SEATTLE –As Edgar Martinez’s candidacy for the baseball Hall of Fame began gaining more traction, the Seattle Mariners ownership started discussions of whether it was time to consider giving Martinez the ultimate honour from the franchise.
When Martinez made a significant jump in the Hall of Fame voting this year, trending toward potential induction, it became an easy decision to decide it was time to retire Martinez’s No. 11.
Seattle team President Kevin Mather announced Tuesday that Martinez’s number will be retired on Aug. 12 as part of a weekend celebration. He will become just the second player in club history to have his number retired, joining Ken Griffey Jr., whose No. 24 was retired by the club last year after Griffey’s Hall of Fame induction.
Even though Cooperstown is still just a possibility for Martinez, the club decided now was the right time even if it meant special approval from ownership.
“I was surprised. I knew that the Mariners had these policies about retiring numbers and I didn’t expect it, so I was surprised,” Martinez said.
The Mariners have strict guidelines for number retirement that allow for the honour only if a player has been elected to the Hall of Fame or has come close to election. Griffey was –and should have been –the first Mariners player to have his number retired. And it makes sense for Martinez to be the second, especially after receiving nearly 59 per cent of the vote in Hall of Fame balloting this year.
The Mariners also hope –however ceremonial –that the number retirement may boost Martinez’s Hall of Fame chances. Last week, Martinez was named on 58.6 per cent of ballots when results of Hall of Fame voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were announced. It was a major jump that set the stage for Martinez to potentially become the first player who was primarily a designated hitter to be voted into the Hall of Fame.
Martinez has two years of eligibility remaining on the ballot.
“It was a conversation that we had and then when the (Hall of Fame) vote came out, it was a relatively quick call,” Mather said. “Our board of directors had to approve it and it was a relatively easy answer once he got over 50 per cent.”
No player aside from Griffey connected with Seattle like Martinez. While Griffey was the undisputed star of baseball for most of the 1990s, Martinez was nearly his equal while hitting in the same lineup. The difference is while Griffey was Seattle’s first star, Martinez was the star that never left.
He spent all 18 of his major league seasons with the Mariners and returned during the summer of 2015 as the club’s hitting coach. He is regarded as one of the best right-handed hitters of his generation, finishing his career with a .312 batting average with 309 career home runs and 1,219 career RBIs. He added a .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage to his other batting numbers and twice led the American League in batting average and doubles.
“That will be special to see my number is going to be next to Junior’s, one of the greatest players to play the game … also next to the great Jackie Robinson,” Martinez said. “That’s amazing. That’s something I never could expect looking back at my career.”