This offseason, I decided to punish myself by looking at as many bad seasons by the Mariners that I could, and compiling the worst opening day players all onto the same team. Didn't matter how long they played there for, if they started the season there, that was good enough for me. If you haven't read it yet, it's pretty brutal.
Now, it's time to reward myself. What if we went the other way? What would the best possible roster be that the Mariners could put together? There are no other stipulations here other than they had to open the season at that position, playing opening day there. Could be someone from 1985, could be someone from 2005. Could we see a surprise dominating season from someone?
This one is a lot more fun, so let's dive into the past seasons for the Mariners and put together the best possible lineup that we can. There was a lot that hurt to leave off (Sorry Boomstick). Also, I ALMOST put Austin Nola in on here for 2020. He hit .306/.373/.531 through 29 games with an OPS+ of 151. That's easily the best season, but that's a small sample in an even shorter season.
Here. We. Go.
C - 2017 - Mike Zunino
This might just be the hardest one to figure out. Cal has meant a ton to this team. He hits well, and you can't get more clutch than what he did in 2022. He set the record for homers in 2022, and broke it in 2023. I think 2022 was the better season overall, just because of what he did and when he did it. That being said, I'm picking the 2017 season for Mike Zunino as the best offensive season by a Mariners catcher. From May 23-Sep 29 (100 games), Zunino hit 25 homers and slashed .270/.349/.571.
1B - 2002 - John OIerud
The Mariners had such a fun run of first baseman throughout their "good" period of baseball with Pinella at the helm. You could argue that the most enjoyable, and the best, first baseman that they put out during that time, or really at any point in their history, was John Olerud. 1993 and 1998 were his best seasons, but he had a great run in Seattle. That was highlighted by 2002, when he hit .300/.403/490 and a 140 OPS+, good for a 4.9 oWAR.
2B - 2001 - Bret Boone
Between Boone and Cano, Boone definitely beats out Cano, even if both got there by similar means. Boone took home a nice trifecta that season by being named an All-Star and winning both the Silver Slugger and finishing 3rd in MVP voting. He would hit .331/.372/.578 with 37 homers and a league leading 141 RBI, tallying 206 hits along the way. That's good for the most ever in team history by someone not named Edgar or Alex. A 153 OPS+ and 8.8 WAR end up easily taking the top spot here.
3B - 2016 - Kyle Seager
Seager also had a great 2014, and hit a career-high in homers in his final season with the team in 2021, but it's 2016 that takes the spot as his best season. A sneaky good 6.7 WAR was led by great defense at the hot corner and a .278/.359/.499 slash line, with 36 2B, 30 HR, and 99 RBI. Pre-shift Seager was a beast, and with some of the highest shift rates in baseball against him, we can only wonder how he would've done once shift restrictions were put into place.
SS - 1996 - Alex Rodriguez
I've made this argument before, but what A-Rod did in 1996 is hard to wrap your head around. His 2000 season was better by a full point of WAR (10.4 to 9.4), but he was just 20 years old in 1996. He led the league in Runs (141), 2B (54), and Batting Average (.358), with an insane slash line of .358/.414/.631. He definitely should've won the MVP over Juan Gonzalez that year, who hit 47 homers but had just a 3.7 WAR. Even if Griffey had a better season with a 9.7 WAR.
LF - 1985 - Phil Bradley
Bradley was part of a stupidly good rookie class for the Mariners in 1984. Alvin Davis won the award, Mark Langston finished second, and Bradley would hit .301/.373/.363 with 21 steals nut no homers. However, he found some pop in 1985, and would hit 26 homers, steal 22 bases, score 100 runs, all while hitting .300/.365/.498 and earning his lone All-Star appearance. He did well in '86 as well, but '85 was his best season and one of the few 5.0 oWAR seasons in team history.
CF - 1997 - Ken Griffey Jr.
.304/.382/.646. 34 2B, 56 HR, 147 RBI, 125 R, 393 TB, 23 IBB. MVP, GG, SS, All-Star
That's leading the league in a lot of things. 1996, as mentioned earlier, had a bit of a higher WAR in large part to an insane defensive season by Jr (3.4 dWAR), but I'm gonna give the nod to 1997. A unanimous MVP and one of the most exciting offensive seasons in team history led to the Mariners second playoff appearance, and one I'll always remember fondly being lucky enough to be in attendance for the two home games against the Orioles.
RF - 2001 - Ichiro Suzuki
Again, this comes down to not just the numbers, but the meaning of the season. Ichiro was a rookie in 2001, having just come over from Japan. He led the Mariners to one of the greatest regular seasons in the history of baseball, tying the all-time record with 116 wins. Ichiro would win both Rookie of the Year and MVP, hitting .350/.381/.457, stealing 56 bases and nothing 242 hits, the second most of his career.
DH - 1995 - Edgar Martinez
This might be my favorite offensive season ever put up by a Mariners player. Edgar was such a special hitter, and was a massive part of the Mariners earning their first playoff appearance. He led the league in games, runs, 2B, BA, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. .356/.479/.628 with 52 doubles, and you have to remember what happened in the postseason as well. He finished behind Mo Vaughn and Albert Belle in the MVP voting, but there is a strong case to be made that he should've won the award that year.
SP - 1995 - Randy Johnson
Is this the toughest one to figure out? I'm sure a lot of people are going to say Felix in 2010, but I can't go with that one over Randy Johnson in 1995 He was incredible that year, turning in arguably his 3rd best season of his career. 8.6 WAR, 193 ERA+, 214.1 IP, 2.48 ERA, 2.08 FIP, 18-2 record, 1.045 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, 0.5 HR/9, 12.3 K/9, 294 Ks. Yup, he led the league in all those stats. He finished 6th in MVP voting and arguably could've won in what was a down year. He also received 26 of 28 Cy Young votes, finishing off an utterly dominant season.
Could you imagine getting to watch a team with all these guys playing at those levels during a season together? How fun would that be?