One of my greatest memories as a kid that involves the Mariners doesn’t involve the players who think it would. Not Edgar, Buhner, the Big Unit, Griffey, A-Rod, or Moyer. Instead, it’s the backbone of the team, Dan Wilson.
I was ten years old, and although I didn’t know it as we got to the park for my dad’s birthday, I would be seeing one of the coolest moments in Mariners history. An Inside the park Grand Slam by Dan Wilson, one of the least likely guys on the team to do it.
That’s only a small part of why we’re here. Instead, it’s to look into and remember one of the longest-tenured Mariners the team has ever had, and how good he truly was to the team.
Let’s take a dive this throwback Thursday into the greatest catcher the Seattle Mariners have ever had, Dan Wilson.
It started after the 1993 season, when the team traded the quietly great Erik Hanson (have to admit, didn’t know this guy, before my time I guess) and Bret Boone (yes, that Bret Boone) to the Cincinnati Reds for Bobby Ayala and Dan Wilson. A long-term effect of this was that because the team was set at catcher, they traded Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb in 1997. Ouch. Try and not look up the trade, the more you learn, the more it hurts.
Anyway, we were set with Dan Wilson. After the short 1994 season, Wilson came into 95 as the starter and proved he belonged there. With a .278 batting average to complement his strong defense, the battery of the Mariners would be a strong component to their success (what Mariners fans can count as success at least) over the next decade.
In fact, it was their best 10-year stretch as a team, making the playoffs four times with a record of 865-736. To compare, they averaged a record of 87-74 over that time, as compared to the 72-89 they average of the rest of their seasons. Yes, I know the math looks a little off, but remember, there were strikes and random games not made up over that time back before the time of expanded playoffs and wild card teams.
Wilson had a pretty good stretch as a hitter, especially when you take a look at his prime years, from 1995-2002. Now, the numbers might not seem fantastic for a hitter, but Wilson was a catcher during this entire time, playing just 13 games at either first or third over his entire career.
.270/.319/.404. 21 2B, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 44 R. This was over an average of 119 games, due to shortened seasons for Dan in both 1998 and 2000, as he only played a combined 186 games those seasons.
He was an underrated defensive catcher, largely overshadowed by part-time inter-divisional rival Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. You can see how good of a defensive stalwart he was by looking at the all-time list of dWAR, where Wilson comes in at 44th all-time.
As with most Mariners during the mid to late 90’s, and into the beginning of the next decade as they moved to the new stadium, our visions are a bit tainted by the fact that the team actually performed well.
That doesn’t distract from the fact that Wilson was a reliable backstop who was a great defensive player for a decade, anchoring the team throughout the transition from the Kingdome to Safeco.
I’m glad we got to take a look back at Dan Wilson, one of the best character guys to ever play for the Seattle Mariners.