In his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, Edgar Martinez got nearly half the support he'll need to enter Cooperstown.
The challenge in years ahead will be winning over voters who aren't convinced a designated hitter belongs.
Martinez, the former Seattle Mariners slugger, received 195 votes (36.2 percent) in results released Wednesday. It was far short of the 75 percent needed to gain election from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but a solid base to start from.
At the time of the announcement, Martinez was on a conference call regarding his business ventures, but he made a point to check the results once he was finished.
"I had the curiosity to see how much of the vote I was going to get," Martinez said as he drove to another meeting Wednesday afternoon. "But I was very realistic what was going to happen."
Now comes the question of how Martinez's candidacy moves forward.
His spot on the Hall of Fame ballot is the first time voters have been asked to choose whether a full-time designated hitter is worthy of entry. It's a referendum about the specialization of baseball.
Some precedent was set in 2004 when Paul Molitor was an overwhelming first-ballot selection, gaining 85.2 percent of the vote. Molitor played 1,174 games as a DH in his 21 seasons -- about 43 percent of his total -- but supplemented that by spending much of his early career at second base, third base and in the outfield. In his final eight seasons, Molitor played 160 games in the field.
After the 1994 season, when Martinez played 64 games at third base, he spent a total of 33 games in the field over his final 10 seasons.
"I guess it would be nice if there wasn't so much debate about it, but that's the way it is," Martinez said.
Molitor had another important thing going for him: He finished with 3,319 hits, surpassing one of baseball's magic milestones (3,000). Martinez, also known for a great eye at the plate, ended up with 2,247 hits to go with his .312 career batting average and .418 on-base percentage.
Still, his offensive numbers are why Martinez is on the ballot. In his 18-year career, all with Seattle, Martinez won two American League batting titles, three times led the league in on-base percentage and five times won the designated hitter of the year award, now named after him.
He's also one of eight players in baseball history to have 300-plus homers, 500-plus doubles, 1,000-plus walks, hit over .300 and have an on-base percentage of above .400. The other five on the list eligible for the Hall of Fame -- Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams -- are all in.
"I know it has been debated whether a DH is worthy of that. During my time, I've never seen a better hitter, a better pure hitter, than him," former teammate Randy Johnson said during a conference call Tuesday night announcing his retirement. "That's no disrespect to other teammates I've had or people I've played against, but anyone from that era who watched Edgar realizes what a good hitter he was."
Martinez said a true gauge of how likely he is to be inducted will come next year when voters have a year to chew on his accomplishments and perhaps give him a measurable jump. Jim Rice, who went in on his 15th and final attempt in 2009, started out at 29.8 percent in his first year on the ballot.
"He should go. There is no doubt in my mind. He is the dominant DH," former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. said last weekend. "He's a baseball player. It doesn't matter that he's a DH, you still have to go out and do your job and he did it at the highest level for 10, 15 years."
Edgar Martinez Falls Short In First HOF Vote
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