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Happy 45th Birthday, Paul Sorrento

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Take all the players in Seattle Mariners history who have come to the plate at least 500 times in the uniform. You're left with a sample of 94 guys, from Mike Blowers to Bruce Bochte to Jeremy Reed. Now arrange those 94 players by OPS. Who're the top five?

Ken Griffey Jr., you say? Sure, he's there, at #3. Edgar Martinez? Definitely, yeah, #2. And Alex Rodriguez sits at #1, with a Mariner OPS of .934 to Edgar's .933.

What about #4 and #5? Jay Buhner? No, not Jay Buhner. No Ichiro, either, and no Russell Branyan, or John Olerud, or Alvin Davis, or Tino Martinez. #4 is the famous Ken Phelps. And #5 is none other than Paul Anthony Sorrento.

Sorrento was only around for two seasons. The Mariners missed the playoffs in one of them, and were eliminated in the ALDS in the other. While he was third on the team in home runs in 1997 with 31, those were overshadowed by Griffey's 56 and Buhner's 40. Sorrento doesn't really hold any meaningful place in (most of) our hearts. You may have even forgotten about him until you read this post. Sorrento's a forgettable guy, the first baseman who came between Tino and David Segui. He was something of an organizational tourist.

And yet, when I think about it, that seems like a shame. Because when I think about a lot of those Mariners teams from the 90s, I think about teams that just slugged and did little else, and I don't know that there was any better embodiment of the whole approach than Paul Sorrento.

I know those teams had a lot of Hall of Fame talent, but forget about the individual and focus on the overall picture. They didn't really run. They didn't play great defense. They didn't have great starters, and they didn't have great relief. They had power. They had a lot of power, and they succeeded not by shutting down their opponents, but by outscoring them.

And Sorrento? Sorrento was a poor defensive first baseman who didn't run, and who didn't walk much, and who struck out too often. But he swung hard. In his two years with the Mariners, he slugged .511, with 106 extra-base hits. Sorrento wasn't a particularly good player, but he'd launch a ball often enough to stay somewhat exciting.

Paul Sorrento, the player, doesn't stand out, and he's blended in with guys like Ruben Sierra and James Baldwin who are just a forgotten part of the team's history.

But Paul Sorrento also stands for what a number of those teams were like to watch. Edgar Martinez didn't represent the Mariners. Randy Johnson didn't represent the Mariners. Ken Griffey Jr. didn't represent the Mariners. Paul Sorrento represented the Mariners. He's the guy who represented what they really were.

If you're reading this, Paul, I hope you have delicious cake.