I always enjoy going back and thinking about some of the lesser-known Mariners, and the ones that weren’t on the team for very long. Cliff Lee always pops to the top of my head when I think about pitching, and Rickey Henderson is one of the ones that always comes to mind when I think about hitting.
If you know anything about baseball, you know that Rickey was special. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game, and he did it at an incredible clip for a long time. He’s got so many records, but it was one that I just recently heard about/remembered that is incredible to me.
Rickey Henderson was actually a darn good player for the Mariners
Once he hit a homer with the Mariners, Rickey would then have hit a home run in four different decades. He was just the third person at that time to do it, later joined by Omar Vizquel. Think about that. You have to play a long time, be a great player, and still have pop at an advanced age. You’ve also got to get a bit lucky and start playing at the end of a decade. It’s crazy, but his first season was all the way back in 1979.
He had 33 steals that season as a 20-year-old for Oakland. Fast forward all the way to the year 2000, and a 41-year-old Rickey Henderson was picked up by the Seattle Mariners to plug-in and play in the outfield. He wasn’t the player he used to be, but he still turned in quite the season for the Mariners. What stands out is the fact that he still had speed (31-40 on SB attempts) and a great eye, posting a slash line of .238/.362/.327.
The walk rate is what’s impressive to me. He was able to work at-bats and get on base with a great walk rate, and then still make pitchers pay. Part of it was how well he could reach pitchers.
"“Certain guys, they can see a guy do a certain thing with their glove and know what pitch is coming. I couldn’t do that. But I can get on first base and I can tell you by his move if that pitcher is going to first base or home plate every time. Now I see it and I tell guys, ‘Wow you could have been down there.”"
I imagine listening to Rickey talk about baserunning would be similar to listening to an all-time hitter i.e. Edgar, Ted Williams, etc. talk about hitting. The fact that he was carrying that into his early-40s is amazing. In fact, 31 steals actually ranks T-26th all-time for a single season in Mariners history. Of all the guys to come through Seattle, Rickey is T-26th for a single season. That’s amazing.
Funny enough, he’s actually T-35th in career steals for the Mariners. I’ve been staring at that for ten minutes now, and still can’t figure out if is funny, sad, or both.
He ended up being a great pickup for Seattle. Remember, this was the 2000 season, and the Mariners would end up making the playoffs that year and taking it to the Chicago White Sox in an impressive opening round sweep in the ALDS. Rickey was a part of that, and he helped the Mariners get there with a 1.3 WAR, with positive numbers on both offense and defense. It was actually the first time since 1994 that Rickey wasn’t a negative on defense.
Think about how much the Mariners could’ve used 2000 Rickey Henderson in left field last season. A guy at the top of the lineup (he and JP as 1-2 in some order) who is swiping bases, playing decent defense, and getting on-base at a .360 clip! That would’ve been the second-highest rate on last season’s team.
"“It’s Rickey Time”"