As peaceful as his Puerto Rican hometown of Maguayo, where former players Carmelo Martinez and Jose Lind grew up, Martinez is considered one of the best designated hitters ever. Ironically, he was scouted as having a good glove but no bat, and came into the bigs playing third. But when he switched primarily to the DH slot in 1995, he posted offensive numbers mind-boggling even for the ’90s power-laden era.
Though constantly overshadowed by the feats of his more prominent teammates Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., and Alex Rodriguez, the Puerto Rican slugger began to get noticed as the superstars departed. As it became clear that he was one of the run-producing cogs that held the Mariners together, Martinez got the respect he deserved.
One of the few players in recent years to play his full career with one team, Edgar was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 1982 and bounced between the minors and majors through 1989. Though he crushed the ball in Calgary, it took him three years before he secured a starting spot on the Mariners’ squad, replacing Jim Presley at third in 1990. The soft-spoken slugger floundered at the hot corner in the beginning, registering a .928 fielding percentage his first full season, but showed promise with a .302 batting average and 27 doubles.
Martinez improved his all-around game over the next two years, and in 1992 posted a league-leading 46 doubles and .343 average — just the second player ever to lead the league in batting while playing for a last-place team. Though floundering in the cellar, Seattle displayed their trust in the hitter, signing him to a new three-year, $10 million contract extension. When asked by reporters what the first thing he’d do with his new-found wealth, Martinez stayed true to his genial, caring nature, saying that he’d “buy heart medicina” for his grandmother.
Unfortunately, Martinez severely injured his hamstring during the final exhibition game the following spring and was limited to just 42 games. Charged up and ready to play in 1994, Martinez was plunked on the wrist on Opening Day and played only 89 games that season.
With mounting criticism surrounding him — that his crazy batting style (pigeon-toed feet and an oddly-cocked bat) had slowed down his swing, and that injuries had dampened his play — Martinez returned the following year with a vengeance. He paced the league with a .356 batting average, 121 runs, and 52 doubles, while slamming 29 longjacks and driving in 113.
By then, Martinez had switched to mostly DH duties, and became synonymous with the “position.” And for good reason, as his offense was obviously the stronger part of his game: Between 1995 and 2000, Martinez averaged 103 runs, 42 doubles, 29 homers, and nearly 110 RBIs per year. During that span, he never hit under .322 or had an OPS under .996.
After Griffey left the Mariners in February 2000, it was widely assumed that Martinez’s RBI total would severely suffer, now that he was left naked without one of the most feared sluggers in the game hitting in front of him. Just the opposite. Martinez drove in a league-leading 145 RBIs in 2000, guiding Seattle to the postseason for the third time in six years.