Athletics

Why Joe Stiglich gave Edgar Martinez a Hall of Fame vote this year

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AP

Why Joe Stiglich gave Edgar Martinez a Hall of Fame vote this year

When I began doing the homework for my 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, some of the decisions were easy.

There were five players I voted for last winter — my first time eligible to vote for the Hall — who didn’t receive induction into the 2017 class. Those five, without question, found their way back on my ballot for this year. But while it’s easy to simply carry over players you voted for the previous year, it’s a trickier proposition deciding which players to re-consider if you’ve passed them over previously.

Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame case is a complicated one. He didn’t play his first full major league season until he was 27, so he didn’t stockpile some of the gaudy cumulative numbers that often pave the way to Cooperstown. He also spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, and Frank Thomas is the only player inducted who spent most of his career as a DH.

But the career-long Mariner’s candidacy was worth revisiting in my mind. After passing on him last year, I checked the box next to Martinez’s name this time around. That’s the most newsworthy feature of my 2018 ballot, which includes votes for two first-time eligible candidates. I voted for eight players total on a ballot that allows a max of 10.

Here’s a glance at those I gave the thumbs-up:

Edgar Martinez: He’s on his ninth year of eligibility, meaning he’s got one year left after this to reach the 75 percent of votes needed for induction or else he falls off the ballot. There’s an aggressive P.R. push to get Martinez to Cooperstown, but that’s not my motivation for putting him in. Martinez has the body of work. Consider he’s one of just nine players in Major League history with 300 homers, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, an on-base percentage higher than .400 and a career slugging percentage higher than .500. Martinez claimed two batting titles, and though his 309 home runs don’t jump off the page, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez called him the toughest hitter he ever faced. That’s quite the endorsement.

Chipper Jones: An eight-time All-Star and 1999 NL MVP, Jones hit .303 for his career and his 468 homers are the most by a switch hitter in National League history. And it didn’t matter which side the Atlanta Braves’ third baseman/outfielder was hitting from. Jones batted .303 left-handed and .304 right-handed. Like Edgar Martinez, Jones spent his entire career with one team, and that’s something fewer and fewer Hall of Famers will be able to boast.

Jim Thome: One of just nine players in the 600-homer club, the first baseman/DH played in the heart of the steroid era but was never connected to performance-enhancing drugs. That makes his 612 home runs, eighth most all-time, even more impressive. Thome’s a no-brainer. Like Jones, he should be a first-ballot inductee.

And here’s the five that return from my ballot last year, in alphabetical order:

Barry Bonds: As I detailed in my Hall of Fame story last winter, Bonds was dominating with his all-around skills long before he was linked to PEDs. In the 13-year period from 1986-98, Bonds won three MVP awards and averaged a 30-30 season. There’s no debate for me here.

Roger Clemens: The same PED cloud hovers over Clemens as Bonds, but I take the same stance with him. The dominant numbers were there before he was ever thought to have taken performance-enhancers. From 1984-97, Clemens claimed four Cy Young awards, won 213 games and struck out 2,882. That strikeout total alone would rank 15th among Hall of Fame pitchers.

Vladimir Guerrero: In his first year of eligibility last year, Guerrero earned an impressive 71.7 percent of votes, making it a strong possibility his ticket gets punched this year. It’s easy to see why. The outfielder with the rocket arm hit .318 for his career with 449 homers and was the 2004 AL MVP with the Angels.

Trevor Hoffman: The longtime Padres closer scored even higher than Guerrero last season, grabbing 74 percent of the vote. So his plaque in Cooperstown is inevitable. Hoffman’s 601 saves rank second all-time behind Mariano Rivera’s 652.

Curt Schilling: He’s created the wrong kind of headlines in recent years with his social media rants, but Schilling deserves the nod to me based on his outstanding postseason resume. That includes an 11-2 record, 2.23 ERA and two shutouts in the playoffs. He also won 216 games in the regular season and topped 3,100 strikeouts.

A's slammed in loss to red-hot Red Sox

A's slammed in loss to red-hot Red Sox

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Mitch Moreland hit a grand slam, Jackie Bradley Jr. added a three-run homer and the streaking Boston Red Sox won their eighth in a row, beating the Oakland Athletics 7-3 on Friday night.

Boston kept up the best start in the franchise's 118-year history, improving to a major league-leading 17-2. They've won 17 of 18 since losing to Tampa Bay on opening day.

Hundreds of Boston fans decked in red showed up at the Oakland Coliseum. They saw Moreland hit the fifth grand slam by the Red Sox this season - they didn't hit any last year.

Eduardo Nunez had three hits and scored while Hanley Ramirez singled twice for the Red Sox.

Jed Lowrie matched his career high with four hits for Oakland. Lowrie, who doubled in a run in the first, leads the majors in hits (32) and RBIs (22). The A's had won four in a row.

Moreland homered on the first pitch from reliever Emilio Pagan in the sixth. Mookie BettsAndrew Benintendi and Ramirez opened the inning with three consecutive singles off starter Kendall Graveman (0-4) before Moreland's towering shot to right.

This is the first time the Red Sox have hit five slams before May 1.

Bradley homered off Graveman in the second inning, his second in four games.

The power surge came by the Red Sox was timely on a night when starter Drew Pomeranz failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his season debut. Activated off the disabled list earlier in the day after recovering from a strained forearm, the left-hander struck out seven but allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Hector Velazquez (3-0) pitched three scoreless innings for the win. Boston also got a lift from Matt Barnes, who retired four batters and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: J.D. Martinez was given a planned day off. Martinez has been Boston's hottest hitter over the past two weeks while going 13 for 22 (.591) with four home runs...LHP Bobby Poyner will make at least one more rehab start before the team decides whether or not to activate him off the DL. Poyner has been out since April 12 with a strained left hamstring. . RHP Marcus Walden was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Pomeranz.

Athletics: RHPs Chris Bassitt and Josh Lucas were recalled from Triple-A Nashville. LHP Daniel Coulombe was optioned down.

UP NEXT

Boston's Chris Sale (1-0, 1.23 ERA) faces Sean Manaea (2-2, 1.63 ERA) in matchup of lefties at the Coliseum on Saturday. Sale has yielded three runs and struck out 31 over 22 innings this season. Manaea has been Oakland's most consistent pitcher, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his four starts.

Mr. Professional: A's Jed Lowrie playing best baseball of his career at 34 years old

Mr. Professional: A's Jed Lowrie playing best baseball of his career at 34 years old

Jed Lowrie has delivered some productive seasons throughout his 11-year Major League Baseball career, but nothing quite like this.

Through 19 games, the A's second baseman leads all of baseball with 28 hits and 21 runs batted in. His six home runs are tied for the American League lead, while his 49 total bases rank second and his .346 batting average is fifth.

In an extremely small sample size, the former Stanford star is on pace to hit 51 home runs and drive in 179 runs, at the age of 34. To put that in perspective, Lowrie's career highs in those categories are 16 and 75, respectively.

"It's all about the work for me, the routine," he explained. "I think the results speak for themselves. But I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on my work in the cage and what I do to prepare for the games."

"He's playing the best baseball of his entire career," A's manager Bob Melvin marveled. "He's as professional a hitter as anybody in the league. He has been absolutely terrific."

Lowrie has been on an absolute tear the last two weeks. Over his last 11 games, he is batting .367, with six home runs and 16 RBI.

"He's got a great awareness what his strengths and weaknesses are," Melvin said. "Through experience, he knows what pitchers are going to try to do to him. Throughout the course of the game, he understands the adjustments that are going to be made. He has a focus now probably better than any point in his career, and the numbers would suggest that as well."

Lowrie believes the turning point of his career came two offseasons ago, and ironically, it had nothing to do with baseball. For years, he couldn't figure out why he would wake up still feeling tired, despite sleeping more than eight hours a night.

It turned out Lowrie had a deviated septum, suffered several years earlier when he was hit in the nose by a baseball. After consulting with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, he had surgery to repair the septum.

"I think it helped a lot," Lowrie said. "I just assumed I wasn't waking up refreshed because of the season. Come to find out my airway was very restricted and my sleep quality was not very good. So while I was sleeping eight or nine hours a night, I was still waking up not feeling refreshed, like I hadn't even gone to sleep. After nine years of having a deviated septum, that's going to be something that takes time, but I can already see the results from it."

"From that point on, he seemed like a different guy,” added Melvin. “He's allowed to work a little bit harder because he's getting some rest."

Last season following the surgery, Lowrie set an Oakland A's record with 49 doubles, while leading the team with a .277 batting average. The A's picked up his $6 million option for this year, which has turned out to be quite a bargain.

If Lowrie continues at his current pace, or even anywhere near it, he'll soon be able to add another achievement to his baseball resume: MLB All-Star.