All-Time Mariners Greats, Part I – The Hitters

Did you know there was a Mariners Hall of Fame?  I mean, I know I did, but I just wonder how well-known it is among Mariners fans.  It’s not exactly the Seahawks Ring of Honor or anything.  At least with the Ring of Honor you know you’re getting your number retired; the only number retired on the Mariners is 42 (for a guy who never played an inning in an M’s uniform).  Although, I guarantee that’s a symbolic gesture as the M’s are waiting for Ken Griffey Jr. to become eligible so he can be the first true Mariner to have his number retired (which, if you believe this Wikipedia entry, means we have to wait for Griffey to make the Major League Hall of Fame, which should be sometime in 2015).

Anyway, the Mariners Hall of Fame exists, and it has four members currently:  Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez.  That is, until this week, when Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson both cracked the prestigious honor.  It makes sense that they would go in together.  Not just because one was a pitcher who so often threw at the other, a catcher, but because apart they are both kind of iffy.  Yeah, everyone knows Dan Wilson belongs in the Mariners Hall of Fame; he was without question the greatest catcher we’ve ever had.  But, it’s not like he was some masher at the plate who tore up the record books.  He had a very pedestrian bat to go along with some crazy-good blocking skills and a decent arm to throw out baserunners.  If it weren’t for stupid Pudge, Dan Wilson would’ve been the guy racking up the Gold Gloves.  Nevertheless, Dan Wilson is a less-than-sexy pick.  People love Dan Wilson, but people don’t love Dan Wilson they way they love Bone or Gar or Junior.  They just lump him in with them, mostly because he was here for so long and he played with those guys.

Randy’s a little different, though.  While he was absolutely dominant from the point where he finally figured it all out (around the 1993 season) through the point where we foolishly traded him because we thought his back would eventually give out (at the 1998 trade deadline), Randy wasn’t exactly a lifelong Mariner.  Plus, he went on to have his most successful seasons after his tenure with Seattle.  To induct Randy by himself would seem like nothing more than a pisspoor gesture to get on his good side before he’s eventually inducted into the REAL Hall of Fame (with the hope being that he’d choose to wear a Mariner hat as he went in).

Together, though, you take two guys who are certainly DESERVING and make it more about the combo than it is about the individuals.  I think that’s smart.  With them, and with Griffey in a few years, we’ll finally have something here.  A nice cadre of players to look back on fondly (instead of just the generic ’95 team or ’01 team, etc.).

Anyway, I got to thinking about this today and it made me wonder:  what would the All-Time Mariner Team look like?  A lot of it is a slam dunk, to be quite honest, but there is still room for debate.

To kick things off, here is your starting nine:

DH – Edgar Martinez
1B – Alvin Davis
2B – Bret Boone
3B – Adrian Beltre
SS – Alex Rodriguez
LF – Ichiro
CF – Ken Griffey Jr.
RF – Jay Buhner
C – Dan Wilson

To be honest with you, the starting nine was easier than I thought it was going to be.  The most obvious choices were Edgar, Davis, Wilson, Griffey, Ichiro, and Buhner.  The only question would be:  who takes over in left, as both Bone & Ichiro are right fielders?  Obviously, I’m not going to be a stickler here and force some undeserving left fielder from the M’s past into my All Time lineup; that would be ridiculous.  There’s one great center fielder and two great right fielders, so that’s my outfield.  Since Ichiro has already endured a position change before in his Major League career (playing centerfield for Mike Hargrove), I tabbed him to take over in left.  Besides, with Bone’s legs, it’s best to just keep him and his rocket arm in right.  For the record, it would be interesting to see who had the better arm – Bone or Ichiro – in their respective primes.

The biggest point of contention would probably be second base.  I’m sure the old-time Mariners fans would say, “Where’s Harold Reynolds?”  I’ll tell you where he is!  Not on my team, that’s where!  Harold Reynolds SUCKED!  Just because you were with the Mariners for practically your entire career doesn’t automatically warrant you making the All Time Best Team.  In Bret Boone’s four highly-productive seasons between 2001 and 2004, he was one of the best – if not THE best – second baseman in the game.  His 2001 season ALONE would get him on my team.  I’m not looking for a long period of mediocrity, I’m looking for the best players who performed like superstars in a Mariners uniform.  Hence, Ka-Boone!

Third base was a struggle only because there haven’t been that many great Mariners third basemen over the years.  Adrian Beltre kinda seems like a cop-out because he was with us so recently … until you look at the dump heap that has manned the hot corner over the years.  Edgar played there, but you’d hardly consider him a fielder.  Jim Presley and Bill Stein were both pretty worthless.  Mike Blowers is only remembered fondly because he was on that ’95 team (he actually wasn’t all that great a player when you look at his career).  Russ Davis put up some solid numbers at the plate, but he was also Mr. Stone Hands in the field (highlighed by his 32 errors in 1998) even though he participated in one of the most memorable Mariners commercials ever, not starring Edgar Martinez.  So, really, that only leaves Adrian Beltre, who history will show was not NEARLY as bad as a lot of fans think he was.  Plus, his defense was second-to-none, so there you go.

A lot of people loathe A-Rod, but there’s just no denying that he was our greatest short stop ever, even if he only played here for five full seasons (and a small portion of two others).  He’s 4th on the M’s all time Home Runs list, 6th for RBI, 9th in doubles, 5th in stolen bases, and number one in OPS among Mariners who have had more than 100 games played.  I could go on and on.  His 1996 season was one of the greatest individual seasons I’ve ever seen (and the fact that he didn’t win the MVP is reason enough to firebomb any baseball writer’s house who didn’t vote for him that year).

Now that the starting nine is settled, here is what my batting lineup would look like:

  1. Ichiro (L)
  2. Boone (R)
  3. Griffey (L)
  4. Edgar (R)
  5. A-Rod (R)
  6. Buhner (R)
  7. Beltre (R)
  8. Davis (L)
  9. Wilson (R)

I like Ichiro in the leadoff spot, obviously, as he’s really the only leadoff hitter in the bunch.  I like Boone hitting second because he was always good at fouling off pitches and getting on base.  Griffey and Edgar get to keep their traditional spots.  That pushes A-Rod to 5th and Bone to 6th.  I’ve got Davis 8th just to break up the monotony of righties in there.

For my team, I’ve got a 5-man bench.  Backup catcher was next-to-impossible to figure out.  In the end, I settled on Kenji Johjima’s bat over some other longstanding, offensively-challenged individuals.  For my reserve outfielder, I went with Mike Cameron, because I figure he had close to Griffey’s range, he could play all three positions, and he could knock a dinger or two when need be.  My backup infielder is Omar Vizquel, because you’ve gotta have a great glove to backup short stop just in case; and no one’s better than Little O.  For my utility player, I went with Mark McLemore, because he could just about play every position on the field, and he was surprisingly effective at the plate.  For my final bench spot, I decided that I needed a left-handed power bat.  You know, in case I wanted to pinch hit for Beltre or Wilson or something late in the game.  This proved to be rather disappointing, because I pretty much just went with the next-highest home run total who wasn’t already on the team.  That turned out to be Raul Ibanez, who I suppose could – besides being a reserve left fielder when Ichiro needs a break NEVER – play a little first base and be an emergency catcher.  Anyway, did you know that Raul is 7th on the Mariners’ all time home runs list?  How sad is that?  Did you know that 7th amounts to 127 home runs?  How sad is THAT?

So, there it is.  There’s my bench:

C – Kenji Johjima
OF – Mike Cameron
INF – Omar Vizquel
Util – Mark McLemore
OF/PH – Raul Ibanez

Tomorrow, I’ll get into the pitchers.  Spoiler alert:  the bullpen is ridiculously difficult to figure out.

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