The designated hitter is an actual position that has been debated, discussed, probed, and prodded since the 1890s. Since the inception of the American League position 44 years ago, the DH has served it’s purpose ably: enhancing offense, while increasing fan interest. Each year, the best DH is honored with the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. Somehow, the player who established the benchmark for excellence at the position has been kept out of the Hall of Fame and has just two remaining years of eligibility — a slight to one the finest hitters baseball has ever seen and to the position as a whole.
Martinez did not become a full-time player until the age of 27, which limited his career hit total to 2,247 and home run total to just 309, well short of top sluggers from his era. But looking deeper into the numbers, we discover that Martinez was actually one of the top and most consistent sluggers of his time — or any time period — culminating an 18-year career with an eye-popping .418 on-base percentage and .933 OPS. Jayson Stark of ESPN describes Martinez as one of the “greatest hitters of his generation.”
Martinez was just one of eight players to have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, a career OBP above .400, and a career slugging percentage above .500. He is also one of six players to hit at least .320 for six consecutive seasons alongside Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, and Todd Helton. All but Helton are in the Hall.
Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who spends endless hours crunching numbers to evaluate Hall of Fame candidates, says Martinez is one of the top 30 or 40 hitters of all time. Martinez outdistanced David Ortiz in career WAR 68.3 too 55.4. Most consider fellow DH Ortiz a clear cut Hall of Famer, steroid issues aside. Martinez is one of 25 players with at least eight seasons with OPS+ greater than 150. All who are eligible and not connected to steroids are in the Hall of Fame except two: Dick Allen and Martinez. He also has the fourth best career OPS (.933) among right-handed hitters in the modern era … And still not enough Hall of Fame votes.
The anti-DH faction among baseball writers has weakened over the years, but is still clearly present. There are several players who have appeared extensively as a DH already in the Hall, including Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Jim Rice. But most of these players played the majority of their games at other positions — usually first base or outfield.
Elected in 2004, Paul Molitor served as his team’s DH for nearly 44 percent of the games he started. Two years ago, Frank Thomas became the first HOFer to DH in the majority of his games played. Martinez played DH for 71% of the games he started. If Martinez is not elected before his expiration date, Ortiz will likely become the first almost-full-time DH to receive baseball’s highest honor. Ortiz collected more hits, home runs, and RBI than any other DH.
The designated hitter first proposed during the 1890s as the designated pinch hitter. Connie Mack took credit for the idea in 1906. NL owners actually approved the DH rule in December 1928, but were ironically overruled by their AL cohorts. In 1940, the Bushrod League, a California winter circuit, adopted the DH. In 1969 the International League experimented with the DH for a year.
After nearly eight decades of debate between league presidents, owners, and players, the American League finally approved the DH before the 1973 season. On April 6, Ron Blomberg, became major league baseball’s first designated hitter when he drew a first-inning, bases loaded walk from Luis Tiant on a cold, windy Opening Day at Fenway Park.
A pulled hamstring forced the 24-year-old first baseman to his new position. If Matty Alou, batting third for the Yankees, didn’t stroke a two-out double in the first inning, the Red Sox Orlando Cepeda, the first player signed specifically for DH duty, would have made the history books. Although the Red Sox won the game 15-5, Cepeda, the prototype DH, went 0-for-6, the only Red Sox starter to go hitless.
AL owners hoped the DH would increase offense, give aging sluggers the chance to extend their years of productivity, and increase attendance. The three-year experiment worked. AL teams were scoring more runs, league attendance rose from 11.4 million to 13.4 million, and older stars were extending their careers.
Cepeda was exactly what the AL owners had in mind when they adopted the DH. The 35-year-old former first baseman entered the season with bad knees and 358 career home runs, and had driven in over 100 runs five times in his career.
In 1973, Cepeda played all of his 142 games at DH for the Red Sox, hitting 20 homers and 86 RBI — excellent power numbers for the time — winning the first Associated Press Designated Hitter Award.
The DH helped sluggers such as Cepeda, the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year with the Giants and the 1967 MVP with the Cardinals, achieve Hall of Fame status. Cepeda, elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999, finished his career with 379 home runs (21 as a DH) and 1,365 RBI.
The DH is now widely accepted and used in some form in most leagues from high school to the majors. The final hurdle to its acceptance as an actual position may be a deservedly wider presence in the Hall of Fame.
There are two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the side of righteousness trailing by a run. The Baseball Writers Association of America has one more chance to right one of the biggest wrongs in the Hall of Fame by electing Tim Raines.
Raines has steadily gained support, but is in his 10th and final year of eligibility. In his first five years on the ballot, the former Expos great, was nominated by 22-49% of the voters, with 75% needed for election. Last year he jumped from 55% to 69.8%. This year Raines is looking to become just the fourth player to be elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975), and Jim Rice (2009).
Placed in a historical context, Raines’s resume is HOF worthy. He was one of the game’s great leadoff hitters, top base stealers, and — believe it or not — an extra-base-hitting-machine during his 23-year major league career. Raines was often lost in the shadow cast by Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter ever. But digging deeper into the numbers, Raines was every bit the player as Henderson and even rivaled the great Ty Cobb, arguably the best hitter in baseball history.
We all know Raines was one of the game’s great base stealers, but his consistency on the base paths was unparalleled. He ranks fifth on the career stolen base list with 808 and is the career leader in stolen base percentage (84.7) among players with 400 attempts. Raines is the only player in baseball history to steal at least 70 bases in seven consecutive seasons (1981-1986). He stole 40 consecutive bases between July 1993 – August 1995, a major league record later broken by Ichiro Suzuki with 45 consecutive swipes.
Like Cobb, Raines will never be considered a home run hitter, but the former speedy outfielder combined extra base hits with stolen bases at an historic rate. He was the only player in baseball
history with at least 100, triples, 150 homers and 600 stolen bases. Raines finished his career with 113 triples and 170 homers.
Raines finished with 2,605 career hits — well below the imaginary 3,000-hit Hall of Fame threshold. But looking deeper, only nine of the 27 players with 3,000 hits can match Raines’s .385 career on-base percentage. Raines reached base more times than three HOFers with 3,000 hits: Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente as well as the ageless and still playing Ichiro.
Need more convincing? Raines was the only player ever with four seasons of 50-plus extra base hits and 70-plus stolen bases. Henderson and Cobb combined for four such seasons; every other HOFer combined for an additional four.
Raines is seldom mentioned with the all-time greats such as Cobb, but he should be and the evidence is in the numbers: He is the only player in MLB history with five consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases, which he did from 1982-1986. Before 1982, the last player to record 30 doubles
and 70 stolen bases in a season was Cobb in 1915.
For more head-spinning stats, be sure to check out the Ace of MLB Stats Twitter account. Its creator, Ryan Spaeder, seems to be on a personal crusade to get Raines into the Hall of Fame. Raines did the work and Spaeder has aligned the numbers in convincing fashion.
Just under 70 percent of the HOF electorate voted for Raines last January. He’s on course to receive the 75 percent of the vote needed for enshrinement this year. Raines is looking to become the third player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo, joining Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. Raines won two World Series rings (1996 and 1998) in New York as a role player with the Yankees. Here’s hoping one of baseball’s great injustices is rectified.
The Raines Topps rookie card is one of the top rookies from the 1981 series. Issued just before the mass-produced sets of the ‘80s, the Expos “Future Prospect” card also includes Roberto Ramos and Bobby Pate, two “future stars” that never panned out. Be careful if you’re buying: The “Future Prospect” cards are notorious for having gum-stained backs.
Wade Boggs is getting his due. Sixteen years after retiring from baseball, Boggs will have his number 26 placed on the Fenway Park right field facade, alongside the numbers of eight other Red Sox greats and baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The delay likely had something to do with Wade Boggs jumping ship and winning aWorld Series with the Yankees.
The Hall of Fame third baseman was one of the best hitters to ever wear a Red Sox uniform. His .338 Red Sox batting average is second to only Ted Williams. He won five batting titles and six Silver Slugger awards to go along with seven consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits during his 11 years with the Red Sox. His great eye at the plate combined with high batting averages produced remarkable peak seasons. From 1983-1989, Boggs hit .352 with a .446 on-base percentage, leading the AL in OBP in six of those seven years.
A model of consistency at the plate, Boggs produced a slashline of .328/.415/.413 with 3,010 hits in 18 big league seasons. A poor fielder his rookie season, Boggs worked to become one of the game’s better fielding third basemen, earning two Gold Glove Awards. Boggs also made 12 All-Star Game appearances.
Boggs is a key player in the popular 1983 Topps Baseball Card Set. Considered by many collectors to be the top series of the ‘80s, the ‘83 Topps set includes rookie cards of Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg as well as the second-year card of . The dual-photo format — an action or posed photo behind a small circular head shot in the lower righthand corner — has been a fan favorite over the years. Borrowed from the 1963 Topps series, the format allowed Topps to feature a wide-array of action photos without neglecting the traditional head shot.
Midway through the 1982 season, Boggs took over third base from reigning AL batting champion Carney Lansford, who landed on the disabled list with an injured ankle. Lansford never regained his job and was eventually traded to the Oakland A’s. Boggs made him expendable by hitting .349 for the season.
After quickly establishing himself as one of baseball’s premier hitters, Boggs — like Gwynn — was somehow excluded from the 1982 Topps Traded Set. Following a brilliant rookie campaign, Boggs was featured prominently in the 1983 Topps, Fleer and Donruss rookie checklists. Boggs’ elite status continued on the field as the second-year rising star lead the AL with a .361 batting average.
Relative newcomers to the world of baseball card collecting in 1983, Fleer and Donruss played second fiddle to Topps in production, marketing and distribution of their baseball card sets. As a result, Boggs’ rather drab-looking Fleer and Donruss rookie cards were not received with the same fanfare as the first-year Topps issue. Decent versions of the Fleer and Donruss rookies are available for $3-$5.
Because Boggs never hit for much power, except for that one season in 1987 — when many observers suspected baseballs had a little extra “bounce” — his rookie cards may have never reached their full potential. Traditionally, the rookie cards of sluggers are more sought after than the rookies of high-average hitters. Gwynn rookie cards may be slightly undervalued for the same reason. Never known for power, Boggs hit 24 homers in 1987 — when home runs were hit at an unprecedented pace — but never collected more than 11 in any other season.
The 1983 Boggs Topps rookie currently sells for $8 in decent condition with highly-graded versions commanding as much as $50. Because of minor production flaws and gum-stained card backs, the highest-graded versions are extremely rare.