If you missed part one, please find it here.
68.4 Wins Above Replacement- .312 average /.418 on-base percentage / .515 slugging percentage
Edgar Martinez could flat out rake. Playing in Seattle, outshined by stars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, it’d be easy to overlook just how good he was. But all he did was spray line drives all over the American League. From 1990 to 2003, he slashed .317/.426/.531. That’s a lot of awesome, guys.
But unlike Rolen or Bonds, Martinez contributed nothing in the field. He was a DH. You might be wondering why I’m not penalizing Martinez for that. Well, I am. So is bWAR. The fact is, despite rarely donning a glove, Edgar was such an outstanding hitter that he’s Hall-worthy anyway.
If Martinez had stayed at third base, would he have given away many of the runs he produced, a la someone like Adam Dunn? It’s possible. But ultimately, even if being limited to DH suggests something about him overall, he so thoroughly dominated in his role that to keep him out of Cooperstown feels foolish to me. Edgar Martinez wasn’t a good DH — he was a fantastic DH.
72.7 Wins Above Replacement – .312 average /.418 on-base percentage /.515 slugging percentage – 1 Most Valuable Player award
Larry Walker is a tough one. He was a fabulous all-around player, surpassed by only a few inner-circle guys in his day. He raked, he was excellent in right field and a reliably elite base runner. Walker had no major flaws.
Walker benefitted from his time in Colorado. He hit like a video game character at Coors Field (for his career: .381/.462/.710, which is basically 120% of Mike Trout) and was far closer to “pretty good” away from it. He got hurt a lot, too.
But again, much like Edgar, sometimes the traditional means of evaluation don’t work. He’s nowhere close to 3000 hits or 500 homers, the typical hitting milestones for a Hall of Famer. But ignoring that, and even if we take into account the Coors factor and the games he missed, Walker was great.
Note that he wasn’t just good — like for example Harold Baines or Jim Rice. Walker was awesome. I think that distinction is critical. No offense to either guy, but hardly anyone ever confused someone like Baines or Rice for the best player in the world. In 1997, Walker was seriously in that conversation.
56.2 Wins Above Replacement – 1283.2 innings – 1173 strikeouts – 286 walks – 205 ERA-plus
I should note that Mariano Rivera was my favorite player growing up, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. Okay? Okay.
Mariano Rivera was clockwork, his dominance so routine that it felt preordained. The Yankees have a lead in the 9th inning? The game is as sure as over, we might as well head to the car. “Enter Sandman” would play, he’d throw a few nonchalant warmup tosses, break a few bats and the game would be over.
Armed famously with one pitch (a devastating cut fastball), Rivera was the most consistently dominant reliever in baseball history. Rivera used the cutter like a swordsman wields a blade, slicing up hitters on both sides of the plate, breaking bats and producing endless weak contact. He thrashed left-handed hitters especially.
The Sandman did all this during the offensive explosion of the steroid era in the league’s toughest division. We can certainly quibble about how Rivera was used — he typically only threw 1 inning per appearance, although in the postseason he was more widely deployed — but it’s lunacy to debate how good he was.
No reliever has ever come even close to being Mariano Rivera. Period. He’s the all-time leader in saves and ERA-plus. He’s one of the sport’s great postseason performers.
Rivera will not be the first unanimous choice for the Hall of Fame, which is a testament to what a bunch of buffoons the BBWAA writers can be (if you are wondering why someone would decide not to vote for Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb or Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, welcome to the wonderful world of the Hall of Fame). Rivera’s in.
64.3 Wins Above Replacement – 2749 innings – 2117 strikeouts – 592 walks – 131 ERA-plus – 2 Cy Young awards
Roy Halladay was the man.
His story is famous now and for good reason. Halladay burst into the majors as a prized prospect of the Toronto Blue Jays and almost immediately fell apart. In 2000, he somehow was battered to the tune of a 10.64 ERA in 67 innings. How does that even happen?
The team worked with Doc to rework his mechanics and in doing so unlocked arguably the best pitcher of the last 15 years. I can give you numbers all day long to fully describe his dominance, but consider this instead. Halladay spent many agonizing years pitching well for a team that couldn’t sniff the playoffs in Toronto. He battled the Yankees and Red Sox, won awards and established himself as the premier pitcher in the sport.
But that wasn’t enough. Roy Halladay wanted to win. He was loyal to Toronto — they showed him patience and he didn’t forget that. But, eventually, he asked for a trade and made his way to the Philadelphia Phillies, who’d recently won a World Series and remained serious contenders. He promptly started dominating for them, too, and the talented Phillies won the NL East.
The moment had come. The best in the world finally had his chance to compete in October. And so what did Roy Halladay do the first time he stepped foot on a postseason mound? What only one other person in the sport’s history has done, throw a no-hitter (his second of the year, mind you, as he also diced up the Marlins earlier in May.)
What did Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker say after watching Doc dominate his club?
“That is the best-pitched game I’ve seen since I’ve been going to the playoffs and the World Series.”
Halladay, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2017, should cruise into the Hall of Fame.