Remembering The Mariners: 70’s And 80’s
Sometimes I feel like we focus on all the bad things rather than on all the good things that have happened in the past to this organization which we support. The Mariners as we know were born out of a very ugly situation between the Pilots, a fragile ownership group that had fallen apart and Major League Baseball being stuck in the middle of a very difficult situation. While we all have the experience of the Sonics leaving fresh in our mind that was hardly the scenerio, at least in regards to the league.
But, let’s not dwell on what took the Pilots away and focus on the Mariners, the team that replaced them. I want to take sometime to look at the best of the 70’s + 80’s had for the Mariners. The teams produced in this area weren’t very good but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have players to remember.
Many of these individuals came and went leaving little lasting effect with the ball club. It’s funny and I guess in part I don’t just blame the organization or the media, but also the fans. It seems to me that many people allowed them to be forgotten. I shouldn’t really say “blame” that’s kind of a rude word and it incorrectly associates responsibility. Hey, I was at the very most 6 years old at the time so I know I can’t be held accountable and that’s really whats important here. But then 6 year old Harrison is just like 27 year old Harrison. Avoiding accountability.
Anyhow, regardless of how and who forgot them I want to take some time and remember some of these guys. Obviously not all of them because to write out anything more than a sentence, talking about the significant contributions of Manny Castillo would be pointless.
For those of you who don’t know who Manny Castillo is, he was a switch hitting third basemen who produced -2.0 WAR between 767 PA over 3 seasons. Wow, so now I’ve written a pointless paragraph on the ever pointless career of
Manny Castillo let’s talk about some honor able mentions and my Top-10 players of the first 13 years of the organization.
Before I getting into the top-10 list, and you all know how I love my lists, we’ll start this off by talking about a few guys that didn’t make the cut but should be honorably mentioned.
Enrique Romo (RP) 1977-78 : The first “closer” of the organization was also the only pitcher on the staff that was any good. Had a tremendous 1977 season, then fell back down to earth in ’78 and was gone before the 1979 season. But man that first season was pretty good.
Bill Caudill (RP) 1982 – 83: Caudill wasn’t exactly another one year wonderkin closer in the mold of Romo, he put together a mighty impressive 1982 season sporting a K/9 over 10, a FIP of 2.75 and an fWAR of 3.1. He wasn’t as impressive in 83 and then took his talents elsewhere.
Rupert Jones (CF) – 1977-79: Jones was the starting center fielder and one of the better hitters on any of the teams fielded in the 70’s. He didn’t stick around long and that’s good as he didn’t have a very good career overall but he still produced
Leon Roberts (LF) – 1978-80: Roberts was solid hitter and a good fielder. He put together some great numbers and despite playing in only 3 years. His contributions were good for 8.3 fWAR.
Bob Kearny (C) – 1984 – 1987: Kearny was the top defensive back-stop for the Mariners during this ERA. His bat stunk and he had a career wRC+ of only 66. But the guy was an awesome back stop and from the stories I’ve heard from a few different people I wish we had more information to compare him to other catchers of his era such as Gary Carter and Bob Boone. I think he would have stood up against the
Dave Henderson (CF) – 1981 – 86: Hendo is one of the few that haven’t been forgotten from the 80’s. A fan favorite he never posted outrageous numbers and quite honestly he was barely an above average player. But he was consistent at it and over 6 years (the most anyone had spent with the team up until that point), he accrued enough “good” that he would be remembered.
Matt Young (SP) – 1983 – 86: Matt Young was kind of like the Jason Vargas of the 80’s. He was dependable, not overly great, and just missed out on being #10 overall for the decade.
Tom Paciorek (1B/OF) – 1978 – 81: Paciorek was kind of a weird guy and I don’t know how to describe him. He put up a 4.9 WAR in 1981 and at that point had produced the best season ever by a position player wearing a Seattle Mariner uniform. He also did it in only 450 at bats. After that he moved on and had a couple of successful seasons with the White Sox.
Mike Morgan (SP) – 1985 – 87: Morgan got around. That’s not to say that Mike Morgan was a flusey or anything like that. He just got around with a lot of teams over a lot of years. He wasn’t bad, but wasn’t really good either. He was serviceable and was cheap to the Mariners when they acquired him. Over the few years he was with the organization he posted 5.7 WAR over nearly 430 innings. He’s kind of like a bad Jamie Moyer, but before Jamie Moyer and if Jamie Moyer played with like every team in baseball.
Okay… on to the main event.
10. Mike Schooler (RP) – 1988 – 92: It’s really too bad injuries hacked Schooler down in the early 90’s. Looking at his stuff in the 80’s he was “dominate” but he was just consistently good out of the pen. A FIP of 2.53 and a WAR of 3.9 over 125 innings 0.68 WPA/LI. The guy might have been one of the most under rated closer in all the 80’s.
9. Julio Cruz (2B) – 1977-83: Cruz is another guy that gets a lot of publicity or maybe did… I sometimes feel extremely disconnected from the Seattle fan base being so far away. But, I remember growing and hearing a lot about him despite his time ending before I was even born. I wonder if Mariner fans from this generation think and feel the same.
On a note about Cruz, he was glove first guy and really only. He had a career wRC+ of only he was known to be a defensively elite second basemen. Racking up 19 runs above average over his time in the Kingdome at second base and coming 4th among second basemens in all of baseball. Cruz stayed with the Mariners through a lot of termoil and while he only accumulated 13.1 WAR during his time. He is one of those guys that I add in some of his intengibles and take into account a few of those little extras. Which is why he comes in at #9 rather than just being an honorable mention.
8. Floyd Bannister (SP) – 1979 – 82: Bannister was the #1 overall draft pick in 1976 taken by the Houston Astros and made his debut the following year, 1977. He was traded to the Mariners in 1978 for Craig Reynolds. He would later become the opening day starter for the engima ’82 Mariners, whom I’m infatuated, and be the lone Seattle representative in the all-star game.
Bannister was the start of the prototypical lefties which Seattle has remind true to over the years and was the start of strong the young left-handed front of the rotation stars that have been a tradition in Seattle. He’s also a classic example of a guy that had good but inconsistent stuff. During his 4 year tenure with Seattle, he produced 13 WAR and a FIP of 3.87.
7. Jim Beattie (SP) – 1980 – 86: Beattie is kind of a doogie fister guy and someone that would have been an interesting comparison a few years ago. A guy that grew to be a better pitcher but not an overpowering one despite his large frame and size (6’6 – 220).
He had a couple of back-to-back-to-back years in which he produced phenomenal WARs of 4.2, 4.7 and 4.1 and with the help of both Bannister, Mike Moore and Gaylord Perry held down the rotation of a very interesting ’82 Mariners team.
He’s not a guy that anyone will look back and remember but he did put together some very good season for the Mariners during his time and that’s why he ranks #7 overall.
6. Bruce Botche (1B) – 1978 – 82: Providing some defense in both Left Field and First Base, Botche was a very good player during his time with the Mariners and though he’ll be remember more for his offense (career wRC+ of ) he was also a solid defeneder.
He was the lone Mariner all-star representative in 1979 and produced multiple years of above average WAR. He wasn’t anything that jumped off the page but in a time of constant change and lack of consistency in the line-up Botche produced.
5. Mike Moore (SP) – 1982 – 88: Moore was one of the first home grown players to really make an impact with the ball club. I’ve always been one of the biggest fans of Mike Moore. He’s one of the most underrated pitchers in Mariner history… at least how I remembered it. Looking back Moore was … well more of a Jim Beattie type pitcher than he was really a Mark Langston. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
That said, he had multiple years where he was a boarder line elite pitcher posting WARs of 6, 4.2 and 3.9. He was the young anchor who, with the help of Beattie, kept the Mariners in ball games and gave them a chance to win them. While he’ll never be remembered as much more than an average pitcher who went left Seattle and, a long with Dave Stewart, pitched the Athletics to the World Series. He could have very well done the same in Seattle, had he the proper support.
4. Phil Bradley (LF) – 1983 – 87: The “best” left field this organization has –sadly– seen. Forget the years of absolute torture while we sported Griffey in center and Bone in right, yet never could find an acceptable partner in left. Bradley was a very good player and it’s just too bad he came a decade too soon.
Bradley was hardly a stalwart defender in left field, but what he lacked in ability out in the field he made up for at the plate. Posting wOBA’s in consecutive years of .341, .380, .381 and.379. Pretty much he was David DeJesus before Dave DeJesus was David DeJesus. In fact you might say that David DeJesus was more of a Phil Bradley than anything. Only, DeJesus provided average defense.
Bradley’s departure to Philly in a trade in the off-season if 87 left a hole that never really would been filled until Raul Ibanez stigmatic return but even he didn’t really live up to the legend of Phil Bradley. (That would be an interesting conversation… Bradley vs. Ibanez)
3. Alvin Davis (1b) – 1984 – 91: It’s probably a surprise to a few different Mariner fans that Mr. Mariner, himself, isn’t 1# during this ERA. I know Davis had an amazing fall of a cliff in the early 90’s and I really am not taking any of that into account. He had a tremendous 22.4 WAR during his time in Seattle, which is first among all position players of his ERA, but he did so with numerous more at bats.
But let’s not take anything away from the 1984 Rookie-of-the-Year. Let’s talk about a few of the things that made him so good. first off all his ability to get on base. A lot of people talk about Edgar and his ability to work a walk and to get on base and hit doubles. Davis did that too, in fact he ended his career in Seattle sporting more free passes than strikeouts.
He was second in almost every single offensive category of his time and while he was a below average fielding second basemen, he was one of the key leaders of the 1980 teams.
2. Ken Phelps (OF) – 1983 – 88: I know this is an odd pick for #2 overall but hear me out. We know all the Ken Phelps jokes from Seinfield. How he was traded for Jay Buhner. What many people forget about Phelps was that he was a legit slugger and oddly enough a 3 true out come guy.
He posted the highest wRC+ of the 70/80’s time frame at 143 (which still stands second all-time in the Mariners organization). Coupled that with a Mariner career wOBA of .397 that ranks still ranks 3rd all time with the organization (minimum 1000 PAs) and is two points in front of Ken Griffey Jr. The guy was a borderline elite hitter.
His defense was said to of sucked but looking at Total Zone on B-R he doesn’t come away as badly as his reputation would says it would have. So not only did this man play average to slightly below average he could rake and did so in Seattle for the better part of 5 years. He never got as much love as he should have and that makes me a bit sad, even broke up a potential perfect game bid by Brian Holman in the bottom of the 9th (with two outs) as a member of the A’s, he’s someone that needs to and should be remembered more for his contributions to the Mariners organization.
1. Mark Langston (SP) – 1984 – 89: A second round pick by the Mariners, he’s the fourth home grown player on this list and is an interesting example of how a team can rebuild. Though, many baseball experts properly point out that Johnson was merely a thrown-in at the time and ended up being one of the best pitchers of all time, let a lone in Mariners history.
Langston, right out of the gate in 1984, showed his potential as a dominating pitcher in baseball. But, interestingly enough took a serious step back in ’85. I assume largely due to control issues and I’ve failed to find if he needed any type of surgery.
But he returned to prominence in ’87 and sustained in ’88, then coming out with an elite performance in ’89 being worth 4.7 WAR and throwing up a FIP of 3.11 over 34 games. He of course was traded that year in a deal that brought the Mariners Randy Johnson.
I think it’s quite amazing to look at the career of Langston. You might remember he was the one that pitched the one game playoff for California against the Mariners in Seattle, in 1995. He gave up those 4 might runs to Luis Sojo in the form of a sandlot Grand Slam. Giving Seattle it’s first playoff birth in organization history.
Despite being on the opposite side in that key moment Langston still remains one of the more valued pitchers every to done the Mariners blue and white. Posting a career 21 WAR during his tenure and still ranked 6th overall.
Sometimes I think the Mariners should induct Langston into the Mariners hall-of-fame. Simply because of what he did on all those bad clubs and his lack of recognition in the early part of career because he was with Seattle. Had he been on a team like the Red Sox, Angels, Athletics or even the Mets during the early stages of his career he would most likely thought of differently. Rather than a pitcher who produced 51 career WAR, 3.93 FIP and over 7 k’s per 9 over nearly 3,000 IP.
It’s an interesting thought to consider.