In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I've decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We've created a 30-day series making an all-time team for each MLB club. We're breaking down one team each day throughout April, continuing today in the Pacific Northwest.
As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I'm making a Baseball Stars team for each. That's right, the old-school Nintendo video game "Baseball Stars," which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squads.
Up next is the Seattle Mariners. They've been around since 1977 and have only four playoff appearances with zero pennants. I'm still anticipating a great team because they've had so many stellar players.
Of course, right after I say that and we aren't off to a great start. We're looking at Dave Valle, Dan Wilson, Mike Zunino, Kenji Johjima. I guess we'll go with Zunino for his four 20-plus homer seasons. Due to his framing, he does have the top two WAR seasons among Mariners catchers. Let's hope for the .251 average version in 2017 instead of him hovering around the Mendoza line.
Early career Tino Martinez is in the mix. Seinfeld fans know all about "Ken Phelps' bat." For me, it came down to Alvin Davis and Jon Olerud. Davis was there eight years to Olerud's five, so we need to look at the rate stats. Mariners-only, of course.
Davis: .281/.381/.453, 128 OPS+, WAR/650 plate appearances: 2.7
Olerud: .285/.388/.439, 121 OPS+, WAR/650: 3.7
I'm partial to the power from Davis here. A lot of Olerud's WAR is driven by the superior glove. Let's go Davis.
Harold Reynolds had a quality career, but it's a two-man race between Robinson Cano and Bret Boone. Scoff at Cano if you wish, but he's sixth in career WAR among Mariners position players. Seriously. In five years for the Mariners, Cano hit .296/.353/.472 (129 OPS+) with three All-Star Games and two top-eight MVP finishes, topping out at fifth in 2014. His overall numbers are better than Boone's, but I lean Boone here.
First off, Boone joined the Mariners in 2001. They had just lost A-Rod to free agency and had in previous years traded Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson. Boone hit .331 with a 153 OPS+, 37 homers and 141 RBI, finishing third in MVP voting while the Mariners won 116 games. Boone had another huge season in 2003. Secondly, with the Cano PED suspension in 2018 with the Mariners desperately trying to snap their playoff drought, I've got to ding him. Boone is the pick.
We've seen good seasons from Jean Segura and Carlos Guillen while Omar Vizquel was an incredible defender in his time, but this isn't even close. Alex Rodriguez.
Though primarily a DH throughout his career, Edgar Martinez appeared in 564 games at third base. He was always going to be a starter, but this is the track to the most powerful lineup. Adrian Beltre had some good seasons, but Kyle Seager would've been the pick had I used Edgar at DH. Seager does fifth among Mariners in career WAR, but the career line of .256/.324/.443 says we can do better. Also regarding Edgar, everyone knows about The Double, but did you know he hit a grand slam to break an eighth-inning tie the night before to help force a Game 5?
That question was meant for non-Mariners fans. I know the Seattle area knows.
If we stuck strictly to left fielders here, the pick would be Raul Ibanez. He spent 10 of the first 13 years of his career there and tacked another one on late. He'll be on the team, but we have three guys we need out here. I'm bringing Jay Buhner over from right field. Sure, the average was rarely high, but he got on base and hit for serious power. Plus, he had a rocket for an arm. From 1995-97, he went for over 40 homers and 100 RBI all three years.
LOL, c'mon. Do I have to say it? Prime Ken Griffey Jr. Mike Cameron deserves a quick shout.
Ichiro sticks in right because he also has a cannon for an arm. He's also a no-brainer pick.
Nelson Cruz was only there for four years, but he had 163 homers and 414 RBI while hitting .284/.362/.546 (148 OPS+). The next best hitters not in the lineup would be Cano, Phil Bradley, Ibanez, Seager, Phelps and Olerud. Richie Sexson's name could be thrown in the mix, too.
There's a pretty easy top two here that we don't even really need to discuss. Felix Hernandez and Randy Johnson.
Actually, there's a third as well. Jamie Moyer is third in WAR, second in wins, ninth in ERA, fifth in WHIP, third in strikeouts, tied for fifth in ERA+ and, most importantly, helped hold things together in the post-Unit era on the mound. He was a 20-game winner in 2001.
Let's stick with 2001. Freddy Garcia led the AL in both innings pitched and ERA. That's quite the feat, no? He's all over the Mariners' pitcher leaderboards, too, just with less compiling than Moyer (fifth in WAR, fourth in wins, sixth in strikeouts).
James Paxton just wasn't around -- at least not healthy -- enough while Mike Moore and Mark Langston should've been better at run prevention. I could see an argument for Hisashi Iwakuma, but I like my four.
Lots of names to consider here without an obvious, dominant pick. Kaz Sasaki is the career save leader for the Mariners, with J.J. Putz and Edwin Diaz also hitting triple digits. Arthur Rhodes and Jeff Nelson produced a lot of value without being the closer for long stretches. Bill Swift had a few good season, but they were balanced by some bad.
I'm gonna go Diaz. His run was shorter than Putz and Sasaki, but it was much more dominant. It's not like the latter two had really long runs with the club anyway.
Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup.
- Ichiro, RF
- A-Rod, SS
- Junior, CF
- Edgar, 3B
- Cruz, DH
- Buhner, LF
- Boone, 2B
- Alvin, 1B
- Zunino, C
SP: King, Unit, Moyer, Freddy
That lineup! That's as well-rounded and loaded in the top four or five as many teams that have been around for a century-plus.
I still have four bench spots. We're gonna go with MikeyC (Mike Cameron), Raul (Ibanez), (Kyle) Seager and -- sorry, I can't resist -- (Ken) Phelps. Phelps and Buhner on the same team had to happen.