Pedro Martínez and Mariano Rivera agreed that Edgar Martínez ranked among the toughest hitters they faced. If ever a vote of two individuals could be considered a landslide verdict, this would be it, since Rivera’s status as the game’s premier closer spanned Pedro Martínez’s heyday as an elite starter.
With Edgar Martinez turning 59 on Sunday, here’s a look at 10 of his many highlights during his Seattle Mariners career:
1. “The double”
Oct. 8, 1995
With the Mariners trailing the New York Yankees, 5-4, in the 11th inning of the Game 5 clincher of the American League Division Series, Martínez roped a two-run double off Jack McDowell to lift the Mariners to a 6-5 victory and propel them to the AL Championship Series for the first time in franchise history. More importantly, Martínez’s hit, simply known as “the double” in local lore, strengthened support for a ballot initiative leading to the vote for a baseball-only stadium in Seattle that assured the franchise’s future in the city.
2. A stunning solo act
Oct. 3-7, 1995
Before Game 5, there had to be a Game 4. Martínez thrived in that one, too. He tied a postseason record by driving in seven runs with a three-run homer and a grand slam to lead the Mariners to an 11-8 victory that evened the series at two games apiece. In the series, Martínez batted .571 (12-for-21).
3. Routine excellence
Beginning in 1990, when he hit .302, Martínez batted higher than .300 in 10 of 12 seasons. The epitome of consistency, he recorded slugging percentages exceeding .400 in 15 of his 18 career seasons en route to a career mark of .515.
4. Professional hitter
Martínez became a full-time designated hitter in 1995. Fittingly, he won the AL batting title that year, finishing at .356 to outlast the likes of Chuck Knoblauch (.333), Tim Salmon (.330), Wade Boggs (.324) and Eddie Murray (.323). Martínez also topped the Majors in on-base percentage (.479), OPS (1.107) and OPS+ (185).
5. Nice credentials
Martínez became one of 22 Major Leaguers to bat at least .300, record an on-base percentage of .400 or higher and scale the .500 slugging percentage plateau while amassing 5,000 or more plate appearances. He also was named to seven All-Star teams and received five Silver Slugger awards.
6. Slump-free zone
A look at Martínez’s month-by-month splits reveals his remarkable consistency. He hit .297 in April/March, .323 in May, .306 in June, .314 in July, .315 in August and .310 in September/October.
A variety of leg injuries hampered Martínez in his last few seasons. He still managed to perform effectively, particularly in 2003, when he was named to the AL All-Star roster. He smashed a foul ball off his toe in September, yet finished with a .294 batting average, 24 home runs and a .406 on-base percentage. That was enough to earn him his fifth and final Silver Slugger trophy.
8. Changing perspectives
Martínez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019, his final year of eligibility, with 85.4 percent of the vote — a substantial increase over the 70.4 he received the year before, and well above the 75 percent figure needed for induction. At issue was the fact that Martínez was primarily a designated hitter and thus considered by some to be a one-dimensional performer who had no business ascending to Cooperstown. The election of several relief pitchers to the Hall helped remove the stigma of being a “specialist.” Martínez endured a long climb from the 36.2 percent vote total he garnered in 2010 to become the second player to enter the Hall as a Mariner, joining Ken Griffey Jr.
Martínez received the Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s most prestigious humanitarian honor, following his final season as an active player. Martínez was the first Puerto Rican-born player to win the Clemente Award.
Martínez became Seattle’s hitting coach 68 games into the 2015 regular season, with the team batting .233 and averaging 3.4 runs per game. Under Martínez, Seattle hit .260 and scored 4.5 runs per game in the season’s remaining 94 games. Martínez stepped down from the position after the 2018 season to spend more time with his family.