By Michael C. Jones
“Edgar Martinez winning his first batting title. And, yes, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.” Ken Griffey Jr. shared highlights of his career during his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech, and endorsed Edgar’s Cooperstown inclusion. It’s widely believed, including by Griffey, that Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, currently playing what he says will be his last season, will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Seven times Ortiz has won the award given to the best designated hitter, which happens to be called the Edgar Martinez Award.
Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who played more games at DH than first base, was a career .301 hitter with an on-base percentage of .364 and a slugging percentage of .555. He had 2,468 hits and 521 home runs. Edgar, who played one fewer season (18) than Thomas, had a career batting average of .312, on-base percentage of .418 and slugging percentage of .515, numbers a bit better or at least highly comparable to Thomas. Edgar fares not quite as well in hits, 2,247, and home runs, 309. He was never considered the power hitter along the lines of The Big Hurt. Edgar was better known for doubles (including, of course, “The Double”). Edgar had 514 doubles compared to 495 for Thomas in, again, one fewer season.
As Griffey’s moving speech concluded and he posed for photos on stage with fellow inductee Mike Piazza, fans bellowed a chant familiar to Mariners followers: “Edgar! Edgar! Edgar!” Yes, Junior, he belongs in the Hall.
We are admittedly biased, but a case can clearly be made for Edgar to be in the Hall of Fame, especially with Ortiz about to demolish that DH bias. Let’s look at the cases for four other Seattle sports icons who should be considered by their respective halls of fame.
Lynch left an indelible mark on Seattle football history, from Beast Quake to leading the Super Bowl parade while swigging Fireball and sitting on the hood of a duck boat. Beast Mode rushed for 10,049 yards in the NFL, more than Hall of Famer Earl Campbell. His 74 rushing touchdowns are more than Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis and O.J. Simpson and exactly as many as Campbell. Lynch is a Super Bowl champion, and had he been given the opportunity to score the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX, he would be a two-time champion and, with more than 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns in that game, an argument could have been made for Lynch to be the Super Bowl MVP.
His retirement is too recent for him to appear on the Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot, but just wait a few years and he will at least be listed.
His number has been retired by the Sonics, but how do Sikma’s stats stack up for consideration by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame compared to other inductees? Sikma has the championship pedigree having led the Sonics to Seattle’s first major sports championship in 1979, a season during which he played in all 82 regular season games and all 17 games in the playoffs. (He played in all 82 games in eight of his 14 seasons, and in two other seasons he played 80 games.) Sikma was selected for the NBA All-Star Game seven times.
He finished with 17,287 points (more than Hall of Fame forward Billy Cunningham’s 16,310), 10,816 rebounds (Willis Reed was attributed 8,414 rebounds), 3,488 assists (Elvin Hayes had 2,398 assists) 1,162 steals (about twice as many as Dave Cowens) and 1,048 blocks (Bill Walton had 1,034; in fact, Sikma tops Walton in points, rebounds, assists and steals, though the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame looks beyond NBA numbers, and Walton’s college career was undeniably fantastic).
Sikma compiled some impressive stats, and they’re even more remarkable when you consider his size. That he did all this while standing 6’11” but just 230 pounds is just one more reason he deserves induction consideration.
We’ll broaden our criteria a little and look at a coach. Karl led the Sonics to the playoffs every year he was in Seattle, losing the Finals to the record-setting 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The Sonics won the Pacific division in four of his seven seasons, including for the first time since the 1979 championship season, and they finished second twice. Karl was the seventh NBA coach with 1,000 wins, and he currently ranks fifth behind Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, who are all in the Basketball Hall of Fame as coaches (former Sonics star Wilkens also is in as a player).
Sonics fans should feel confident that Karl’s consideration is only a matter of time once he retires.
If we’re going to consider coaches, we must look at one manager. Piniella was the first and only manager to lead the Mariners into the postseason. He won American League Manager of the Year twice while with the Mariners, the second time after guiding Seattle to a record 116 wins, and after the Mariners reached the ALCS each year. His teams played in the postseason seven seasons, and he led the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title in 1990 while the team and city were still stinging from the lifetime ban of iconic Red Pete Rose. All but one of the 13 managers who won more games than Piniella are in the Hall of Fame (Gene Mauch, who lost more games than he won, is not).
ESPN’s Buster Olney points out that, even if you don’t think Piniella was a good enough manager, and with 1,705 hits he lacks the qualifications for induction as a player, “the body of work absolutely is good enough.” Send Sweet Lou to Cooperstown!