SEATTLE Two-time AL batting champion Edgar Martinez announced Monday that he will retire at the end of the season, ending his 18-year career with the Seattle Mariners as one of baseball's greatest designated hitters.
Martinez, 41, was a seven-time All-Star. He batted over .300 in 10 seasons, and led the league in hitting in 1992 and 1995.
Martinez rarely showed emotion on the field, but choked up while calling it quits. Former Seattle slugger Jay Buhner and several players turned out to support Martinez, and team chairman Howard Lincoln said his No. 11 would be retired.
''I have decided that this will be my last season,'' Martinez said at Safeco Field. ''I am very fortunate and grateful that I have been able to play my entire career with the Seattle Mariners. The fans here have always been and continue to be great.''
The sleepy-eyed Martinez was a hitting machine, spraying extra-base hits to all fields. Five-plus years from now, he could become a test case for whether a player who spent most of his career as a DH should be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Martinez holds the DH record for home runs and RBIs, and has the highest batting average among DHs with at least 1,000 at-bats, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Overall, Martinez is a .312 lifetime hitter with 305 home runs and 1,244 RBIs. He has 2,205 hits, including 510 doubles.
A third baseman when he began his major league career in 1987, he played most of his games at DH. Of his 7,060 lifetime at-bats, almost 5,000 have come as a DH.
''He's the best DH of all-time. Just a classy person. He's got Hall of Fame numbers,'' said Tampa Bay's Lou Piniella, who managed Martinez in Seattle. ''He's one of the best right-handed hitters I've ever seen. As he got older, he hit for more power, and that's pretty incredible.''
This year, Martinez is batting .258 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs. His playing time has been scaled back since Bucky Jacobsen was brought up from Triple-A Tacoma in mid-July.
The Mariners began the season with high hopes, but are stuck in last place in the AL West at 41-70. They were off Monday.
''Everything has gone in a different direction it's been hard for me,'' Martinez said. ''It's been hard for everyone in that clubhouse.
''It's baseball. Sometimes you have to go through that,'' he said. ''I never saw it coming.''
Martinez said he'd been thinking about retiring for a few weeks, adding, ''the decision came recently, within days.''
''Obviously it's very hard,'' he said. ''As a player, I feel in my mind and my heart that I want to keep playing, but my body's saying something different.''
As for why he announced his decision early, he said, ''I thought it was appropriate to do it now.''
Martinez might have a future role with the Mariners.
''If I had to predict, it would be something in uniform, teaching kids the game. He has the intellect and the ability to do anything in the game and do it well,'' Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said.
Said Martinez: ''At this point I don't know for sure. We're going to be talking about that in the near future ... That remains to be seen.''
Martinez often was slowed by leg injuries, and there was talk he might retire last year. But in November he signed a $3 million, one-year contract with an additional bonus based on plate appearances.
Martinez played almost exclusively at third base until becoming a full-time DH in 1995. He helped lead Seattle to the AL championship series three times, but never reached the World Series.
His biggest hit came in the first round of the 1995 AL playoffs. With the Mariners trailing the New York Yankees in the bottom of the 11th inning in the decisive Game 5 at the Kingdome, he delivered a two-run double down the left-field line, with Ken Griffey Jr. sliding home to send the Mariners into the ALCS against Cleveland.
Martinez said he stayed in Seattle the whole time because it was ''the perfect place for me.'' His wife also is from the area.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said Martinez's career in Seattle was one of the few times when ''the player becomes his team.''
''It's impossible to picture Edgar in anything but a Mariners uniform,'' he said. ''Edgar's history is Mariners history.''
Though the team began play in 1977, Armstrong said ''not much happened until Edgar arrived on the scene.''
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