of the dugout. However, I've never understood the limited role argument. By this theory, shouldn't we keep closers out of the Hall of Fame, too? Should Mariano Riviera be exiled from Cooperstown because his main job was to get three outs in games the Yankees were winning by three runs or less?
Not to mention, how many guys are in the Hall of Fame because they could play the field well? Some of them were exceptional defenders, with Ozzie Smith coming to mind immediately, but I would bet there are plenty of poor fielders who have their plaques hanging on the wall at the Hall of Fame.
Edgar Martinez is arguably the greatest designated hitter ever to play the game. He's a career .312 hitter with a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. He hit over .300 in ten seasons, eclipsing 100 RBI in six of them. David Ortiz is another DH worthy of consideration, hitting .286 for his career with a .380 on-base percentage and .552 slugging. Ortiz also out-homered Martinez, 541-309. While Ortiz was a better power hitter, the numbers suggest Martinez was a better pure hitter. Both players are Hall of Fame worthy.
Voters can't take into account every clutch hit baseball players came up with during the course of their careers. It would be impossible. But consider this in the case for Edgar Martinez: he had the hit that saved baseball in Seattle, and I'm not exaggerating. It was the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series. Seattle and the Yankees were tied a two games apiece, and New York held a 5-4 lead in the game. Martinez came up and smacked a two-run double down the left field line to win the game and the series for the Mariners. You may have seen the picture with Ken Griffey Jr. at the bottom of the pile, grinning ear to ear. Without that hit, without that game, without that run, the Mariners lose the series and Seattle loses baseball. It marked their first playoff series win, took the excitement around the sport to another level, and helped them get a new stadium. Otherwise, they would've moved to Tampa and baseball most likely would not have returned.
Players bring various talents to the field, and Edgar Martinez was one of the best to ever swing the bat. Should we hold it against him that he was utilized best as a designated hitter? Martinez is one of just ten players in MLB history who have a career battling average over .300, .400-plus career on-base percentage, 300-plus home runs, 500-plus doubles and at least 1,000 walks. Ken Griffey Jr. became the first Mariner in the Hall of Fame last year. Hopefully, 2018 will find Edgar Martinez with a plaque right beside him.