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 push for Mariners great Edgar Martinez in Baseball Hall of Fame

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AP

A's push for Mariners great Edgar Martinez in Baseball Hall of Fame

Edgar Martinez is on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for one final time this year, and the A's are pushing for their former AL West rival to rightfully be inducted. 

Martinez spent his entire 18-year career playing for the Seattle Mariners. When it comes to Cooperstown, however, Oakland is putting the past away. 

The A's saw plenty of Martinez over his career, and he saw plenty of success against them. In those 177 games, he also had a .953 OPS with 28 home runs and just 101 strikeouts to 127 walks.

What's wild is the A's weren't even close to the team Martinez had the most success against. Look away, Indians fans: Edgar hit .347 with 30 home runs and 104 RBI over 135 games against Cleveland.

Oh, and for good fun, he also hit .343 with a 1.165 OPS against the Giants in 14 games. 

This is the 10th time Martinez has been on a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. In 2018, the percentage of votes he received sky-rocketed from 58.6 to 70.4. To be elected, one must have at least 75 percent of votes. 

If public ballots are any indications, Martinez could be getting the call he's waited his whole life for later this month. As of this publishing date, Martinez has received 91 percent of votes in the 188 known ballots (45.6 percent of total voters) that have been sent to Ryan Thibodaux. 

Voters need to get on the same page as the A's. The wait has been long enough. It's time to give Martinez, a seven-time All-Star and .312 career hitter, his call to the Hall.

Revisiting A's signing of Grant Balfour in free agency eight years ago

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USATSI

Revisiting A's signing of Grant Balfour in free agency eight years ago

January 18, 2011 officially marked the beginning of "Balfour Rage."

The A's signed Australian relief pitcher Grant Balfour to a two-year, $8 million contract with a $4.5 million option for a third year. Balfour, who was 33 years old at the time, had spent the previous four seasons with Tampa Bay, seeing mixed results.

The right-hander was coming off a strong season in 2010, however, going 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 57 appearances. He had never been a closer in his big league career, but averaged better than a strikeout per inning as a setup man.

Performance

Balfour had a strong 2011 season in Oakland in a setup role. He went 5-2 with two saves and a 2.47 ERA, striking out 59 in 62 innings. Balfour eventually took over the closer role in 2012 and recorded 24 saves in 26 opportunities with a 2.53 ERA.

The A's exercised Balfour's option in 2013 and he posted a career-high 38 saves in 41 opportunities with a 2.59 ERA, earning his first and only All-Star appearance. He also set the A's franchise record with 41 consecutive saves converted.

Balfour quickly became a fan favorite, known for his fiery passion and screaming of profanities on the mound. "Balfour Rage," as it became known, sometimes rubbed batters the wrong way, but Balfour insisted it was just his way of pumping himself up. Needless to say, A's fans loved it.

[RELATED: How A's could learn from Coco Crisp signing nine years ago]

Lesson

The Balfour signing was a great success for Oakland. In three seasons, he went 9-7 with 64 saves and a 2.53 ERA. For just over $12 million, that was a bargain.

Balfour proved to be a late developer in his career. He didn't really put it all together until he was in his 30s. While the A's signed Balfour to be a setup man, they were open to an increased role for him and eventually he earned the closer job.

Of course, Balfour's personality was a big part of his success in Oakland. "Balfour Rage" resonated with fans and teammates alike. That became his identity and both he and his team embraced it.

2019 free agent comparison

It's not exactly "Balfour Rage," but Sergio Romo is quite flamboyant on the mound. Like Balfour, Romo wears his emotions on his sleeve and gets fired up when he records an important out, sometimes bothering hitters.

Romo, 35, went 3-4 with 25 saves and a 4.14 ERA last season with the Rays. For his career, the right-handed reliever owns a 2.86 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, averaging well over a strikeout per inning.