It’s time to show some love to Russell the Muscle.
Despite the well-noted failure to end their playoff drought that has since continued for another decade, the Mariners had a couple good teams towards the end of the ’00s. In 2007, the M’s finished six games out of a playoff spot at 88-74, then won 85 games in ’09. But as has been the case with the Mariners over the past two decades, they’ve been incredibly inconsistent and followed up each of the aforementioned years with last-place finishes.
Russell Branyan was a part of that roster in ’09, and returned to the team during the subsequent disappointing follow-up season in 2010 where the Mariners went 61-101.
Branyan was heading towards the end of his Major League career having already spent time with seven different organizations up to that point. Now with his eighth organization in 11 years, Branyan went on to have the two best seasons of his career (mostly) in a Mariners uniform.
With the Mariners, Branyan accumulated 3.5 fWAR as a primary first base/designated hitter type over the course of a season-and-a-half. That’s pretty damn solid. Branyan also posted the two highest home run totals of his career, with 31 in his lone full season with Seattle in 2009, and 25 between Cleveland and Seattle in 2010.
In a lineup that featured the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Franklin Gutierrez, and Adrian Beltre, Branyan particularly shined in that ’09 season. He had the most plate appearances of his career with 505 and, in addition to his career-high in home runs, also notched a personal best in RBIs with 76. Unfortunately, his season came to an abrupt end when suffered a herniated disk in late August.
Still, Branyan made a mark on a solid, yet forgotten Mariners team and especially left a great impression on yours truly as a young fan of the team. Branyan is still, to this date, one of my favorite Mariners of all time, even if he was only in Seattle for a brief time.