January 2010

It’s D-Day for Edgar

I’m afraid there will be no joy in Mariner Nation today.

From all indications, ultra-popular MAriners icon Edgar Martinez will fall short in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. The Class of ’10 will be announced at 11 a.m. (PT), televised by MLB Network and streamed by MLB.com.

I had been holding out hope that a large majority of my long-time baseball-writing colleagues — at least 75 percent of them — put an “X” in the box next to Edgar’s name on the Hall of Fame ballot.

My hope diminished a little bit after talking to or getting e-mails from seven of the most recent scribes inducted into the HOF as J.G. Taylor Spink Award winners and only four of them voted for Gar. My hopes were dashed a lot more this morning when I logged on to my home page (MLB.com of course) and saw how my BAM colleagues voted.

Of the 14 eligible voters, only three of us — Barry Bloom, T.R. Sullivan and myself — voted for Edgar. And three out of fourteen is not conducive to being selected.

The good news is that Martinez surely will get far more than the five percent needed to be on the ballot next year and history tells us that the chances are pretty good that he eventually will make it to Cooperstown. There is a 15-year window of opportunity before the Veterans Committee takes over.

I am 100 percent certain that Martinez is a Hall of Famer and Randy Johnson agrees.

I asked him during Tuesday’s national conference call announcing his retirement about what he knew about the current HOF candidates and went to bat for his former Mariners teammate.

“I know one player coming up (for vote), Edgar Martinez,” he said. “I’m hoping he gets a lot of consideration. I know it has been debated whether a DH is worthy of that. During my time, I’ve never seen a better hitter, a better pure hitter, than him.

“That’s no disrespect to other teammates I’ve had or people I’ve played against, but anyone from that era who watched Edgar realizes what a good hitter he was. I’ll be pulling for him, because I know what he meant when I was on the mound.”

That’s a pretty solid endorsement, wouldn’t you say?

— Jim Street

One and done for Russell?

It appears Russell Branyan had a one-and-done career with the Mariners.

The Mariners are on the verge of acquiring first baseman Casey Kotchman from the Red Sox, possibly for a mid-level Minor League prospect, and would move into the position Branyan played last season.

It would give the Mariners a totally different look.

Whereas Branyan was a long-ball threat, leading the team with 31 home runs in 431 at-bats, he also struck out 149 times.

Kotchman puts the ball in play more often, striking out 166 times in 1,674 career at-bats. He also has walked 157 times, which is  an attractive ratio to club officials.

In addition, defense is a strong part of Kotchman’s game. He has committed just eight errors in 3,853 total chances at the big-league level.

The acquisition would be like a punch in the stomach for Branyan, who had the best overall year of his career with the Mariners and expressed a strong desire to return to Seattle in 2010 and beyond. But he rejected the Mariners’ one-year offer and remains available on the free-agent market.

Branyan was hampered by a herniated disk the second half of the season.

It is believed that the Kotchman deal will be completed later this week, possibly on Friday. The 26-year-old, the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, made $3 million last season and is eligible for salary arbitration.

— Jim Street

Let the final lap of a career marathon begin

A Happy New Year to the reader(s) of this blog.

Some of you (well, at least one) might have been wondering why there has been a lack of activity at Street’s Corner for the past month or so.

I would like to say it has all been about vacation time, but the truth of the matter, I have been on the 45-day disabled list — with high blood pressure that scared me, my family and my doctor, all of whom old me in no uncertain terms to back off from work-related activities for awhile.

So, as a good patient, I took everyone’s advice but kept abreast — from afar — the wheelings and dealings of the Z-man. He has pretty much done a roster turnover from the dreadful pre-Z-man days, from the first-round selections in recent First-Year Free Agent Drafts to the trades that didn’t work out (er, Erik Bedard comes to mind) and the plethora of free-agent signings that never panned out.

I doubt that the Z-man is finished his work and the next few weeks could be almost as busy as the post-Winter Meetings roster moves.

Adding another veteran starting pitcher and one or two productive bats should still be high on his to-do list. Getting ace right-hander Felix Hernandez’s signature on a long-term contract would be cheered throughout Mariner Nation.

Even so, the acquistions of Chone Figgins via the free agent market, along with left-hander Cliff Lee and left fielder Milton Bradley via trades, are positive moves. I had a telephone conversation with Ken Griffey Jr., who was on his way to Hawaii for the holidays, and he fully endorsed the swap with the Cubs that brought Bradley to the Mariners and sent right-handed pitcher Carlos Silva to Chitown.

Griffey stopped in Seattle on his way back home from the Islands and besides hoisting the 12th-man flag at Qwest Field prior to the Seahawks’ season finale on Sunday, was expected to have a physical — the final step in the one-year contract he signed in November.

The turning of the calendar page four days ago hastened the countdown to Spring Training. Pitchers, catchers, players coming off injury, and writers report to camp in Peoria on Feb. 17.

This will be my 40th — and final — Spring Training as a full-time baseball writer, and it seems like only 100 or so years ago that it all started in San Jose. Unless the Mariners get into the World Series — stranger things have happened, haven’t they? — my final day on the beat will be on Oct. 31.

The game plan is to dress up as Bobby Ayala and go trick-or-treating.

— Jim Street