Some weeks back I had a spare hour on my hands, and wanting to not get swallowed up by fond nostalgia for the 1995 Mariners, I put together a starting lineup and roster of the best ex-Mariners. These are guys who played however briefly at the Kingdome or Safeco, were traded, signed with other teams, or were simply released, and went on to star elsewhere.
I tried to pick players who spent at least one season as Mariner starters before leaving town, but the one absolute condition is that these players had to get better with their new teams: They couldn't be established stars who kept doing as well after leaving Seattle or future Hall of Famers who spent a year or two near the end of their careers in Seattle. In other words, with very few exceptions, these are guys the Mariners certainly should have kept on the team.
So there's no Alex Rodriguez in this lineup, or Rickey Henderson, or Gaylord Perry, or John Olerud (let alone David Arias Ortiz). And Randy Johnson—the one future Hall of Famer—makes the team only because he went from superb in Seattle to all-time great with the Diamondbacks.
Here's my sense of the roster that comes from applying the criteria:
Catcher: Miguel Olivo
The pickings are slim here, but only because Seattle failed to give Jason Varitek a big league tryout before shipping him off to Boston in 1997.
First: Tino Martinez
Tino went from a fine emerging star with the Mariners in 1995 to a minor Yankee legend in the late '90s.
Second: Bret Boone
Boonie version one spent two modest years in Seattle, went on to a solid NL career as Boonie version two, and then launched himself into orbit as Boonie version three at Safeco. Too bad the Mariners didn't get the second phase of his development.
Short: Omar Vizquel
The Mariners don't have A-Rod to excuse themselves for shipping out the best fielding shortstop of the '90s after the 1993 season. They just made a dreadful decision and then had to watch Vizquel provide the defensive anchor for some great Indians teams.
Third: Carlos Guillen
Like Omar, the Mariners should have known what they were losing when Guillen left for Detroit after 2003: He'd just had his best offensive season. That didn't stop them from taking Juan Gonzalez (who never reached the majors) and 58 at-bats by Ramon Santiago in '04 and '05 for one of the minor stars of the decade.
Right: Danny Tartabull
The Baby Bull was coming off a powerful 1986 with Seattle when he got traded for two minor Royals and Scott Bankhead, who did have a fine 1988 and 1989; but Tartabull put together a decade worth of good-to-excellent seasons before retiring in 1997.
Center: Dave Henderson
Hendu's one of the memorable baseball players of the late '80s, between his playoff heroics for the Red Sox in '86 and his solid play in Oakland's would-be dynasty. His fine play in Boston and Oakland was enabled by an August '86 trade with the Sox for the nightmare of Rey Quinones and a few others.
Left: Raul Ibanez
Rauuuul repeated Bret Boone's life story by getting rejected early on by the Mariners, emerging as a star with another team, and then coming back for a fine encore showing at Safeco. But while Boone was on his way out of the game when he left town the second time, Ibanez might be just getting a second wind.
DH: Ivan Calderon
Ivan left the Kingdome in July '86, about a month before Henderson, and put up pretty similar stats to Hendu's in the late '80s and early '90s for the White Sox and Expos before fading away in 1993. RIP Ivan, a Puerto Rican who died two days after Christmas 2003 in a shooting.
Starter: Randy Johnson
I'm guessing you know what the Big Unit did for the Mariners and what he's done in the decade-plus since the Mariners made a great deadline day trade with the Astros in 1998.
And now for the rest of the team:
Rotation: Mike Moore, Floyd Bannister, Joel Pineiro, Bill Swift, Gil Meche, Dave Burba, Mike Hampton, Derek Lowe (I'll just stop here).
Bullpen: Jeff Nelson, Ryan Franklin, Mike Jackson, Gene Nelson, Ron Villone, Rick Honeycutt, George Sherrill.
Bench: Scott Podsednik, Adam Jones (he might supplant Hendu in center on this team in a couple years), Shin-Soo Choo, John Mabry (I think I'm missing a couple guys here: Willie Bloomquist? Luis Sojo? Some older Mariners?).