With the M's more or less officially saying goodbye to Russell Branyan, I thought I would say my farewells too. But instead of talking about how awesome it was to have a season's worth of the Sex Cannon, why not look at the greatest gift Russell gave to the 2009 Mariners: the really really really long home run.
So, in celebration of Branyan's time with us, the ten longest Mariners home runs of the hit tracker era (2006-now) by standard distance:
Victim: Davis Romero, TOR
Gutierrez's 17th home run of the 2009 season came in the top of the third with the Mariners up 1-0. One 'fastball' down the pipe later, and it was 3-0 Seattle. Gutierrez has far more power against left handed pitchers than righties, and it showed here, as he launched a 1-2 pitch into left-centre field. Vernon Wells barely moved. 444 feet later and the ball was bouncing up the stairs just under the restaurant and Romero was swearing at the ground. The Mariners would eventually win the game 5-4, giving Felix his 17th win of the season.
Victim: Jarrod Washburn, DET
The Mariners had had to deal with Jarrod Washburn on their team for three and a half long years, and they were looking for revenge. Loafie was the first to take Washburn yard in the 3rd, Kenji followed it up by hitting The Dolphin out in the 4th, and the top of the six saw Mike Sweeney break his bat on his back on a home run to left. Up stepped Russell Branyan, who had struck out four times in four at-bats the previous day and was 0-2 so far against Washburn. Two fastball missed away, and then an 88 mile an hour sinker arrived down the heart of the plate. The ball left the bat at 112 mph and whizzed off to right field in Comerica, skimming the bottom of the second deck on its way down. Jarrod didn't even look up.
Victim: Jesse Listch, TOR
Beltre preemptively one-upped Gutierrez here, drilling a long home run to centre field in Toronto to give the Mariners the lead. While Guti's shot hit the stairs between sections, Adrian's bounced off the bottom of the restaurant and back out into play. The Mariners would go onto win the game 4-2, and Jesse Listch learned never to throw an 88mph barely-moving fastball down the middle to Adrian Beltre ever again. This home run propelled the Mariners to within touching distance of Anaheim, and was to be their crowning moment of the season. The death spiral started the next day.
NB: This HR is ranked over Branyan's 445 footer because Beltre's shot was not wind-aided, and Branyan's was.
7: Bill Hall
6: Raul Ibanez
Victim: Clay Rapada, DET
The longest home run in the Mariners best year since 2003 and another left-handed home run in Comerica, Raul's shot capped a ferocious Mariner comeback that saw ten runs score in less than three innings. While perhaps not as impressive as Branyan's monster to right, Ibanez's RCF home run wasn't anything to sneeze at, as it fought wind and cold temperatures on its way to the seats and still managed to almost touch 450 feet. This home run was also the first on the list not to come off the fastball. Note to Clay Rapada: changeups upstairs to same handed batters? Bad idea.
5: Russell Branyan
Victim: Alfredo Aceves, NYY
Branyan has the honour of holding the record for longest home run by an American League player in the history of New Yankee Stadium, no mean feat considering the sluggers who call it home (the overall record is held by that man Raul Ibanez). Ichiro had just beaten out an infield single with the Mariners up by two in the ninth when Branyan slammed his 20th home run of the year off the restaurant in dead centre. You can hear it when the ball hits the sweet spot perfectly on a home run - you get that short, sharp, crack of the bat that heralds an impending souvenir. This home run didn't sound like that. Imagine the noise of someone snapping a tree in half with their bare hands. It sounded like that.
4: Raul Ibanez
Victim: Scott Feldman, TEX
Raul upstaged a two-homer day by Adrain Beltre and Bryan LaHair's first career bomb by absolutely mauling a 3-0 fastball from Scott Feldman during a tied game down in Arlington for the longest M's home run of 2008. The ball was ripped out to centre at 114 mph, landing just shy of the umbrellas on the centre field concourse. It wasn't even that bad a pitch - a 91 mph sinker on the outside corner - but Ibanez didn't care. Sometimes greenlighting a player can be worthwhile. The Rangers tied the game up in short order, but the Mariners would eventually go on to win it 7-5.
3: Russell Branyan
Victim: Brian Bass, BAL
June 11th, 2009, and Branyan was at the height of his powers. Unburdened by the back problems that would plague the tail end of the season, Russell was riding a hot streak that peaked in Baltimore. A 2-1 offering was called for down low, but it made its way back up over the plate and Branyan obliterated the ball. In watching the replays, you cannot see the ball leaving the bat - it looks just like a swing and a miss, it was hit so hard. Adam Jones in centre field turned around, took two hopeful steps towards the wall, crossed his arms, and the ball came down about five seconds later in something like the last row of outfield seats. Branyan's finest Mariner moment.
2: Raul Ibanez
Victim: Roy Halladay, TOR
2006 pops up for the first time on our list, and it's another home run hit in Toronto (although this time it's against a pretty good pitcher). Whenever you take Roy Halladay halfway up the second deck and do it in about 1.5 seconds, you've hit the ball pretty hard. This was another Raul Special - a ball on the outside part of the plate that wasn't far enough out of way, a silly comic book swing from the shoes, and an absolute laser into the stands. Branyan's long home runs are majestic. Ibanez's are anything but. But hey, no arguing with a 466 foot homer, right?
Also featured in this game: Carl Everett's 11th home run of the season.
Victim: Brandon McCarthy, CWS
You didn't think that the original Funk Blaster was going to be left off the list entirely, did you? This was one of Sexson's last acts as a useful baseball player, and I remember it quite vividly as a monster grand slam to left centre. This just goes to show that my memory sucks, because Sexson's 31st home run of 2006 was actually a solo to straightway left, and it was every bit as impressive as Branyan's moonshots. Sexson had already helped knock Jose Contreras out of the game with a two-run home to dead centre, and he greeted reliever McCarthy with an absolute monster of a home run that probably concussed some poor soul waiting in line for a hot dog. Big Richie may not have been able to hit the ball very often, but my goodness he could crush one when he made contact.
11: Adrian Beltre
Victim: Kirk Sarloos, OAK
This is the longest home run by a Mariner at home in the past four years, and I included it mainly because I thought that having a top ten home runs list without including Safeco field was a little bit sad. So, at #11, we have Adrian Beltre against Kirk Sarloos and a fastball that was sent screaming over left field into the upper deck. Since the Mariners were down 6-0 at the time, it didn't really have much impact on the game, and the A's went on to win and clinch the AL West, largely as a result of their record against the Mariners. At least we got a mammoth home run out of it...
All data from HitTracker and MLB.com's video archives.