He’d waited 10 years for this moment. He was going to approach his induction speech like every day of his career with preparation, attention to detail and commitment.
Similar to the most famous at-bat in his career, where he got down 0-1 on a first pitch called strike to Yankee right-hander Jack McDowell, Martinez didn’t panic when emotion first filled his voice as he stepped to the podium. The work and preparation that was done leading up to this — like all of his hours in the batting cage honing his swing and strengthening his eyes — proved worth, allowing him to carry through a list of thank yous to his teammates, coaches, family, the Mariners organization and Mariners fans, thousands of whom made the journey to this baseball hamlet in upstate New York.
I was living in Calgary when it had Seattle’s AAA team. So I got to watch him hit 329/434/473, 363/467/517, and 345/457/517 before the Mariners finally gave him a full time job at age 27. Was he trapped behind a star? Hahaha no the Mariners were refusing to play him ahead of the sub-replacement level stylings of Mr. Jim Presley, a terrible offensive and defensive player who put up decent triple crown stats once. This spectacular incompetence made it nearly impossible for him to have a Hall of Fame career, and yet amazingly he did it.
The debate is effectively over now, but for a while there were a lot of people who thought “but can DHs get into the Hall of Fame?” was a serious question, which it never was. Value is value; Martinez or Ortiz not contributing defensively is about as relevant to whether they’re Hall of Famers as Sandy Koufax being a bad hitter. In addition, DHing is actually a pretty tough job a lot of players don’t want to do. It was really just an aesthetic prejudice, and glad it didn’t keep Martinez out of the Hall any more than the Mariners being run by complete numbnuts in the 80s did.