One of the most underappreciated MLB players is a legend all over Washington. He played in four and a half seasons with the Mariners after a career at Washington State University and he grew up in Bellevue and was born in Seattle.
John Olerud was a vital part of the Mariner’s offense in the seasons he played, and being a part of the 2001 team that broke the regular-season wins record, he will be remembered by fans for a long time.
From my perspective, I will remember his time retroactively, as he was before my time. But his legacy as Coug and professional career is certainly of note. The first thing that comes to mind is that during his playing career, he wore a batting helmet while on the field.
The reason that he wore the helmet was that he suffered a nearly fatal brain aneurysm in college and wanted to protect his brain from any potential extra damage.
At all levels of play, Olerud was dominant first in high school, as he batted .435 and had a pitching record of 9-2 with a 1.54 earned run average during his junior season. During his senior season, he was named to the All-County and All-State teams. He was awarded Most Valuable Offensive Player of the All-State game.
Then, after committing to WSU, he became of the best two-way baseball players in college baseball history.
Over three seasons at WSU from 1987–89, he hit .434 with 33 homers. He also posted a career pitching record of 26-4. Olerud became the only Coug to be named College Athlete of the Year in 1988 and now even has an award named after him, as the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award is awarded annually.
After being drafted in the 3rd round of the 1989 MLB draft, he skipped the minors and immediately joined the big league club.
He played 11 professional seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets before joining the Mariners, being named an All-Star in 1993 and receiving MVP votes in ‘93 and ‘98.
Then, with the Mariners, he played in 702 games in 5 seasons, winning three Gold Glove Awards and being named an All-Star once. He slashed .285/.388/.439 for a .827 OPS and 121 OPS+ during his time in Seattle, but most importantly he was a part of several of the best teams in the history of the franchise.
For his career overall, he accrued 58.2 WAR, had 2239 hits, 255 home runs, hit .295 and had an OPS+ of 129, yet still, he is on the outside looking in at the MLB Hall of Fame.
While no longer on the ballot, there is still a path to the Hall one day for Olerud, and it would be an injustice to the Mariners and Olerud’s career and legacy if he goes without ever making it to the highest honor an MLB player can achieve.