1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
In his first spring training, manager Lou Piniella wondered what in the world he had with Suzuki, the skinny right fielder the team had just signed from Japan.
Day after day, Suzuki slapped the ball to the opposite field. Piniella loves hitters who drive the ball over the wall, and it frustrated him that Suzuki hadn’t shown even a hint of power. So Piniella demanded that Suzuki pull the ball. In the next exhibition game, Suzuki did just that, satisfying his skipper.
Then he went back to his slap-happy way of preparing for a season, continually pushing the ball the other way, and the Mariners were better for it.
Suzuki dazzled all of baseball in 2001, winning the American League batting title with a .350 average and helping the Mariners win a record 116 games. He entered that season having captured the curiosity of a baseball world that wondered how the first position player from Japan would adapt in the major leagues, and he finished it with the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, plus the first of nine straight Gold Gloves.
He has been a base-hit machine in nine seasons — 2,030 hits in all, including at least 200 every year, setting a major league record.
Suzuki could hit for more power but chooses not to, and his ultra-cautious approach as a baserunner and defender has frustrated teammates over the years. But, like he showed Piniella in that first season, Suzuki plays his own game, and he’s done it better than any other Mariner over the past decade.
2. Edgar Martinez, DH
Martinez played his best baseball in the 1990s, but his impact on the Mariners’ playoff teams in 2000 and 2001 was immense. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 145 runs in 2000 and followed it with 23 homers and 116 RBI in 2001. The Mariners haven’t had a consistent middle-of-the-lineup hitter since, and it’s no coincidence they haven’t returned to the playoffs. Martinez retired after the 2004 season, but not before a street outside Safeco Field was named Edgar Martinez Drive and Major League Baseball named its annual outstanding designated hitter award in his honor.
3. Felix Hernandez, RHP
From Hernandez’s first minor-league season in 2003 with the Everett AquaSox, few players in franchise history played with higher expectations. In 2009, he produced one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher in franchise history. Hernandez went 19-5 with a 2.49 earned-run average, and became just the second pitcher in team history to log at least 200 innings, 200 strikeouts, 15 victories and an ERA less than 3.00 (Randy Johnson did it in 1995 and 1997).
4. Jamie Moyer, LHP
The soft-tossing left-hander pitched his best baseball early in the decade, with four straight winning seasons through 2003, including a 20-6 record and 3.43 ERA in 2001 and 21-7, 3.27 in 2003. Moyer went 93-43 in seven seasons this decade with the Mariners before being traded to the Phillies.
5. Mike Cameron, CF
He stepped into what seemed like an impossible situation, replacing the departed Ken Griffey Jr. in center field in 2000. Then Cameron quickly became a darling of Mariners fans with his outstanding defensive play in the vast outfield at Safeco Field and offensive production that helped the Mariners reach the playoffs in 2000 and 2001. Cameron hit 25 home runs and drove in 110 runs in 2001, and he finished his four-year run with the Mariners with 87 homers and 344 RBI.
6. Bret Boone, 2B
The Mariners badly needed a jolt to their offense in 2001 after losing Alex Rodriguez, who hit 41 homers and drove home 132 runs the previous season. Boone didn’t seem like the answer when the Mariners signed him before the 2001 season, having never hit more than 24 homers in a season. But he became a huge part of the Mariners’ record 116-victory team, hitting a career-high 37 homers with a league-leading 141 RBI. He produced three straight seasons of at least 100 RBI and finished a five-year stint as a Mariner with 164 homers and 646 RBI. And in the field, Boone was a big part of the Mariners’ new pitching-and-defense philosophy for success at Safeco Field, winning AL Gold Glove awards in 2002, ‘03 and ‘04.
7. Dan Wilson, C
Wilson, acquired before the 1994 season, remained a quiet pillar of the team until his retirement in 2005. He caught 535 games from 2000-2005 and, while never the offensive producer or defensive star of the Pudge Rodriguez realm, Wilson’s consistency and ability to call a game made him a favorite of the pitching staff.
8. John Olerud, 1B
The Mariners signed the Seattle native in 2000 not only to fill their need at first base, but also to add a quality left-handed bat at Safeco Field. Olerud averaged 100 RBI in the first three of his four seasons with the Mariners and won Gold Glove awards in 2000, ‘02 and ‘03.
9. Kazuhiro Sasaki, RHP
Sasaki brought his fastball-splitter combination from Japan and starred immediately, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award after recording 37 saves in 2000. He followed it with a franchise-record 45 saves in 2001 and 37 saves with a 2.52 ERA in 2002.
10. Freddy Garcia, RHP
Garcia was the Mariners’ opening-day starter from 2001-03 and became a durable presence at the top of the rotation. He led the league with a 3.05 ERA in 2001, when he produced a career-best 18-6 record. The Mariners traded Garcia to the Chicago White Sox in 2004, but he still ranks among the top starting pitchers in franchise history — third with 76 victories, fifth with 169 starts, 1,0961/3 innings and 819 strikeouts, and fourth with a .603 winning percentage.
Compiled by Kirby Arnold, Herald Writer