I am a former sports editor who's been a baseball fan for over 30 years. I'm predominantly a Cleveland Indians fan, but enjoy all 30 teams!
Who Are the Greatest Seattle Mariners Players of All Time?
Considering the length of time Major League Baseball has existed, the Seattle Mariners are one of the youngest franchises in the 30-team fraternity. But despite only 44 years of history, the Mariners have still seen their fair share of memorable players. They are still seeking an elusive World Series appearance, but have made the postseason four times. Overall, Seattle has a 3,246-3,655 record (.470).
Six players and one manager who spent some of their career with the Mariners have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Seattle has been represented in the All-Star game 89 times, which includes 12 players who have made multiple appearances in the Midsummer Classic.
Selection Criteria for This List
Determining how to rank the best players in Mariners history wasn't the easiest of tasks, but I've narrowed it down to the top five and also included some honorable-mention selections. Even with that, several deserving players had to be left out of this article. The criteria used to develop this list included:
- Legacy Honors (Hall of Fame, retired number, etc.)
- Single-Season Honors (MVP, All-Star, etc.)
- On-Field Success (league leader, playoff appearances, records, etc.)
- Longevity (years with the Mariners, percentage of career with the Mariners, etc.)
Only games played with the Mariners are factored into this list, so while Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson would be a great choice on a list about the Oakland Athletics, his 92 games in Seattle won’t make the cut here. Now, without further ado, let's count down the top five players in Seattle Mariners history!
5. Felix Hernandez (2005–19)
The author of the only perfect game in Seattle Mariners history and the franchise's all-time strikeout king is Felix Hernandez, who dazzled fans in the Northwest with his eccentric style from 2005–19. The 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner is also a six-time All-Star and spent his entire career with Seattle before signing with the Atlanta Braves for the 2020 season. No pitcher has logged more starts (418) or innings (2,729⅔) for the Mariners, and Hernandez also holds team records for career wins (169), losses (136), strikeouts (2,524), and earned-run average (his 3.42 mark is tied with three others).
“King Felix” made his first of six All-Star appearances in 2009, when he won a career-high 19 games, and he won a controversial Cy Young Award the next season. Although perfectly deserving of that honor, Hernandez’s win-loss record of 13–12 called into question whether or not he should have won the top pitching award, despite a 2.27 ERA and 222 strikeouts over a league-high 249⅔ innings. Between 2011–15, Hernandez never missed an All-Star Game. His perfect game came against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, and he was the runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2015 after going 15–6 with a career-low 2.14 ERA and a career-best 248 strikeouts over 236 innings.
4. Edgar Martinez (1987–2004)
Edgar Martinez is about as pure of a hitter as the Seattle Mariners have ever had. He spent his entire career with the Mariners, and hit .312 over 15 seasons—never finishing a full year below the .300 mark, except for his final two seasons at ages 40 and 41. Faced with the stigma of being an oft-injured player, as well as being a designated hitter, it took longer than it should have for Martinez to get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He finally went in on his 10th ballot in 2019, when he picked up 85.9 percent of the vote. Martinez holds several career records for the Mariners, including games (2,055), on-base percentage (.418), runs (1,219), and RBI (1,261). His 514 doubles are also a franchise record, and going into 2020, he is one of 62 players in MLB history to have recorded at least 500 doubles in his career.
Martinez was a key member to the 1995 Seattle squad that advanced to the American League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history (his .479 on-base percentage that season led the league and remains a single-season team record). The team's success that season helped build public support for the franchise, and is considered a reason why funding was found to build Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), which opened in 1999. In the AL Division Series, Martinez was outstanding against the New York Yankees, hitting .571, setting a single-game record with seven RBI on two home runs in Game 4, and smacking a two-run, walk-off double in Game 5 to win the series in the 11th inning.
3. Randy Johnson (1989–98)
Among the most intimidating pitchers in Major League history, Randy Johnson is the finest player ever acquired by the Mariners in a trade. Then a mostly unknown prospect with the Montreal Expos, Johnson came to the Mariners in 1989, and promptly became one of the most dominating pitchers in the American League. The "Big Unit" stood at 6 feet, 10 inches, as one of the tallest players in the history of the game, and he backed up that intimidation by pitching a no-hitter in 1990, winning the 1995 Cy Young Award, and getting selected for five All-Star teams. His stat line in ‘95 included an 18–2 win-loss record with a 2.48 earned-run average and 294 strikeouts. Johnson was one win shy of winning the pitching Triple Crown that season. After his time with the Mariners came to a close, he continued to be among the most dominating pitchers in baseball, and was rewarded with induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, when he gathered 97.3 percent of the vote.
He was first an All-Star in 1990, but Johnson’s rise to fame began in 1993, when he established the franchise's new single-season strikeout record with 308. That was his second of four straight seasons leading the American League in strikeouts. From 1993–97, Johnson had a combined win-loss record of 75–20. In 1997, he was 20–4 and struck out 19 in a game twice. He was traded to the Houston Astros in the middle of the 1998 season, ending his tenure in Seattle with a 130–74 record, 3.42 ERA, 19 shutouts, and 2,162 strikeouts in 1,838⅓ innings. His ERA and shutouts remain the franchise career records.
2. Ichiro Suzuki (2001–12, 2018–19)
When Ichiro Suzuki came to the Seattle Mariners in 2001, there had never been a long-lasting superstar of Japanese descent in Major League Baseball. However, there had never been such an established star ever try making the transition to Major League Baseball either. After nine seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, Suzuki had accumulated seven batting titles, seven All-Star appearances, and seven Gold Gloves with the Orix BlueWave. Seattle won the bidding rights to negotiate with him, and after signing him, Suzuki became an instant star—winning Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in 2001, while also starting 10-year stretches as an All-Star and Gold Glove winner. That season, he helped the Mariners win 116 games in the regular season.
Suzuki led the American League in hits seven times, and his .372 average and 262 hits from 2004 are single-season franchise records for the Mariners (as are his 56 stolen bases from his rookie year). His 262 hits double as an all-time Major League record. He was extremely durable as a leadoff hitter during his first tenure with the Mariners, playing in at least 146 games and coming to the plate at least 678 times in each season from 2001–11. Throughout 14 seasons in Seattle—two of which came in 2018 and ‘19 at the tail end of his career—Suzuki collected a plethora of team records: at-bats (7,907), hits (2,542, including 2,069 singles), steals (438), triples (79), and batting average (.321). Suzuki will become eligible for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2025.
1. Ken Griffey Jr. (1989–99, 2009–10)
One of the greatest all-around players in Major League Baseball history is Ken Griffey Jr. When Griffey was promoted to the Major Leagues in 1989, many argued that he was the most exciting player to debut since Willie Mays, who was a Hall of Fame centerfielder for the Giants from 1951-70. Dazzling defensively in center field, awe-inspiring with his swing, and charming in his overall personality, Griffey defined the Mariners and 1990s baseball—all while wearing his cap backward. The son of a former Major League All-Star, Griffey was prolific as a rookie after spending his formative years around Cincinnati's Big Red Machine championship teams of the 1970s—then he became an even greater superstar than his father. Griffey took his sweet swing to Cincinnati after the 1999 season, but did return to Seattle for a brief—and unceremonious—stint at the end of his career that allowed him to play in a fourth decade. He was an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer, raking in 99.3 percent of the vote in 2016.
“The Kid” was prodigious with his power. He famously hit back-to-back home runs with his father in 1990, and also clubbed 40 or more home runs in six seasons for the Mariners—including a club-record 56 in each 1997 and ‘98. He is tied with two players for the Major League record of homering in eight straight games. All the while, he added seven seasons with a .300 batting average or better, and picked up 10 straight Gold Gloves from 1990–99. He was the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player—oddly the only major single-season award he would ever win. On top of his 56 homers that season were a club-record 147 RBI and 125 runs. Overall in 13 years with the Mariners, Griffey blasted a team record 417 home runs, while adding 1,216 RBI, 1,113 runs, and a .292 batting average.
The following are a handful of players who left an indelible mark on the Seattle Mariners but fell just outside of the top five of all-time.
Alex Rodriguez (1994–2000)
Seemingly a can't-miss prospect, Alex Rodriguez was supposed to team up with Ken Griffey Jr. to lead the Seattle Mariners to a much-desired championship. He lived up to his personal billing and the team had success during those years by making the playoffs three times. But both Griffey and Rodriguez ended up leaving the team without making a World Series, with Rodriguez becoming the richest player in history with the Texas Rangers on a $252 million contract. In the seven years before his intra-division switch in 2001, Rodriguez was one of the best players in all of baseball. He hit .309 with 189 home runs, 194 doubles, 595 RBI, and 627 runs for the Mariners. "A-Rod" made four All-Star teams and won four Silver Sluggers in Seattle, and his best season came in 1996, when he led the American League with a .354 average, 54 doubles, and 141 runs.
Jamie Moyer (1996–2006)
Jamie Moyer is best known for stretching his career across 25 years throughout four decades, but he did most of his best pitching with the Seattle Mariners. He spent 11 seasons in the Pacific Northwest, and held several team records before Felix Hernandez broke them in the 2010s. The masterful Moyer used control and deception rather than power to fool hitters and build a pair of 20-win seasons with the Mariners on his way to 145 victories in his tenure. His only career All-Star appearance came in 2003 at age 40, when he ultimately finished the year at 21-7. In 324 career starts in Seattle, Moyer went 145-87 with a 3.97 earned-run average and 1,239 strikeouts over 2,093 innings. In 1999, Moyer started the first game ever played at Safeco Field. He holds a dubious MLB career record—522 home runs allowed, with 261 of those surrendered with the Mariners—and is also the oldest player to record a pitching victory (at age 49 in 2012 with the Colorado Rockies).
Dan Wilson (1994–2005)
Dan Wilson is not necessarily the most well-known catcher who has ever played Major League Baseball. In Seattle, however, Wilson is revered as the greatest ever at the position for the franchise. Throughout his 12 seasons, Wilson proved to be a reliable force behind the plate, finding success offensively and defensively. Overall, Wilson ranks 15th in Major League history among catchers with a career fielding percentage of .9948, though he never won a Gold Glove. He made just 44 errors with Seattle, and was at his best in 2001 and ‘02, when he committed one error in 122 games (‘01) and two errors in 113 games (‘02). Wilson was not a prolific offensive player, but also wasn’t a liability in the lineup. He hit .262 with the Mariners, adding 88 home runs, 207 doubles, and 588 RBI. His best year came in 1996, when he hit .285 with 18 home runs over 138 games to make his lone All-Star appearance.
Alvin Davis (1984–91)
As the 1984 American League Rookie of the Year, Alvin Davis kicked off a consistent career with the Seattle Mariners that lasted for eight seasons. “Mr. Mariner” played in at least 135 games each season in Seattle, and was a decent power threat for the franchise. He slugged at least 17 home runs in each of his first seven seasons, and had more than 20 doubles in six of those campaigns. In his vaunted rookie season, Davis reached base in the first 47 games of his career, helping him get selected for the only All-Star game of his career. In total, Davis hit .281 with 160 home runs, 212 doubles, and 667 RBI with the Mariners.
© 2020 Andrew Harner