SEATTLE — Edgar Martinez toiled for six years in the minors before finally becoming a major league regular in 1989.
He certainly knows all about waiting — and his bid for the Baseball Hall of Fame has been no different.
The former Seattle Mariners designated hitter and third baseman fell short again Wednesday, finishing with 70.4 percent of the vote in his ninth try. Players need 75 percent from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to make it to Cooperstown, and next year will be Martinez’s last on the ballot.
But it was the second consecutive year that yielded a significant jump for Martinez in his attempt to join Frank Thomas as the only inducted players who were primarily designated hitters.
“Getting 70.4 percent is a big improvement and all I can think right now is that it’s looking good for next year,” Martinez said on a conference call about 90 minutes after the announcement that he wasn’t included in the class of 2018. “It would have been great to get in this year, but it looks good for next year.”
Fans seemed to be having more trouble with Martinez missing out on the Hall, but the current hitting coach for the Mariners seemed to calm some of the outrage with a tweet shortly after the announcement.
“Thank you to all the fans out there that supported my (Hall of Fame) candidacy,” Martinez tweeted . “We are trending up, next year may be the year. Thank you Mariners and the best fans in baseball.”
Fans had become highly optimistic after seeing him make significant gains in ballot tracking prior to the announcement. Martinez and his family got caught up in that as well, but when he dipped to 77 percent in the publicly known ballots in recent days, Martinez knew induction this year was unlikely.
“So far I haven’t gotten nervous,” he said. “I thought there was a chance, but for some reason I didn’t think this year was going to happen, especially looking at the track for the last week or so. I was fine with it.”
Martinez was at 58.6 percent last year, and while he didn’t reach the needed 75 percent Wednesday, he did crack an important threshold by hitting 70 percent in his ninth year of eligibility. Every player who has reached the 70-percent plateau at some point in the voting process has been inducted.
Just four years ago, Martinez was slogging at 25.2 percent in the balloting, but the last few years have signaled a major change in how voters are viewing his contributions even though he rarely played the field after 1992. Martinez’s career .312 batting average, .933 on-base plus slugging percentage and seven All-Star Game appearances created a strong foundation for his candidacy. Testaments from former opponents and teammates who have been inducted into the Hall, along with additional statistical analysis, have bolstered his chances.
“At that time I thought I would never get to this point,” Martinez said. “It is encouraging to see 70 percent going into my final year. I just feel I still have a good chance. But yeah, 2014, I didn’t think I was going to be at this point right now.”