Sitting here this morning, I thought about how gross it was that the Mariners started Tommy La Stella at DH to open the season in 2023. It's nothing against La Stella, but in 2023, having a 34-year-old coming off a 79 OPS+ season is not anything you want in your starting lineup, especially at the Designated Hitter position.
It got me thinking. What's the worst opening-day lineup for the Mariners? Moreso than that, actually. If we go through the Mariners history, what's the worst lineup we could put together by picking and choosing throughout the 47-year history of the team? It won't be purely analytical but based on bad performance, bad players, and bad expectations.
I'm going to reference OPS+ a lot in this article. For those unfamiliar, it takes your OPS and looks at it against the league, giving a mark of 100 as league average AFTER adjusting for park and league factors each season. Your points above or below show the percentage you are better or worse than the average player at that position. A 120, and you're 20% better. A 60, and you're 40% worse.
The worst lineup the Mariners could put together throughout their combined history
C - 2018 - Mike Marjama
With 9 ABs to his name, the Mariners opened the season with Mike Marjama behind the plate. He would go 3-27, hitting .111/.172/.222 with an OPS+ of 10. Yes, 10. Somehow, all of his hits were doubles, but he would never play in the majors again after that start with the Mariners. It's hard to imagine someone being pegged to open the season and performing worse than Marjama did.
1B - 1982 - Jim Maler
Maler was straight-up awful for the Mariners in 1982. He was young and had looked good in very limited time the year before in his rookie season. Getting the nod in 82, he would hit .226/.274/.344 through 64 games, walking just 12 times. He would play even worse in 83 and never saw time in the majors again after that.
2B - 1978 - Jose Baez
This one is similar to Maier in that Baez was young and had shown a bit of promise his rookie season. Also, being named the starter for an expansion team at the age of 23 can't be easy for anyone. After 91 games in 1977, Baez would play just 23 in 1978, and never see the majors again. He would go 8-50, hitting .160/.250/.200 over that time frame. Kolten Wong could easily take the cake here because of expectations, but i can only imagine watching someone hit like that on a brand new team.
SS - 1979 - Mario Mendoza
Speaking of poor-hitting middle infielders, could it be anyone other than Mendoza? For goodness sake, the guy has a stat named after him. In one of the worst offensive seasons in the history of baseball, Mendoza would play 148 games in 1979, hitting .198/.216/.249, with an OPS+ of 25. His OPS was .466. He only scored 26 runs despite going to the plate 401 times that year. We've had some bad seasons, but this one goes down in the annals of history as something special.
3B - 2011 - Chone Figgins
You might think we would go Jeff Cirillo here, but I have to go with Figgins. He started at 2B in 2010, but moved to 3rd in 2011 to start the year. He received MVP votes in 2009 and was a 7.7 WAR player that year. In 2011, he would hit a paltry .188/.241/.243, with an OPS+ of 40. It's the fact that he was so good for the Angels, and just awful for the Mariners that gets him the top spot... and that they still kept him around in 2012 because of the 4YR/$36M deal he signed with the Mariners.
LF - There are so many, but... 1993 - Mike Felder
Coming off a good 1992 with the Giants, the Mariners signed the 31-year-old Felder. He had hit .286/.330/.382 with some speed, garnering an OPS+ of 102. 1993 was anything but, as he would hit just .211/.269/.269 in 109 games that year. Just one homer, and only 15-24 on the basepaths for an OPS+ of 43.
CF - 1988 - Mike Kingery
I almost went Abraham Almonte here, but there is a secondary reason for choosing Kingery, and I'm actually happy that he struggled so much. If he had done better, maybe they would have kept him there another season to let the prospects grow. If not for his line of .203/.313/.276 and OPS+ of 64, we could've been delayed a bit by seeing a teenager grace center field the following year. The Kid started in 1989, and things changed from that day on in Center.
RF - 2020 - Mallex Smith
Only 27, Mallex Smith was exciting enough that we wanted to see him play. He wasn't good at the plate, but he sure could run. He stole 46 bases in 2019, and actually led the American League that year despite the worst OPS+ of his career at 73. He got the start in RF in 2020, and it was gross. A .133/.170/.178 through 45 ABs, walking just twice. It's not often you see a negative OPS+, but that's what he had registering a -2.
DH - 2023 - Tommy La Stella
Recency Bias? Possibly. La Stella was awful to start the year, and for a team that was coming off its first playoff birth in decades, putting out a hitter like La Stella was just unacceptable. They could've thrown $5-10 million at someone in free agency to shore up the position but chose to grab someone coming off of a .239/.282/.350 season instead. It was short-lived, as La Stella went .190/.292/.238 across 24 PA, and didn't play for the Mariners again.
SP - 1999 - Jeff Fassero
I think this is one of those weird little kid things, but for some reason I never liked Jeff Fassero, and I don't know if there was ever a legit reason to it. He was good in 1997 and 1998, and earned the opening day nod for the Mariners in 1999. He was awful for the Mariners that year, posting a 7.38 ERA across 24 starts and 30 appearances. A WHIP of 1.878 and 34 homers led to constant big innings, and the Mariners got rid of him at the deadline.
Hopefully you're done throwing up now, and were able to make it through that list. We will have a couple more coming out this offseason, and will try and hit the other side of it as well by looking at the best possibly opening day roster the Mariners could've put out there.