20 Pitchers That Define the Seattle Mariners
Pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training and opening day is just around the corner.
In Arizona, Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee have the baseball world abuzz with anticipation of the impact they can make on the landscape of Seattle baseball.
Will they answer the call to arms with a team monopoly in the pursuit of the American League Cy Young Award? Will they struggle or suffer injuries and fail to achieve the lofty predictions of their fans?
Regardless of the overall accomplishments of the two-headed beast atop the Mariner’s pitching rotation, 2010 will be a year that leaves a lasting impression on the history of Seattle baseball, for better or for worse.
Be it good, bad, or ugly, many pitchers have left their mark on the maturation of the Seattle Mariners during their 33-year lifespan (34 including the one year existence of the Seattle Pilots).
Some pitchers were unbelievably successful and helped launch the organization to new heights. Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer exemplify the quirkiness and individuality the northwest part of the country is renowned for. They also set new standards for all future M’s pitchers to aspire to.
Others have been so abysmal that fans dare not speak their names or repeat their feats of agony. Steve Trout, Heathcliff Slocomb, Bobby Ayala, Matt Young, and Mike Morgan surely made some positive contributions, but their defining moments with the Mariners are not something they would voluntarily share with their grandchildren at the dinner table.
Some pitchers had little to contribute directly to the team, but indirectly added colorful chapters to the ever-growing book of history that defines the depths of Mariner’s pith and pity over the years. Gaylord Perry and Diego Segui have their places reserved in the Mariners Hall of Fame, but not because of substantial career achievements in Seattle.
In this chronological tale, share the joy, the tears, the laughter, and the absurdity of the 20 pitchers who helped make the Mariners who they are today and will forever live in the memories of Mariners' fans.
20. It’s like Déjà Vu all over again, and again
Right-handed pitcher Diego Segui broke into the majors with the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. After limited success with Kansas City/Oakland, Segui sported a 42-59 overall record when joining the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969.
He pitched in relief in the inaugural game for the Pilots, earning a hold during the first win of Seattle’s MLB history.
At the end of the season, the Pilots were purchased by Bud Selig and relocated to Milwaukee, leading to a lawsuit against MLB. Seattle's Kingdome was built in anticipation of acquiring both MLB and NFL franchises, and the Seattle Mariners were born (again?) in 1977.
The starting pitcher for the Mariner’s inaugural game was a familiar link to the past. Diego Segui took the mound and lost 7-0 to the California Angels.
Both the ’69 Pilots and ’77 Mariners finished with the same 64-98 record. Segui had his best career year statistically with the Pilots, going 12-6 with a 3.35 ERA. He had his worst career year statistically with the Mariners going 0-7 in 40 games (just 8 starts).
Diego Segui’s only season with the Mariners was his final season in the Majors as he ended his career with a sub-par 92-111 overall record.
However, Segui again played a part in Seattle franchise history as his son David played for the Mariners, continuing the father/son history Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. created in the early 90’s.
Unlike its predecessors, history was unkind to the Segui family in regards to Mariner team success. Sandwiched between the “Refuse to Lose” team of 1995 and the 2000 team that barely made the playoffs, the M’s had two losing seasons, while David played for Seattle from 1998-1999. He did his part in 1998, with arguably his best overall year: 19 home runs, 84 RBI, and a .305 batting average.
David Segui later tested positive for a banned substance, casting doubt on his two best years of 1997 in Montreal and 1998 with Seattle.
Diego Segui will hold a special place in the hearts of Seattle fans for his unique status as probably the only person that will ever have played in two inaugural games for two different franchises. However, from start to finish, the Segui name is way too much of a connection to the struggles of beginning a new franchise (twice) and how the continued success is difficult to sustain.
19. Sometimes Moore is Less
Seattle had the first overall pick in the 1981 MLB Draft and chose a promising young right-hander named Mike Moore. The franchise was just five seasons old when Moore made it to the big leagues in 1982.
Big Mike did not make an immediate impact, as he finished the year 7-14 with a 5.36 ERA in 144 innings. In fact, Moore was hardly ever an impact player with the Mariners, as he started a disturbing trend of Seattle pitchers who struggled in the Emerald City only to find success with other franchises.
Matt Young was Moore’s teammate with the Mariners between 1983 and 1988, and they both share the Seattle-franchise record of 19 losses in one season. Young also lost 18 games in 1990.
In 1992, the Red Sox and Indians played a doubleheader. Young, now playing for Boston, got the start in the first game. He placed his name in the annals of MLB history with an “unrecognized” no-hitter because he only pitched eight innings. Young took the loss as Cleveland scored two runs on seven walks and a Red Sox error.
Roger Clemens pitched the second game and got a win with a two-hitter. The doubleheader is still a Major League record for the least number of total hits by an opponent in a two game set.
Mike Moore is more relevant in his successes after life in Seattle. A workhorse pitcher, he had moments of brilliance. His best year with Seattle was 1985, as he went 17-11 with a 3.46 ERA, pitching 14 complete games and 247 innings. Overall, he never really turned the corner, as he had double-digit losses in all six of the full seasons he played with the Mariners.
On Sept. 17, 1988, Moore pitched one of the classic games in Mariners’ history, firing a two-hitter and walking none while striking out eight. Both hits were erased by double plays and it remains the only game in Seattle history in which a pitcher faced the minimum 27 batters.
Mike Moore is the Yen and Yang of Mariners history: the good and the bad, the hope and the sorrow.
He ranks fifth all-time in wins for the Mariners, but ranks first in losses. He ranks first in complete games, third in innings pitched and fourth in strikeouts. He also ranks 26th in ERA and last in hits allowed and losses in a single season.
Moore left the Mariners after the 1988 season with a 66-96 record and a 4.38 ERA.
In 1989, he joined the Oakland Athletics and promptly showed his true potential with an all-star season that saw him go 19-11 with a 2.61 ERA. He picked up two victories in the A’s World Series win over the San Francisco Giants in the “Earthquake Series.”
Moore also pitched for the A’s in their 1990 World Series loss to Lou Piniella’s Cincinnati Reds.
Piniella and Reds’ reliever Norm Charlton would later join the Mariners. Maybe that was the Karma the M’s needed to reverse the curse of the Mike Moore era in Seattle: Adding members of the team that knocked him back down to earth to start their own tradition of winning.
Apparently, it worked as the Mariners’ first taste of winning occurred in the ‘90s.
Moore is still considered a huge reason why the Mariners improved in the 80s, sometimes even flirting with a .500 record. But he is a sore subject with Mariners' fans who saw him flourish with their division rivals.
18. Meet the Fockers
Only in the Movies can the name Gaylord be more popular than baseball legend and Hall-of-Famer, Gaylord Perry.
In the movie “Meet the Parents” we were introduced to Gaylord Focker, played by Ben Stiller, who is a bumbling mess of nerves around his fiancé’s Ex-CIA father.
Gaylord Perry had his own movie plots at times.
It was rumored in 1963 that he was quoted as saying “they will put a man on the moon before I hit a home run.” Then, just like the script should read, on July 20th, 1969, mere minutes after Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the Rock-of-Cheese in the sky, Gaylord smacked one out of the park.
Perry was always comfortable in the spotlight. His career would make a perfect movie for a hero or a villain.
He was the leading man on several occasions: throwing a no-hitter in 1968; winning the Cy Young in both leagues; and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
He was the arch-nemesis on occasion, as his name is often mentioned in the ageless art of doctoring a baseball to gain a competitive advantage.
He claims he was once rebuffed by the makers of Vaseline when he approached them about being a spokesman for their product. In a one sentence reply, the company explained their product is used to soothe babies’ backsides, not baseballs.
In 1982, the Mariners decided to bring Perry into the fold as veteran leadership to help develop some of their young pitchers. However, as a young, struggling franchise, they were also looking for someone to help fill the seats and give the audience something to cheer about.
On May 16, Mariners fans witnessed history when Perry got his 300th career victory. He was the first pitcher to reach that plateau since Early Wynn in 1963. The Mariners finally became a part of baseball history even if it was in the twilight of the career of one of baseball’s most off-color stars.
Perry and Rich “Goose” Gossage are currently the only two players in the Hall of Fame that played a game in a Mariners uniform. That will change in coming years with Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., and Edgar Martinez likely Hall-bound. But in 1982, Gaylord played the lead role in the blockbuster hit of the summer.
Roll credits and fade to black.
17. Back to the Future
Left-handed starter Mark Langston was the Mariners’ first pitcher who really gained national notoriety. He recorded double-digit wins in four of his five full seasons with Seattle from 1984-1989. His best year with the Mariners was 1987 when he tallied 19 wins, then a Mariners' record.
Langston was the ace of the hopeful trio of young pitchers that also included Mike Moore and Matt Young They made up a rotation that moved the Mariners out of baseball obscurity and into a relatively respectable team.
In 1989, Langston made his biggest contribution to the organization by leaving. The Mariners feared losing him to free agency so they traded him to the Montreal Expos. The key piece in the 3-for-1 trade was a prospective closer named Gene Harris. The other two players included a tall, awkward, flame-throwing left-handed project named Randy Johnson and a righty named Brian Holman whom were projected as average pitchers at the major league level.
Langston gave Seattle the best parting gift ever in a future Hall-of-Famer (Johnson) and a very good starting pitcher (Holman) whose career was cut short by injury. The two prospects would help create a winning attitude in the clubhouse that would propel the M’s to their first winning season (1991) and their first playoff appearance (1995).
Langston became a “rental player” for Montreal. He signed with the M’s division rival Anaheim Angels in 1990 where he continued the theme of “success after Seattle” by pitching a combined no hitter with Mike Witt. It remains the last no-hitter for the Angels.
Unlike Mariners before him, he actually gave something back to Seattle for the future instead of just leaving for greener pastures.
Langston still holds several team records for the Mariners including career pickoffs, home runs allowed in a game (5), consecutive strikeouts (7), consecutive scoreless innings (34.1), complete games in a season (14), innings pitched in a season (272), batters faced in a season (1,152), and earned runs allowed in a season (129).
Many would say that Griffey and the ’95 team saved baseball in Seattle, but true Mariner fans know that team would have never been built without the Langston trade.
16. School’s Out for Summer
Baseball is a game played in the hottest days of the year; the dog days of summer, played by the boys of summer. The all-star game is played in the middle of summer vacation.
Whether marketing genius or just common sense, baseball became the national pastime largely because it appealed to both children and adults. It caters to the schedule of kids’ availability in the late afternoon, spring and summer breaks, and double-headers on a Saturday.
The game has forever been a right of passage handed down from father to son. Often, it has taken priority over school teachings on important occasions like opening day, playoff games, or even just a Wednesday.
When Mike Schooler, the Seattle Mariners’ first real dominant closer, made his entrance in the ninth inning, it was Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” that blared over the speaker system in the Kingdome.
It was symbolic for many reasons outside of the obvious association to part of the pitcher’s last name.
It signified that school was out. It was literal in the sense that the teaching is done and the fun is beginning. For opposing batters, it was symbolic that their daily vacation was about to begin as the end of the game was for the most part just a formality.
Unlike most major league players, Schooler was atypically average at baseball in high school, but was always determined to pitch in “The Bigs.”
In the summer of 1988, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I knew there was something inside of me. I knew I wasn’t as bad as some people said I was.”
He took over as the closer for the Mariners in the second half of the ’88 season, struggling very little while saving 15 games and striking out better than a batter an inning.
In 1989, Schooler improved his control and really lit things up. He had 33 saves and a 2.81 ERA in 60 games. He ranked third in the American League in saves behind only Jeff Russell and Bobby Thigpen, although he pitched for a team finishing with far fewer wins.
Schooler was “schooling” batters in 1990, compiling 30 saves with a minuscule ERA of 2.25 in just 49 games played when the injury came.
Shortly after taking the loss in the 11th inning of Erik Hanson’s classic duel with Oakland’s Dave Stewart on Aug. 1, shoulder stiffness forced him to miss more than a month at the end of the season.
He missed the first half of the ’91 season and posted seven saves in the second half despite pain and discomfort He was never the same, and after a horrible year with the Texas Rangers, he was forced to retire.
Schooler’s 98 saves still rank third in Mariners’ history. His career ERA was 3.49, despite a 4.70 and 5.55 ERA in ’92 and ’93 respectively, when his arm was a noodle.
No doubt he still enjoys the dog days of summer, but for Mariners fans the infamous lyrics of Alice Cooper still ring sorrowful, “School’s out, forever.”
15. Haunted by the ghost of Mariner’s past
Considered by many to be the third best pitcher the Mariners received in the Mark Langston deal, Brian Holman’s statistics seemed to dictate otherwise.
Holman had very good stats in the minors with the Montreal Expos, and on several occasions, was named the player of the month or picked for an all-star team in double-A leagues. He was named the Southern League’s pitcher of the year.
He came up through the system rather quickly and was slated as a middle-of-the-rotation type pitcher. His first win in the majors was a five-hit, complete game shutout against Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves.
Once being traded to Seattle, he became a mainstay in the rotation and was the opening night starter in 1990, succeeding Mark Langston, the player he was traded for. He was becoming the head “Regulator” in the group of “Young Guns” Scott Bankhead, Eric Hanson, and Randy Johnson.
Holman’s career was filled with potential but seemed always to end in heartache. He never had a winning record in a single season, but his career ERA was just 3.71.
One game, on Apr. 20, 1990 in Oakland would serve as a microcosm of his career. No Mariners’ pitcher had ever pitched a no-hitter, not to mention a perfect game, but Holman had mowed down 26 straight batters when former Mariner Ken Phelps stepped up to the plate as a pinch-hitter.
This was an easy out, right? Phelps was washed-up. He was traded from Seattle to the Yankees in 1988 for Jay Buhner. He was a bust in New York and hadn’t hit a single home run for Oakland.
Moments later, the perfect game was gone. The no-hitter was gone. The shutout was gone. Kenny Phelps launched a shot over the head of outfielder Henry Cotto for a home run and Holman settled for the ninth one-hitter in Seattle history.
Holman was solid for the M’s in his short tenure, but an arm injury forced him out of the game before he could fulfill his potential. He finished his career with 14 complete games, five of them shutouts in just three seasons.
14. West Coast Bias: An Unbelievable Night in Oakland
Erik Hanson spent the better part of four years in the Mariner’s minor league system. In 1990, he completed his first full season for Seattle going 18-9 with a 3.24 ERA, five complete games, and 236 innings pitched.
That’s an all-star season right? Not when you’re hidden in the Northwest on a team that had never posted a winning record in a season. Was it a conspiracy? An East Coast bias? Or just a bunch of whining Seattleites who couldn’t seem to realize that their players simply aren’t as good as the rest of the players in the league?
Let’s answer that by fast-forwarding to the future a little bit.
Hanson signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 1995. He pitched well, going 15-5 with a 4.24 ERA and a single complete game shutout in just 186 innings.
In Boston, where the media could watch his filthy pitching repertoire, Hanson was an immediate pick for the all-star team and conspiracy theorists resurfaced in the streets of Seattle.
Prior to the rest of the world knowing about Erik, West Coast baseball junkies were privileged to see one of the best pitching duals of the 1990’s as most of the east coast slept.
Dave Stewart, Oakland’s preeminent pitcher of their heyday was on cruise control. Hanson was matching him, no out-pitching him. Carney Lansford got a single in the fourth inning and the A’s had no other hits during the first nine frames.
Hanson pitched the 10th inning, giving up a hit and a wild pitch, but escaped the inning without damage. Meanwhile, Stewart was still in the game for Oakland and was holding the Mariners’ batters to just five hits in eleven innings.
The M’s went to Mike Schooler in the 11th and he gave up the winning run as the A’s won 1-0.
It was 21 innings of dominant pitching by the two starters and the pitcher with a no-decision gave up only two hits. Hanson would admit, “that’s as good as I can throw on any given night.”
It was the second year in a row (see Brian Holman) the Mariners had received a classic pitching performance against the World Series representative for the American League, showing just how close the Mariners were to turning the corner to becoming a winning team.
In 1991, the Mariners would have their first winning season, but the success would be limited by a rash of injuries to key players and free agency. Erik Hanson was one of those casualties, as the Mariners knew they could not afford to resign him and traded him to Cincinnati in 1994 along with Bret Boone for Catcher Dan Wilson reliever Bobby Ayala.
At least, like Mark Langston, the Mariners got something in return for Hanson as All-Star Dan Wilson was one of the best defensive catchers in Major League history and was the man behind the plate for Randy Johnson’s 1995 Cy Young season.
13. Tim Raines said what?
One day in 1988, during batting practice, the Montreal Expos’ Tim Raines collided head-first with a young, 6'10'' pitcher named Randy Johnson. Raines looked up and exclaimed, “You are a big unit.” The nickname stuck and the Big Unit went on to become one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball.
Coming to the Mariners in the Mark Langston trade in 1989, Randy was a work in progress. In 1990 he showed his volcanic upside pitching the first no-hitter in Mariners history against the Detroit Tigers. However, his rawness also showed as he walked six batters in the game.
Later that year, he struck out 19 Chicago White Sox batters in a five-hit shutout walking just three batters. He seemed to be growing, but was still erratic in most of his starts.
In ‘91 and ‘92 he led the league in walks and in ’93 and ’94 he led the league in hit batters. He also had over 200 strikeouts each of those years.
The development of the Big Unit took a huge step upwards at the end of the 1992 season as he looked to Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan for help. Ryan noticed a flaw in his mechanics and the fix resulted in his patented slider, Mr. Snappy, becoming a lethal weapon, especially combined with his 100 mile per hour fastball.
All of Randy’s accomplishments could compose a series of books, so the focus here will be on his defining moments with the Mariners. Not the no-hitter. Not the multiple one-hit masterpieces. Not the strikeouts. Not John Kruk’s infamous at-bat in the All-Star game.
Randy has three specific defining moments with Seattle that ultimately affected the state of the Mariners today.
In 1995, the Mariners team had the slogan “Refuse to Lose,” based on the late season heroics that saw them catch the Anaheim Angels, overcoming a 14-game divisional deficit. The Mariners and Angels tied for the best record in the American League West and were destined to play a one-game playoff to see which team would play the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
Johnson pitched a three-hit shutout, dominating the Angels with 12 strikeouts. Defining moment number one was in the history books. The Mariners had finally won a division championship after 18 seasons and were on their way to the playoffs for the first time.
Randy was unable to pitch in the five-game series against the heavily favored Yankees until Game 3 because of the one-game playoff, watching as Seattle fell behind two games to none. Seattle won game three behind the Unit’s seven-inning, 10 strikeout performance, but Game 5 is where his second defining moment came.
The series was tied and game five was deadlocked at 4-4 after nine innings, when Randy was called upon in relief. His slow walk from the bullpen ignited the crowd and his teammates. He pitched the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings on short rest and allowed a run in the final frame as the Yankees looked poised to steal the series.
The Mariners drew upon their refuse-to-lose attitude in the bottom of the 12th inning, winning the game on Edgar Martinez’ double that scored Ken Griffey Jr.
Randy Johnson had played a pivotal part in the Mariners’ success in 1995 winning the Cy Young Award with an 18-2 record, a 2.48 ERA, and 294 punch-outs. However, Randy’s emotion and leadership was the catalyst that propelled the M’s to their most successful season to date and cemented him as a legend in Seattle.
His last defining moment came in 1998. Following his fantastic 1997 season in which Johnson had a 20–4 record (the first 20-win season for a Mariner), 291 strikeouts, and a 2.28 ERA, the Mariners were distraught over their finances.
Trying to figure out how to support a payroll that included big raises to many stars from the ’95 team as well as upcoming contract negotiations with Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson, the Mariners chose to trade the Big Unit for a big ransom.
The idea was that they might be able to resign one or maybe two of the three huge superstars and Randy was coming off back surgery in 1996. The risk out-weighed the reward and the upside of Alex Rodriguez was taking the focus of the team’s budget.
Randy was sent to the Houston Astros midway through the 1998 season for pitchers John Halama, Freddy Garcia, and shortstop Carlos Guillen.
Johnson was dominant the rest of his career winning four more Cy Young Awards, a World Series, and pitched a perfect game as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In 1999, Griffey Jr. requested to be traded (following the death of his Orlando neighbor, golfer Payne Stewart) to be closer to his family. In 2000, Alex Rodriguez opted to sign a $250 million free-agent contract with Texas. Seattle had lost all three of their superstars.
Mariners’ fans felt soulless and empty during the 2000 off-season despite the recent opening of Safeco Field that was built because of the success of the ’95 team. The players who were supposed to lead Seattle toward a dynasty were gone. The easiest one to sign may have been the Big Unit, but hindsight is 20/20, and the rest is history.
Fortunately, for the Mariners, 2001 fielded a very productive team put together by free agent signings like Ichiro Suzuki and players obtained in the trades for the Big Unit and The Kid. Their success soothed the transition into the next chapter of Mariners’ history, but fans are still wondering what could have been if the Unit was a life-long Mariner.
Randy won 130 games for the Mariners, more than he won with any of the other five teams he played for. He developed into a dominant force in Seattle. He owns 10 of the 15 greatest pitching efforts in Mariner history. Despite his grand success after leaving Seattle, when he goes into the Hall of Fame Mariner fans hope he is wearing a hat with a triad or a compass on it. That would be the ultimate defining moment for Seattle baseball.
12. How About an Encore?
In 1993, the Mariners added a free-agent pitcher from Milwaukee named Chris Bosio.
Randy Johnson threw the Mariners’ first no-hitter in 1990. Chris Bosio was no Randy Johnson, except on one night in April 1993, he may have thought he was.
The game even started very “Big Unit-like” as Bosio was a little erratic and walked the first two batters he faced. Apparently, he overcame his nerves and found his control because he sat down the next 27 Boston Red Sox hitters: No hits, no walks, and no errors.
A perfect game was pitched that night; it just started two batters too late. It may have been the most impressive game in Mariners history. Randy Johnson had several one-hit performances that were more impressive than his own no-hitter. Brian Holman and Eric Hanson also had magical nights, but a no-hitter is something on a higher level.
No other Mariner has pitched a no-no since Bosio. He was never as good again as he was that night, retiring in 1997 after finishing three years in Seattle with a 27-31 record and a 4.43 ERA.
He did return to the Mariners as a special assignment pitching coach from 2000-2002. During that time, the Mariners relied on pitching and defense in spacious Safeco Field.
The M’s were coming off consecutive losing seasons, and the pitching successes that propelled the team through winning seasons in 2000-2002 (including the record 116 wins in 2001) were partly because of Bosio’s contributions.
He made limited contributions as a player, but his no-hitter shows the Mariners are not just a one-trick pony when it comes to pitching. Still, he was no Randy Johnson.
11. Its Kind of like Gum Stuck to Your Shoe
With every step, the bottom of the shoe sticks to the surface. The cluster of goo is mostly harmless, though it could ruin the carpet or flooring and it is beyond annoying.
Pick as you may, the complete residue of the sticky intruder will not fully remove itself from your sneaker. It gets stuck in the crevices of the tread and takes anchor. The shoes are placed aside as the annoyance is unbearable.
Like the inevitable reoccurrence of a villain in a horror movie, the blob returns when you see the shoes while cleaning out the closet. Remembering the good times, you put them on and forget about the pestilent nature of the aforementioned partnership with Double-Bubble’s private reserve.
This is how the relationship was between the Mariners and reliever Jeff Nelson. He was a little too outspoken. He was, at times, arrogant. He was sometimes just annoying. He was also very productive.
Nelson played with the Mariners from 1992-1995. He was almost un-hittable as a set-up man in ’95, going 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 62 games. He had 96 strikeouts in 78 innings. He was paramount in holding opponents from scoring late in the game while the Mariners’ comeback kids won games in abundance in late innings.
After the ’95 season he rubbed management the wrong way and they sent him to the New York Yankees before the 1996 season. He was productive in his Yankee years, but was just as abrasive. In 2000, Nelson told the New York press that Yankees manager and all-star game skipper Joe Torre would regret not naming him to the AL team at the 2000 Mid-Summer Classic. He became a free-agent after that season and the Yankees untied the laces and let loose of their tainted pair of shoes as well.
Seattle signed Nelson, apparently desperate for slightly flawed, quality footwear. From 2001-2003, he formed the right side of Seattle's potent lefty/righty setup squad along with left-handed pitcher Arthur Rhodes.
In 2001 he held opposing batters to a .136 batting average and a .199 slugging percentage. This time Torre bucked the trend and selected Nelson to the 2001 All-Star Game hosted in Seattle (resulting in Jamie Moyer being an all-star snub) and he was vindicated in his criticism from the previous year.
The gum started to get sticky again in 2003. The Mariners were showing signs of losing their lead in the division race when Nelson blasted Seattle management as they failed to acquire an impact player at the trading deadline. Subsequently, the Mariners did make a trade, shipping their gooey shoes again to the Yankees.
Once more, however, Nelson had the last laugh. He was productive in the post-season with the Yankees and the Mariners slowly lost the AL West lead and failed to make the post season by a very small margin.
In 2005, those comfy shoes resurfaced again and Nelson started his third tour with the Mariners. He was mostly ineffective this time in an injury riddled season where he pitched sparingly before he was forced to retire.
Jeff Nelson still holds the record for games pitched (432) and is second in career ERA (3.26) for Seattle. Nelson is second in post season games all-time behind former teammate Mariano Rivera. In his 55 playoff game appearances with Seattle and New York he held batters to a .191 average.
Every time there was a magical moment in Seattle between 1995 and 2003, Jeff Nelson was a part of it. Every time there was a drop in production in that same time frame, Nelson was playing elsewhere.
Maybe it wasn’t gum at all. Maybe he was the glue that held the team together.
10. But I Didn’t Shoot the Deputy
Mike Schooler’s arm issues left the Mariners without a real closer for the better part of the 1992 season. So, new manager Lou Piniella reached out to an old friend from his days in Cincinnati and Norm Charlton became the closer in 1993.
Charlton was best known as one of the “Nasty Boys” in Cincinnati along with Rob Dibble and Randy Myers. Lou knew he could be a closer based on his 26 saves in 64 games for the Reds in 1992, but was probably surprised at how well “The Sheriff” took to the role.
Norm pitched in 34 games in 1993, had 18 saves, and a 2.34 ERA before his elbow gave way and needed dreaded Tommy John surgery.
The Sheriff was loved in Seattle and after a short time with the Phillies he was traded back to the M’s and was dominant again for half of the 1995 season. He appeared in 30 games and contributed 14 saves and a ridiculous 1.51 ERA in the Mariners’ run to the playoffs.
He pitched for the Mariners in 1996, but his 20 saves in 70 games were not as impressive as his earlier performances and his ERA rose dramatically to 4.04. In 1997, it got even worse as his saves total dropped to just 14 in 71 games and his ERA ballooned to 7.27.
There is only room for one thing in Seattle that has the numbers 727 on it and that is a commercial airplane produced by Boeing, so the "Sheriff" was asked to leave town by sunset.
For some unknown reason, the Baltimore Orioles signed Norm to huge contract for the 1998 season. He was a big disappointment and was released on Jul. 28.
Like Jeff Nelson, Charlton would call Seattle home a third time as a player. In 2001, he teamed up with Nelson, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Arthur Rhodes to form one of the most successful bullpens in history. As a lefty specialist, The Sheriff was more like a deputy in the town he used to run, but his production was much better as his 44 appearances netted a respectable 3.02 ERA and he even picked up a save along the way.
The 2001 team had an unprecedented regular season, never losing three games in a row all year long and with their shutdown bullpen they held opponents to 300 less runs than the Mariners’ offense scored. The Mariners led the league in most runs scored and least runs allowed. They set an American League record with 116 wins.
That was the Sheriff’s last year and this time he rode off into the sunset on his terms with his head held high and M’s fans shedding tears of joy.
9. The Late (and Very Slow) Bloomer
Mariners Trivia Speed Round...
Question No. 1: Which Mariners’ pitcher holds the team record for career victories?
Question No. 2: Which Mariners’ pitcher holds the team record for single season victories?
Question No. 3: Which Mariners’ starting pitcher holds the team record for games played?
Question No. 4: Which Mariners’ pitcher holds the team record for games started?
Question No. 5: Which Mariners’ pitcher holds the team record for career ERA, complete games, shutouts and winning percentage?
If you guessed Randy Johnson, you are correct, but only for question No. 5.
The rest of the team records above all belong to the one of the most underrated pitchers in the history of baseball: Jamie Moyer.
Moyer started out in the majors in 1986 as a starter with the Chicago Cubs. He spent the next 10 years with Texas, St. Louis, Baltimore, and the Red Sox as a starter and long reliever. He had limited success but was never deemed to have the tools to be a great pitcher.
Then in 1996, he was traded to the Mariners after starting seven games for Boston. He was 7-1 with a 4.50 ERA for the Red Sox as a reliever and starter. He finished the season with Seattle and had a record of 6-2 as a starter. His 13-3 record led the majors in winning percentage and Moyer seemed to have found a home.
Moyer would then put together a string of eight consecutive seasons with at least 13 wins.
In 1997, Moyer was 17-5 with a 3.86 ERA.
In 2001, he was 20-6 with a 3.43 ERA, and won an additional three games in the playoffs. He was not selected for the All-Star game as the Mariners already had Freddy Garcia, Jeff Nelson, and Kazuhiro Sasaki playing in the game. Even though his 20 wins tied Randy Johnson’s team record, he still had more to show.
In 2002, he lowered his ERA to 3.32, but a lack of run support allowed him just 13 wins.
In 2003, Moyer had his best year with a 21-7 record, a 3.27 ERA, and at the age of 40 he attended his first All-Star game as a player. It took him 18 years to accomplish the feat.
How long has Moyer been around? He made his Major League debut with the Cubs out dueling Steve Carlton and the Phillies. He was the starting pitcher the day Greg Maddux made his debut in relief. Randy Johnson was the “young guy” when Moyer started his career in Seattle. Moyer once helped Fred Flintstone out of a big mess that even The Great Kazoo couldn’t cover up. Okay, that last one isn’t true.
That is the special part about Jamie Moyer. He perseveres. He overcomes. He adapts. He helps. He never quits.
Seriously, he never quits. He’s still pitching today. He will probably be the number five pitcher in the rotation for the two-time defending National League Champion Phillies in 2010, even after complications from a surgery at the end of 2009. He’ll never quit.
Moyer’s changeup is legendary. Hitters know its coming. They know it's going to be cruising to the plate somewhere in the 80 mph range. They just haven’t been able to hit it consistently. Sure, Moyer isn’t going to win 20-plus games again, but he is still getting batters more than half his age out more often than they are getting hits.
Moyer will be remembered by M’s fans for his levels of success, his leadership and his work ethic. He is the only Mariner to win 20 games in a season more than once. He was also a role model off the field, winning the Roberto Clemente Award, the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, the Hutch Award, and the Branch Rickey Award. It’s a shame that mostly just Mariner fans know how great he was on the mound.
By the way, the numbers to go along with the trivia questions:
No. 1- Jamie Moyer, 145 (Randy Johnson had 130, Freddy Garcia had 76).
No. 2- Jamie Moyer, 21.
No. 3- Jamie Moyer, 324.
No. 4- Jamie Moyer, 323.
No. 5- Randy Johnson, 3.42, 51, 19, .900.
8. The Missing Link
Jamie Moyer had the best record for Seattle in 2001, but the ERA leader for the team was Venezuelan right-hander Freddy Garcia. In fact, Garcia’s 3.05 ERA actually led the American League. He also led the AL in innings pitched with 238. That was enough to earn him the first of two consecutive All Star Game appearances.
Garcia was a key piece in the trade that sent Randy Johnson to Houston in 1998. Garcia, John Halama, and Carlos Guillen gave the Mariners some sort of solace for giving up possibly the greatest pitcher of the era. Garcia showed the most promise and delivered admirably during his years in Seattle.
As a rookie in 1999, he pitched 33 games going 17-8 with a 4.07 ERA in 201 innings. Mariner fans were thinking that maybe losing the Big Unit wasn’t the end of the world. Garcia was an unexpected ace, Guillen was a capable starting shortstop, and Halama was serviceable as a back end of the rotation guy. The M’s filled three roster spots by letting one player go. Not a bad trade.
After Garcia’s sophomore slump in 2000 where he went 9-5, he reeled off five consecutive double-digit win seasons including his standout season in 2001 and his very respectable 16-win 2002 season.
He and Jamie Moyer gave the Mariners a very potent one-two punch at the top of the lineup. Not something that will rival Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, but they combined to win 38 games in 2001 which would rival the win totals of any two pitchers for the same team most years.
Garcia would follow the trend of Mariner’s pitchers who later won a World Series with another team (see Randy Johnson, Mike Moore, Jamie Moyer, Jeff Nelson, etc.) as he was the starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in the clinching fourth game of the World Series in 2005.
Freddy’s defining moment with the Mariners may not have anything to do with his play on the field. He should be known in Seattle baseball history as the evolutionary equivalent of the Sasquatch. He was the transitional pitcher, or the “link,” between past and present.
Who knew the Northwest’s claim as the “home of Big Foot” was actually a Latin American transplant acquired in a trade with the Big Unit; the link to the past.
Garcia was also the baseball hero of a well known prospect in his native Venezuela named Felix Hernandez; the link to the future.
Mariner scouts had long known of Hernandez, but the unexpected success of Garcia was a big part in Hernandez deciding to sign with the Mariners. Therefore, Garcia not only took over the role of Randy Johnson, but he was also responsible, at least partially, for giving the Mariners a possible Hall of Fame starting pitcher of the future.
Only time will tell the true contributions made to the Mariners by Freddy Garcia. If Hernandez fulfills his potential and stays with Seattle, the contribution would be immeasurable.
7. Keeping It On the Down-Lowe
The best organizations have the ability to consistently sign unknown players and develop them during their trek to the majors. Any team can make a star out of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, or Alvin Davis. These are the kind of “can’t miss” prospects that you just step aside and let them do their thing.
Every year there is at least one player who really steps up on a national stage that baseball experts never believed would be an impact player at the next level.
Derek Lowe was one of those players… for the Boston Red Sox… twice. Once as a closer and once as a starter.
Lowe was drafted in the eighth round in 1991. No big deal, right?
He had some early success in Rookie and Single-A Leagues going 12-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts. He struggled a little in High A-ball in 1993, going 12-9, but his ERA exploded to 5.26 in 26 starts. In 1994-96, as he progressed through Double and Triple-A he was showing signs of being over matched with a 14-25 combined record in 52 starts with an ERA over five at three different stops.
Despite Lowe’s inability to prove he should be a major leaguer, the Mariners saw the raw talent and promoted him to the big league team in 1997. In a couple appearances, he had limited success, but was soon traded to Boston with promising catcher Jason Varitek for aging closer Heathcliff Slocumb.
Mike Schooler and Norm Charlton had proven to the Mariners just how important the role of the closer is in baseball. After Charlton struggled in 1996 and started off 1997 on a down note, the M’s decided they desperately needed a reliable arm at the end of the game. Slocumb seemed like a great choice.
Heathcliff had 32 saves with the Phillies in 1995 and 31 with Boston in 1996 and his ERA was 2.89 and 3.02 respectively those years.
However, in ’97 he began the year with 17 saves in Bean Town, but he was 0-5 with a 5.79 ERA in 49 games. The writing was on the wall, but the Mariners thought they could turn him around.
Heathcliff was an utter failure in Seattle during his tenure from 1997-1998, finishing with a total of 13 saves, an ERA close to five, and a 2-9 record. The trade ended up being one of the most lopsided in recent MLB history.
Lowe became a very effective closer for Boston, leading the league with 42 saves in 2000. He then went back to being a starter in 2002 finishing 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA. Along the way he pitched a no-hitter, the first in Fenway Park since 1965, and finished third in the Cy Young voting.
Jason Varitek was a breakout catcher for the Red Sox: He became their Captain and the catalyst for their offense. Both players made big contributions in building the squad that won the 2004 World Series.
The Mariners trading prowess they displayed with the Langston and Johnson trades took a big hit on this one and Derek Lowe will long be remembered for defining the lack of success for the Mariner teams of 1998-1999. They struggled with starting pitchers and relievers and had their only two losing seasons between 1995 and 2000.
6. Words Will Never Hurt Me
Ever played that game, “Six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon?"
Omar Vizquel came up in the Mariners’ organization before being traded to the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland had fantastic, talented teams that made it to the World Series twice in three years, but lost both times.
Jose Mesa was Omar’s teammate in Cleveland. Mesa failed to close out game seven of the 1997 post season classic and the Florida Marlins ended up winning the series. Mesa was out of Cleveland after 44 appearances in 1998 being sent to San Francisco. He joined the Mariners from 1999-2000.
Mesa continued the string of closers who didn’t work out for the Mariners. His ERA was over five in his two years in Seattle and he was supplanted as the closer in 2000 after the M’s turned to Kazuhiro Sasaki.
Arthur Rhodes and Jose Mesa played together in Seattle in 2000. Rhodes was not great that year with a 4.28 ERA in 72 games. Maybe Mesa was to blame because as soon as he left Seattle, Rhodes became almost unhittable. In 2001, Rhodes was 8-0 with a teeny 1.71 ERA. In 2002, he was 10-4 with a still remarkable 2.33 ERA.
What was the secret to Rhodes’ success? Not steroids, PED’s, or HGH. Not wearing the same socks every night for six months straight. Not sacrificing a live chicken or installing religious alters at his locker. Maybe Rhodes’ secret weapon was his jewelry?
In 2001, he was donning some huge, diamond earrings. Rumor has it they were so big the space shuttle crew once had to scrub a re-entry to the home planet as they could not see their instruments because of the glare emanating into space from Safeco Field.
On Sept. 1, Omar Vizquel brought Rhodes’ jeweled secret to the national forefront. Rhodes was in as relief and was about to mow down the Indian’s lineup when Omar called time-out. He told the umpire that he could not focus because of the, oooh-shiny, distraction of the rocks attached to the pitcher’s earlobes.
Arthur was told he needed to remove his earrings and he erupted in anger, no doubt fearing how he may pitch without his solar powered generators instilling his super powers. He was screaming at Omar. Omar was shouting back at him. Rhodes pointed at Omar’s head, either threatening to throw at him or insulting his fashion sense sans any glittery accessories.
The argument got heated, benches cleared, and a brawl was imminent as Rhodes was ejected from the game. However, both teams finally realized there is no way they can hold their heads up if they got injured in a fight over jewelry. For the love of God, this is a sport and there is no room for sissy-fights over man-sparkles.
The game went on, the season went on, and the Mariners ended up on a tear as they broke the single season win record for the American League. Thanks for the incentive, Omar.
The next year a new rule was implemented prohibiting overly excessive or distracting jewelry on the field.
Apparently, Omar liked the attention as he released his book, “Omar! My Life On and Off the Field,” in 2002. In the book he took a shot at ex-teammate Jose Mesa as being “completely empty” prior to allowing the Marlins to win the 1997 World Series.
That started a long feud between Mesa and Vizquel, including threats of physical harm.
Mesa said his family was upset. "Even my little boy told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him."
Although it is very much like a metaphor for baseball: sticks (bats) and stones (baseballs) may break my bones, but… Jewelry? A book?
Listen up, girls, there’s no crying in baseball.
5. Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Japanese Baseball Players?
The Mariners, as those in the Northwest know, are owned by the Japanese founded corporation, Nintendo of America. The company name itself lends insight into recent activity in regard to the diversity of players on the team, especially Asian based talent.
Seattle and Nintendo have a strong desire to show that combining cultures can make for a productive and profitable venture be it in baseball or video games. Shortly after the video game giant purchased the Mariners, they started tapping the Japanese baseball market for new big league talent.
The first Japanese player in an M’s uniform was Mac Suzuki. He was a relief pitcher who had a short career and limited contributions to the team from 1995-1998. Suzuki was the first Japanese born player to play in the American Majors without playing a game in Japan’s professional circuit. He was also the first Japanese player to pitch in the American League.
From that point on, the stage was set for the M’s to continue with the Japanese player movement. The next candidate to audition for spot on the roster was a relief pitcher that was a dominant force in the Japanese major leagues named Kazuhiro Sasaki. He was selected to eight all-star teams in Japan. “Kaz” performed his new role to a tee, taking over as the Mariners’ closer and setting new standards in Seattle and Major League history.
In addition to his Rookie of the Year Award in 2000, Sasaki also set several Major League Baseball records for Japanese-born players including most saves (45) and save opportunities (46) in a season, and was twice selected to play in the All-Star game. Sasaki's 37 saves in his initial season with the Seattle remains a MLB record for saves by a rookie of any nationality.
Sasaki's out pitch, a devastating split-fingered fastball that drops when arriving at home plate, was nicknamed "The Thang". He complemented it with a four-seam fastball that could reach the low-90s. Sasaki maintained a rigorous throwing program that involved throwing up to 100 pitches following games in which he did not appear, mostly to the chagrin of Mariner management.
Sasaki decided to leave the Mariners before the last year of his contract in 2004, giving up $8.5 million, citing his desire to be with his family in Japan. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, however, Sasaki's real reason for returning to Japan was pressure from ownership, due to his "indiscreet philandering".
There is no doubt he was a philanderer, but it was anything but discreet. Seattle fans loved Kaz, and Kaz loved them back.
It was a global love affair that gave birth to the Mariner signings of Asian baseball players including Ichiro Suzuki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Sin-Shoo Choo, Cha Seung Baek, Kenji Johjima, and Masao Kida. It also opened the door to the hiring of the first Asian-American Manager in Don Wakamatsu (born in Oregon).
After the abundant successes of Ichiro, Johjima, Sasaki, Hasegawa (Seattle’s single season ERA king), and Wakamatsu, Mariner fans and ownership alike are saying “domo arigato” (Japanese for “thank you very much”), Mr. Sasaki.
4. Five. Five-Million-Dollar. Five-Million-Dollar Foot-Longs?
From 2000-2003 the Seattle Mariners won at least 91 games each season. They had a strong fan base and were considered one of the most stable franchises in the league with a very promising farm system.
In 2004, everything went haywire as the M’s tumbled to a 99-loss season. What happened at that point was a combination of offensive ineptitude from an aging roster and the complete collapse of their entire pitching staff due to youth, injuries, and poor run support.
The Mariners’ veterans were now on the downhill side of their baseball prime. Their opening day starters included aging veterans Ichiro, Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, John Olerud, Rich Aurilia, Randy Winn, Raul Ibanez, and Jamie Moyer. Only Ichiro and Moyer would remain with the Mariners after their very depressing 2005, 93-loss season.
The M’s tried to offset some of the deficiencies in their offense by opening up the purse strings in 2005, signing Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre to man the corners of the infield. The M’s offense didn’t really improve and in 2006 they weren’t going to spend any more money on batters after getting burned.
The Mariners were trying to rebuild the pitching staff and the process could take a while. Felix Hernandez was a couple years away from consistency and the kids in the system just weren’t ready yet. Seattle was left with options of rushing guys to the majors, making trades, or signing a free agent.
Free agency was the path they chose and Jarrod Washburn was their man, signing a four year, $37 million contract to compliment a rotation that included an aging Jamie Moyer, and inconsistent talents like Felix Hernandez, Gil Meche, and Joel Pineiro.
From 2000-2002 with the Angels, Washburn looked like he could be a great pitcher as he went 36-18 with an ERA under four. His ERA and winning percentage worsened the next two years before rebounding in his “contract year.”
Washburn was coming off a season where he was just 8-8, but had a very respectable 3.20 ERA before signing with the Mariners.
Again, free agent signings were not kind as Seattle got Wash-“burned” over the next three seasons, with their new acquisition going 23-43 with an ERA over 4.50.
While “Jared” of TV commercial fame was losing weight on a steady diet of Subway sandwiches, Jarrod was losing credibility as a starting pitcher with a steady diet of losses. He was the victim of seven blown saves in 2008, but he was 5-14 with a 4.69 ERA.
Who’s the victim here? Not Washburn. His paychecks kept showing up in his bank account regardless of his performance. Just when the money looked like it would come to an end after 2009, Washburn turned it on in a “contract year” once again.
He jumped out to a career best 2.64 ERA in 20 starts and an 8-6 record, including a masterful one-hitter on July 6th. It is the only one-hitter in Safeco Field since opening in 1999.
Washburn finally had some value to the Mariners as a mid-season trade option and the Detroit Tigers gave up two, low level pitching prospects in Luke French and Maurice Robles to acquire the re-born pitcher.
Washburn would have the last laugh again, struggling with an injury and finishing the season 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA.
He was not signed by Detroit and is still a free agent. Apparently, no other teams are going to bite on the Jarrod who doesn’t work for Subway.
Seattle has shown some limited interest in resigning him for 2010 to fill out the back end of the rotation. He would have to take a big discount in salary for Seattle to bring him back and then he could start repaying all the money he didn’t earn in his previous contract.
Maybe they could have a Subway night at Safeco Field where fans get a free sandwich if this Jarrod “loses weight” on his ERA?
3. “Putz-up” or Shut-up!
The word “putz” is defined as a person who is a fool or a jerk.
No wonder former Mariners’ closer J.J. Putz insists his name is pronounced differently: claiming it sounds like “puts” instead. As in, the Mariner manager puts his closer in at the end of the game to nail down a victory.
In Seattle, that is exactly what Putz did between 2006 and 2008. He took over for an aging “Every day” Eddie Guardado a few weeks into the ’06 season and never looked back on his way to a sensational first year as a closer. Putz converted 36 of 43 save opportunities while posting a 2.30 ERA and struck out 104 batters in just 78 innings.
Putz was at it again in 2007 after signing a three year, $13.1 million deal with the Mariners. He improved on his previous year stats with 40 saves in 42 chances, a 1.38 ERA and 82 K’s in 72 innings.
Putz was the “Delivery Man of the Month” winner in June, made the All-Star team, and became the only Seattle Mariner to win the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award. He also broke Guardado’s team record of 27 consecutive games saved which ended at 30.
In just two years, Putz ranked second in career and single season saves totals in Mariner team history behind only Kazuhiro Sasaki.
In 2008, when his value was at its apex, Putz was part of a three-team, twelve-player blockbuster trade involving the New York Mets and the Cleveland Indians.
Along with J.J., The Mets also got outfielder Jeremy Reed, and reliever Sean Green. The plan was to solidify their bullpen a day after signing free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The Cleveland Indians got a second base prospect named Luis Valbuena from the Mariners and relief pitcher Joe Smith from the Mets and sent promising outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle.
The Mariners ended up getting a stockpile of players from the Mets in the deal including reliever/starter Aaron Heilman, outfielder Endy Chavez, and three prospects (first baseman Mike Carp, reliever Maikel Cleto, and outfielder Ezequil Carrera).
There are three huge aspects of this trade for Seattle fans: First, as an all world defender with huge offensive upside, Franklin Gutierrez was the prize of the trade for the M's; Second, getting Aaron Heilman allowed Seattle to make two other trades (with Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates) that eventually netted the Mariners starting pitcher Ian Snell and short stop Jack Wilson; Third, this trade signified the start of many important moves by new GM Jack Zduriencik, who in a very short amount of time has helped turn the Mariners around and is being raved about in baseball circles as a genius hire by Seattle.
Although, Heilman and Chavez had limited success as Mariners neither are part of the Mariner team of 2010. Chavez had season ending surgery and signed a free agent minor league contract with the Texas Rangers.
Heilman was traded to the Chicago Cubs in January, 2009 for Ronny Cedeño and Garrett Olson. Cedeno was later traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with the M's top rated prospect, catcher Jeff Clement and three Single-A level pitching prospects. The Mariners got starter Ian Snell and defensive short stop Jack Wilson from Pittsburgh.
The trades go down as a huge success for the Mariners as Gutierrez has been good offensively and covers center field like a blanket. Wilson gives Seattle a huge upgrade defensively at short stop. Mike Carp looks like he'll eventually be a major leaguer with some pop in his bat.
Ultimately, Putz gave Seattle his best years to date, as he was a colossal disappointment with the Mets and they declined to pick up his 2010 team option. He signed with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason.
Although Mets fans probably pronounce his name incorrectly, Putz was dynamite for Seattle.
The Mariners will miss Jeff Clement, especially given the uncertain status of their current catching candidates. Cedeno, Heilman, Clement and the other prospects could end up having some great value for Pittsburgh/Mets/Cleveland down the line, but right now it appears Seattle got a great return based on what they gave up.
The Mariners are on the right track to winning with Jack Zduriencik calling the shots. Trading J.J. Putz was the start of a string of decisions that have put the Mariners back into a position to contend for the division in 2010.
Putz' defining moments on the field were solid, but the chain reactions set forth by letting him go and how all the players end up performing for their respective teams will utlimately determine his overall contributions to the Mariners.
Right now, Seattle is a better team (especially after discovering closer David Aardsma last season) than they were prior to the trades.
2. Did You Get the License Number of that Truck?
Mariner history is riddled with trades. Some were great, like Ken Phelps for Jay Buhner. Some were awful, like Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb. Some were a “wash," like Randy Johnson for Freddy Garcia, John Halama, and Carlos Guillen.
On February 8, 2008, the Mariners may have completed possibly the worst trade in Major League history.
The Baltimore Oriole’s pitching ace, Erik Bedard, was on the market for the right price and Seattle decided they would pay above and beyond the fair market value.
The Mariners sent five players, including soon-to-be all stars Adam Jones and George Sherrill, as well as starting pitcher Chris Tillman, and prospects Kameron Mickolio and Tony Butler to the O’s. The Mariners got an above average pitcher with upside who had a limited resume of success.
Bedard (pronounced “bay-dar” from his Canadian origins) got off to a horrible start for Seattle during spring training in 2008, leading the exhibition season in home runs allowed with nine. By July, he was on the disabled list ending all hope of making an impact in his first season with Seattle.
Erik finished with a 6-4 record and a respectable 3.67 ERA, but pitched in only 15 games totaling 81 innings. That was not exactly what the M’s expected from him based on the talent they parted with. Seattle hoped for 15-20 wins and 200 innings. Even with those levels of success, the deal may have been more one-sided for Baltimore.
More injuries crept up in 2009 as Bedard finished a twin-like season in Seattle with just 15 more games, a 5-3 record and a very good 2.82 ERA in just 83 innings. In two years, the Mariners got 11 wins out of the trade and fans were thinking that Tillman, once the most treasured arm in the farm system, could have accomplished that much by himself.
The bottom line is that the Mariners gave up five quality players and a good portion of the gold bullion in Fort Knox for just 30 games as Bedard became a free agent after season-ending surgery in 2009. Ouch.
When he was healthy, he was the pitcher the M’s wanted, so they decided to sign him to an incentive laden, $1.5 million contract for 2010 with an option for 2011. If he comes back from his surgery and pitches like he was able to in 2007 when healthy, he’ll be a steal at that price.
He is not due to pitch until at least May or June, but he can contribute more than half a season with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee toward a pennant race and the playoffs and could be the decisive factor on how far the Mariners can go in 2010.
For now, Mariner fans feel like they’ve been run over by a bus and the best case scenario with Bedard still wouldn’t make the tread marks disappear.
1. Talking ‘Bout My Generation
King Felix reigns in Seattle. Felix Hernandez is the future for the Mariners and they committed to signing him to a five-year contract extension in the off-season.
Mariner fans hope Felix is the one true Hall of Fame player to start and end his career in the Northwest, and not contribute anything to other organizations in between except an abundance of losses. That would make the King of diamonds the King of hearts in Seattle. Ultimately, Hernandez could define the Mariners’ greatest triumphs, surpassing even the Big Unit and the Old Man.
He is coming off a runner-up finish for the coveted Cy Young award. He will turn 24 years old on Apr. 8 and already has 58 wins in his short career. If he averages 15 wins per year, he could reach 300 wins at the age of 40 and join the Big Unit and Gaylord Perry as the only 300 games winners to wear a Mariner uniform.
He is one of only a few youngsters in the Majors with a legitimate shot at reaching the lofty plateau. Of course, that is a generation away and there is no counting chickens before they hatch.
The focus should be short term and what he can help the Mariners accomplish this year. Like souls in Hell searching for a mythical glass of ice-water, Seattle is yearning for their first World Series appearance. The Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals are the only teams never to make it to the fall classic.
Hernandez and Cliff Lee will don Mariner Blue and Teal this year in hopes of creating their own defining moments in Seattle. If they have a great season and seem to gel as teammates, could Felix help convince Lee to accept a contract extension with Seattle? That would be a defining moment.
Felix is younger than Lee and Seattle needs to focus on keeping him in the starting rotation for a decade following his current contract, so the financial aspects of signing Lee seem a bit unlikely.
Mariner fans have endured over 30 years of disappointment and regardless of individual shining stars, they want just one thing for their current group of players.
Jewelry worth fighting for: A World Series Ring.