Originally created 09/16/97

If Seattle joins NL, Martinez could be out



SEATTLE - If the Seattle Mariners move to the National League, the best designated hitter in baseball might be playing elsewhere next season.

With major league owners to begin meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday, Edgar Martinez waits to see what the future holds. And he could find out soon - realignment could be decided this week.

The Mariners want to move to the National League to increase television revenue and cut travel.

"We expect that to happen," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said of a move to the NL.

"I don't want to speculate on that right now," Martinez said. "Let's just see what happens."

Martinez, a two-time American League batting champion, was No. 4 among AL hitters with a .333 average after Sunday's game. But the designated hitter will be a player without a position if Seattle joins the NL.

Martinez has been in the Mariners' organization since 1983 and is one of the most popular players in team history. He's a big reason why the Mariners this year will draw 3 million fans for the first time.

Martinez is under contract through 1998. The club has an option of picking up his contract for 1999, when the Mariners are scheduled to move into a new outdoor ballpark.

Will Martinez be with them in their new stadium? For now, the Mariners aren't saying.

"Edgar Martinez has been with this organization for his entire career," Armstrong said. "He's a valued member of this organization. We have not discussed that subject."

Armstrong said manager Lou Piniella and general manager Woody Woodward were more interested in trying to win the AL West for the second time in three years than making decisions about the club's future.

If the three AL West Coast teams - Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim - move to the NL in '98, the Mariners would have to find a place for him in the field. That is if they choose to keep Martinez.

Martinez, who will be 35 on Jan. 2, thinks he could become a position player again after being the DH the past three seasons. He said he thinks he can play both third base, his former position, or first, though first base would be more likely.

If the Mariners move to the NL, they could trade him to an AL team to get more pitching. Or, with first baseman Paul Sorrento a free agent after the season, they could decide to move Martinez to first.

If not, the Mariners should be able to get some valuable pitching for the player with 143 career homers.

Martinez, who is earning $3 million this season, is having another outstanding year. Through Sunday, he had 26 home runs and 105 RBIs as the cleanup hitter behind Ken Griffey Jr.

He's a four-time All-Star who was voted the AL's DH All-Star this season. He won his first batting title in 1992 with a .343 average and a second in 1995 at .356.

He said his goal now is to get into his first World Series. And the Mariners, with a 51/2 -game lead over Anaheim in the AL West going into Monday night, have a chance to do that. In '95, Seattle lost to Cleveland in the playoffs.

Before Martinez, the Mariners' DHs included Willie Horton, Richie Zisk and Gorman Thomas, all fan favorites.

"I think the fans here really enjoy the extra offense," Martinez said.