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Thiel: As Mariners Honor Edgar, Team Must Also Make A Move For Playoffs

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Mariners former designated hitter Edgar Martinez smiles as he speaks at a news conference announcing the retirement of his jersey number 11, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners will retire Edgar's number in a ceremony Aug. 12 at Safeco Field.

The Mariners celebrated one of their most famous players this weekend: Edgar Martinez. The team retired Edgar’s No. 11 jersey in a pregame ceremony at Safeco Field Saturday night. And they unveiled a plaque with his number in center field – next to Ken Griffey Junior’s No. 24 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talks with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick about the Mariners, including a move that Art says would help the team get to the playoffs. But first, they discuss honoring Edgar.

Two Reasons To Celebrate Edgar Now

"The Mariners do have a habit of wanting to sell out a weekend looking in the past, as they do so frequently," Thiel said. "That '95 era - Lou Piniella, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez. That's always a draw.

"So, there will be bobbleheads and replica jerseys and all of that going on. And they'll do a real good business at the box office. That's one reason.

"But the other reason is that Edgar is still a candidate for the Hall of Fame. There will be another vote this offseason, and he is eligible for that. His numbers have been increasing with each passing year. And I think that would be a very cool thing to get more attention.

"Of course, Edgar is still the hitting coach for the Mariners, so he's a relevant guy.

"And he is, I think, the most beloved ex-Mariner," Thiel continued. "Ken Griffey Jr. was probably the most admired but Griffey left a lot of controversy.

"His departure in 2000 and then again in 2010 were things that irked people and he had various controversies.

"But Edgar spent his entire career here. He was always very well-regarded, admired for his straightforward humbleness and his incredible production.

"He was the most feared hitter in the American League in the middle 90s. And they named the Designated Hitter Award after him."

'Worthy' Of The Hall

Thiel said it's time that Martinez gets what he deserves - a place in the Hall of Fame. There is controversy over whether designated hitters should receive the honor.

"I really hope that the writers who have held up that notion are over it now," he said.

"I do believe that Edgar occupies a position that is in baseball - designated hitter.

"And his numbers, in terms of his consistency over the time that he was designated hitter, of course he started as a third baseman, are sufficient for Hall worthiness."

From Past To Present: The Playoff Hunt

Thiel cautioned that the Mariners run the risk of dwelling too much in the past.

"The past has been pretty meager - four playoffs in 40 years. And they keep going to the well of '95 and the Lou Piniella years," he said.

"I really do think this club owes this fan base something more than an Edgar weekend. They owe them a pennant race. There have been 15 years without the playoffs.

"What they have now is a team that's pretty competitive. They had a 6-3 road trip that ended earlier in the week. They have a 1-9 lineup that has produced the fourth most runs in the American League."

A Pitch For Another Starting Pitcher

"They have a strong bullpen. What they don't have is starting pitching," Thiel continued.

"It's really too bad (that) injuries have compromised the starting rotation. They have James Paxton and four guys who are basically No. 5 starters.

"It's nobody's fault - bad luck - but they really do need to add to their starting rotation.

"There's an opportunity to add to their roster before Sept. 1 via trade. And there's a guy out there that I think could really be a difference maker. And that is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Former Cy Young winner.

"He's 34 years old. He's got a huge contract with a $68-million balance on it through 2019.

"Yes it's money. Yes it would be some trade of prospects to get him. But a second solid pitcher behind James Paxton would be a tremendous addition emotionally for the team, emotionally for the fan base.

"And I think it's practical because, besides the Astros, the rest of the American League is pretty soft. "The Mariners can do something beyond that wild-card playoff game. They've got to solidify the starting rotation. My view is, they've squandered opportunities for many, many years.

"Write the check. Get the guy in here. And make a run for the playoffs because it's way, way overdue."

(Update: James Paxton left Thursday night's game in the seventh inning with a strained pectoral muscle. He's expected to be out for at least three weeks. An MRI Friday confirmed the injury and Paxton was placed on the 10-day disabled list.)

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Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.