December 22, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Lynn Henning

Edgar Martinez gives Hall of Fame voters first legit DH candidate

Edgar Martinez reached the 100-RBI mark in seven seasons. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

It's the most wonderful time of the year: Hall of Fame ballots arrived this month.

Gentlemen, start your scathing e-mails.

This year's ballot will be different, personally speaking.

Rather than the usual four, maybe five names on a ballot, there are seven on my 2010 dance card.

In alphabetical order: Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell.

That's a lot of nominees, all because three first-time candidates -- Alomar, Larkin, and Martinez -- made it, with Martinez the most unlikely based upon past attitudes.

I never expected to vote for a guy who was a designated hitter, who never came close to 3,000 hits, and who missed by a mile reaching 400 home runs.

But that's why it's important to study, consult and do your homework before filling out the ballot.

It's a privilege best exercised with an open mind.

Henning's ballot

Martinez won a pair of batting titles and is the only DH to ever have done so. Most significantly for me, he is one of only eight players in baseball history to have hit 300 homers, 500 doubles, have a career batting average above .300 (.312), a career on-base percentage in excess of .400 (.418), and a slugging percentage north of .500 (.515).

So, there you have it. Martinez makes it. It wasn't his fault balky knees restricted him to the DH role. What mattered is how he did his job spanning 18 seasons. And he hit with Hall of Fame distinction.

The rest of the nominees were both easier and tougher.

  • Alomar: No hang-ups. He hit .300 spanning 17 seasons, had 2,724 hits, won 10 Gold Gloves, had an OPS (on-base average plus slugging percentage) of .814, and made 12 All-Star games. He also spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. And as ugly as that was, it, for me anyway, does not disqualify his Hall of Fame credentials.

  • Blyleven: The electorate needs to get over its mystifying problems with Blyleven and do what should have been done years ago -- enshrine him. He won 287 games, many for so-so teams, and remains fifth in strikeouts -- fifth! In three seasons, he led his league in shutouts. I would submit he lost more 2-1 and 3-2 games than any pitcher in baseball history. Blyleven is not only a slam-dunk -- he's a Michael Jordan, 360-degree, tomahawk slam.

  • Dawson: How thin is a razor blade? It's broad compared with the margin by which Dawson makes my ballot. But he does, and always has. You want to argue? I understand. But I also understand this -- 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs, and eight Gold Gloves. He is one of three players in history to reach 400 homers and 300 steals. A check goes next to Dawson's name.

  • Larkin: A first-timer who makes it for the same reason Trammell makes my ballot. He was a dynamic, multi-skilled shortstop for 19 seasons in Cincinnati. He was the first shortstop to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases when he did it in 1996. He hit .295 and had a career OPS of .815. Larkin wasn't automatic. But he deserves Cooperstown.

  • Raines: He was a gifted hitter and the fifth-leading base-stealer in history. He won a batting title amid seven .300-plus seasons and six times scored more than 100 runs. And his career OPS was right there with Larkin: .810. In essence, Raines was a game-changer for most of his 23 seasons.

  • Trammell: I've always been compelled by ESPN.com's Rob Neyer's study that Trammell is one of the 12 best shortstops in baseball's annals. And it's no surprise -- seven seasons hitting .300 or better, 2,365 hits, four Gold Gloves, three times finished in the top 10 of MVP balloting (and should have won in 1987). Next to Dawson, he is my toughest vote to justify. But he makes it, just as he always made the play or got the hit, season after season.

    Conspicuous by his absence is Jack Morris.

    I understand those who vote for him. And if ever the audience needs to know that personal feelings don't matter in these votes, Morris is Exhibit A. He was a personal favorite. But he misses by a stitch -- and only a stitch.

    We'll wait and see how it all plays out next month.

    lynn.henning@detnews.com">lynn.henning@detnews.com (313) 222-2472

    The rest of Henning's ballot

    Roberto Alomar
    2B played for seven different teams
    Bert Blyleven
    In 12 of 22 years, SP won 14 or more games
    Andre Dawson
    OF won MVP in '87 -- .287, 49 HR, 137 RBIs
    Barry Larkin
    Ex-Wolverine made 12 All-Star games as SS
    Edgar Martinez
    DH batted .300 10 times, 100 RBIs seven
    Tim Raines
    OF topped 70 SBs four times, high of 90 in '83

    Hall of Fame dates

    Jan. 6: The Baseball Writers Association of America vote is announced at 2 p.m.; its ballot consists of players only -- 15 first-year candidates and 11 holdovers
    July 25: Induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.

  • Alan Trammell had seven seasons hitting .300 or better, 2,365 hits, four ... (Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images)
    Roberto Alomar, who played in Chicago in 2003-04, won 10 Gold Gloves, a ... (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)