The Seattle Mariners Mount Rushmore (or maybe Rainier in this case) is the sixth in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.
The definitive history of the Seattle Mariners has already been made, and this author will not attempt to compete. If the reader has not already seen it, please do so immediately and before continuing with this article:
What defines a franchise?
Seattle has fielded a professional baseball team since 1890. Perhaps appropriately, the Hustlers got things started, followed by the Rainmakers, Clamdiggers, Siwashes, Turks, Giants, Rainiers, Indians, Angels, and Pilots before the Mariners joined Major League Baseball.
Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities.
For the purposes of this series, however, OTH is embracing the idea that these iterations are one club telling a shared story. These teams represented Seattle in professional baseball. They played with Seattle written proudly on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase that enjoyed successes and lamented failures.
This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.
The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.
1890 in the minors; 1969 in the majors
- Hustlers (1890-1892)
- Rainmakers (1896)
- Clamdiggers (1898, 1901-1902)
- Siwashes (1903-1908)
- Turks (1909)
- Giants (1910-1918)
- Rainiers (1919-1921, 1938-1964, 1972-1976)
- Indians (1922-1937)
- Angels (1965-1968)
- Pilots (1969)
- Mariners (1977-2021)
Pacific Northwest League pennant (1)
Northwestern League pennants (3)
Pacific Coast League pennants (8)
Seattle Mariners Mount Rushmore
After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in Seattle Mariners history.
Ken Griffey Jr
- Seattle Years: 1989-1999, 2009-2010
- Seattle Stats: 70.6 WAR, .292/.374/.553, 417 HR, 341 2B, 144 OPS+, 3,495 TB
All Ken Griffey Jr. ever wanted was to go home. Sometimes this was metaphorical and took the form of 630 home runs, 1,662 regular season runs scored, and one epic series-winning run. But this desire was also literal: Griffey, the tortured soul always seeking refuge, whether by welcoming his father as his teammate, signing with his hometown Cincinnati, or driving faster than physics allows from Seattle to his Orlando home.
Griffey’s off-field desire to come home was understandable. A combination of depression, discrimination, and generational judgment made for rough times away. Griffey projected an always smiling image, the Kid who loved life and relished his opportunity to participate in the show.
And that was true, he was and did. Simultaneously, he suffered from depression and even attempted suicide early in his career. His desire to return home surely was enforced by the disdain thrown at him by traditionalists, who threw a verifiable fit over his choice to wear his hat backward in batting practice, further exacerbating his childhood brush with likely discriminatory practices by the New York Yankees.
Of course, Griffey’s desire to come home on the field owes itself not to deeper meaning but to the very objective of the game. He averaged 32 homers, 94 runs batted in, and 86 runs scored per season with Seattle. His advanced stats tell an even more compelling story: 350 runs from batting, 468 runs better than average, and 732 runs above replacement level. His defensive run prevention wonderfully complemented his offensive production. Griffey received ten Gold Gloves playing a mesmerizing centerfield.
- Seattle Years: 2001-2012, 2018-2019
- Seattle Stats: 56.4 WAR, .321/365/.416, 2,542 H, 295 2B, 438 SB, 102 Rfield
Many know of the Ichiro craze of 2001. The Japanese superstar known simply by his first name generated immense excitement in his home continent and newfound home. Reporters flocked, cameras clicked, and merchandise materialized. His rookie card was allegedly going for a high price on the relatively new eBay, seemingly justifying at least one particular child’s over-purchase of 2001 packs.
Ichiro Suzuki more than met the hype. In his inaugural major league campaign, he earned Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. Suzuki broke the all-time single-season hits record by hitting safely 262 times (an average of 1.6 every game). Factoring in his NPB wins above replacement at a reduced level to take into account the more limited competition, Suzuki ranks 34th all-time with 96.7. After a 28-year career spanning two continents and four clubs, it was altogether fitting that Ichiro finished with his longest-tenured team in his home country with his main MLB team in a sublime sendoff.
- Seattle Years: 1987-2004
- Seattle Stats: 68.4 WAR, .312/.418/.515, 147 OPS+, 2,247 H, 309 HR, 514 2B
In September 1987, a talented third baseman finally reached the big leagues. Edgar Martinez spent the preceding months honing his batting in Calgary after leading Southern League third basemen in fielding percentage the year before. After four seasons in the minors, Martinez made the most of his break into the majors, hitting .372 over 13 games.
Yet, he would have to fight for his roster spot for two more years. The Mariners already had a third baseman, and the team did not consider Martinez for any other starting spot. At long last, he was tasked with replacing a poor-fielding Darnell Coles. Martinez subsequently became the regular third baseman until an injury forced him into the designated hitter role.
His career slash of over .300/.400/.500 is matched by only 18 other major leaguers. “The Double,” his series-winning, walk-off hit in the 1995 American League Division Series, is often credited with saving Major League Baseball in Seattle and getting T-Mobile (nee Safeco) Field built. With impressive career numbers, single-season accolades, and a legendary local status, Martinez fits comfortably on the Seattle Mount Rushmore.
- Seattle Years: 2005-2019
- Seattle Stats: 50.2 WAR, 3.42 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 2,524 K, 3.52 FIP, 8.3 K/9
Felix Hernandez was a career Mariner whose excellent performances on some relatively bad Seattle teams made the definitive case that baseball writers and fans should once and for all abandon wins and losses and embrace earned run average, walks plus hits per inning pitched, and other metrics for evaluating a pitcher’s performance. In 2009, Hernandez went 19 and 5 with a 2.49 earned run average, 71 walks, 327 strikeouts, 17 wild pitches, 171 adjusted ERA, 3.09 fielding independent pitching, 1.135 WHIP, 7.5 hits per nine innings, and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The very next year, Hernandez improved on all these statistics except for wins and losses (to the tune of 13 and 12).
The difference: the 2009 squad went 85 and 77; the 2010 iteration garnered an abysmal 61 wins and 101 losses. Savvy baseball writers recognized greatness both years, giving Hernandez second-place in Cy Young Award voting in 2009 and first place in 2010.
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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images