Thirty years ago today, the Mariners made one of the best moves in franchise history. On Dec. 19, 1982, a Seattle scout signed a 19-year-old Puerto Rican named Edgar Martinez. Safe to say, the agent earned his keep with this one.
Martinez played 18 years in the big leagues, all as a Mariner. He hit for power, with over 500 doubles and more than 300 homers. He hit for average, with a pair of batting titles and a career .312 mark. He could take a pitch, leading to four straight seasons over 100 walks. Anything you wanted a player to do at the plate, he did at the plate, leading to seven All-Star selections and some support on the current Hall of Fame ballot. He never was much of a fielder, but ended up being arguably the greatest DH in baseball history.
Due to his ability, and the fact that Martinez was a one-franchise player, he retired as (and still is) the all-time Mariners leader in a host of categories, including: games, plate appearances, runs, doubles, RBIs, walks, hit by pitches, sacrifice flies, and GIDP (well, you’ve got to take the good with the bad). He has the best batting average for anyone to play more than 33 games as a Mariner. Not bad for someone with 2,055 games. If it weren’t for Ken Griffey Jr and Ichiro Suzuki, Martinez would be No. 1 in nearly every Mariners category.
That’s especially impressive given the late start Martinez had. He advanced through the minors at a typical enough pace, making it to Triple-A in late 1985. Despite batting .353 in 20 games there, he spent all of 1986 in Double=A. In 1987 he finally returned to Triple-A, and hit .329 with 10 homers.
Nice as that was, Martinez had a problem. He played third base and the Mariners already had a nice young third baseman, Jim Presley. Presley established himself as a big league regular in 1985 at age 23, when he hit 28 homers with a .275 average. The team loved his potential and kept him there, even though he’d fallen off each season since then. All Martinez could get in 1987 was a brief cup of coffee in the majors as a September call-up.
In 1988, the Mariners stayed committed to Presley, even though he hit a meager .230 with just 14 homers. Meanwhile, 25-year-old Martinez hit .363 in 95 games in Triple-A. He was becoming too old to be a prospect, and again got just a brief stint in the majors.
By 1989, the Mariners were finally sick of Presley. He repeated his 1988 performance, and now Martinez got his shot. As it happens, he didn’t do very well. Martinez batted a weak .240 with just a pair of homers in 65 games—but he still outhit Presley’s .236 average and drew nearly as many walks in half as much playing time.
Seattle finally gave Martinez a slot in the starting order for good in 1990, and the 27-year-old responded with the first of 10 .300 seasons. He’d finally arrived—and the process of arriving began 10 years ago today, when the Mariners first signed him.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something happening X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
2,000 days since the A’s trade Milton Bradley to the Padres.
2,000 days since Aubrey Huff hits for the cycle.
2,000 days since Mike Mussina gives up a leadoff walk, his first in 136 starts.
3,000 days since the last game by the Montreal Expos. They beat the Mets, 6-3.
6,000 days since Mike Mussina allows seven doubles in one outing.
7,000 days since the Blue Jays top the Phillies 15-14 in Game Four of the 1993 World Series, the most softball-like World Series game of all time.
9,000 days since Joe Niekro appears in his final game.
9,000 days since the 1988 Orioles, finally, mercifully, win a game, improving their record to 1-21. They top the White Sox, 9-0.
25,000 days since Giants slugger Mel Ott has a horrible game, going 0-for-3 with three Ks in the only time in his career. His Giants lose 1-0 to the Cubs.
1894 Ford Frick, baseball commissioner in 1950s and 1960s, is born.
1910 The Boston Braves sign free agent veteran first baseman Fred Tenney.
1928 Washington trades player-manager Bucky Harris to Detroit.
1934 Al Kaline, the defining Tiger to a generation of Detroit baseball fans, is born.
1935 Tony Taylor, 2,000-hit guy, is born.
1938 Brooklyn purchases Luke Sewell from the White Sox.
1943 Bill Bergen, the most ineffectual hitter in baseball history, dies at age 65.
1945 Geoff Zahn, 111-game winner, is born.
1962 Bill Wegman, man who started over 200 games as a pitcher, is born.
1964 Mike Fetters, 16-year veteran relief pitcher, is born.
1970 Nap Rucker, a terrific Deadball pitcher hamstrung by a complete lack of offensive support, dies at age 86.
1975 Three True Outcomes god Russell Branyan is born.
1976 A single-engine plane crashes into the upper deck of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium near the end of a Steelers-Colts playoff game. Despite the place being occupied, no one dies. Four are injured (including the pilot).
1977 Houston signs free agent Jesus Alou.
1979 Cleveland signs free agent Jorge Orta.
1979 Middle reliever and one-time All-Star Rafael Soriano is born.
1983 Pittsburgh signs free agent Amos Otis.
1983 Authorities sentence Vida Blue to 90 days in jail for drug offenses.
1984 Ian Kennedy, who went 21-4 for the 2011 Diamondbacks, is born.
1986 Michael Sergio, a Mets fan who parachuted into Shea Stadium during Game Six of the 1986 World Series, gets 100 hours of community service and a $500 fine.
1990 Baltimore signs free agent Mickey Tettleton.
1990 Boston signs free agent pitcher Danny Darwin.
1991 Rick Sutcliffe signs with Baltimore as a free agent. He’ll become Comeback Player of the year in 1992.
1991 Former minor league umpire Pam Postema files a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the AL, NL, American Association, and Major League Baseball Office for Umpire Development.
1991 Toronto signs free agent Dave Winfield.
1992 Texas signs defensive specialist outfielder Doug Dascenzo as a free agent.
1997 Cecil Fielder signs as a free agent with Anaheim.
2000 Boston signs super-hitter Manny Ramirez as a free agent.
2000 The Cubs sign aging catcher Todd Hundley, whose dad caught for them back in the 1960s/70s.
2001 Boston signs free agent pitcher John Burkett.
2001 The Cubs sign free agent left fielder Moises Alou.
2001 Texas signs free agent pitcher Dave Burba.
2002 The Yankees reach an agreement with Hideki Matsui to play for them.
2003 Chicago’s Harry Caray restaurant submits the winning bid for the Bartman ball at an auction. The winning bid is $106,000. The new owners will blow the ball up.
2003 The Yankees sign free agent Gary Sheffield..
2003 San Diego signs free agent Sterling Hitchcock so the pitcher can end his career as a Padre.
2003 Seattle signs free agent Scott Spiezio.
2003 St. Louis signs free agent outfielder Reggie Sanders.
2004 Boston signs free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria.
2006 The Cubs sign innings-eating starting pitcher Jason Marquis.
2006 Texas signs free agent and former ace closer Eric Gagne.
2008 Dock Ellis, former controversial All-Star Pirates pitcher, dies at age 63.
2010 The Royals trade Zack Greinke to the Brewers.
2010 San Francisco signs free agent pitcher Guillermo Mota.