“The Mariners may not have had much success, but as fans we sure are lucky to have seen the players we’ve seen play here.”
This is a common refrain among Mariners fans. We have certainly seen some of baseball’s all-time great players come through our city. But I like to be contrary (some may say soul crushing) and I hate all fun things, so I started to wonder if we are actually lucky or if we’re just doing that thing where we overvalue our own players again.
I took a look at Hall of Fame inducted players, players that should be in the Hall of Fame, and active players that look like Hall of Famers to see how the franchise history of the Mariners stacks up against other teams, beginning with the 1977 season.
Notes on Methodology
I began by looking at players currently in the Hall of Fame: how many played for each team and how many seasons of HOF players each team had. There are recently retired players and active players that are almost certainly HOF players, but I didn’t want to make a judgement call on that myself. I did some internet digging and settled on using the Hall of Stats method. Essentially, any player with a Hall Rating over 100 is considered a HOF-caliber player. For active players, I dropped that number down to 90 to include a few extra players, namely Felix Hernandez (his Hall Rating is “only” 97.895). The rating is based off the Baseball Reference WAR statistics and its various derivatives.
My methods aren’t perfect and leave room for plenty of gray and arguments. All HOF players are included, even those that don’t meet the statistical thresholds. The perception of being a HOF player is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Each team is given a full season for each year the player appeared on their roster. If a player was a traded mid-season, or injured for much of the year, they still count for a full season. I also don’t take into account the quality of a player’s seasons. The Mariners get to count Gaylord Perry’s and Goose Gossage’s seasons with them, not to mention the last couple years of Ken Griffey Jr.’s career, which are a thing that happened. The Reds and White Sox get to share Griffey’s 2008 season.
Only seasons 1977-2016 count. The later seasons are a little less sound since players can improve or deteriorate over their careers. I also don’t adjust the numbers for the Rockies, Marlins, Rays, or Diamondbacks even though they have existed for fewer than 40 years. They’ve all made World Series appearances so they don’t get any leniency from me.
Despite the holes, this is a fun look at the general quality of players over the 40 years the Mariners have been in existence.
So, are Mariner fans lucky?
Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the Mariners players currently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Five players with plaques in Cooperstown have passed through the Emerald City. We caught Gaylord Perry, Goose Gossage, and Rickey Henderson for about a season each near the ends of their careers The real gems were home grown Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson. Griffey’s best years were with Seattle and while Johnson may not have been at what many consider his peak in Seattle, he was no slouch.
(As an aside, Goose Gossage has a Hall Rating of 89.825, the only Mariner HOFer to fall below the threshold set by the Hall of Stats. So, you are free to smirk to yourself when he pontificates on “pitchers these days”.)
However, we all know Edgar Martinez is undoubtedly a Hall of Fame player, whether the Baseball Writers Association of America agrees or not. And a few other good players have passed our way.
Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, and Ichiro Suzuki all exceed a Hall Rating of 100. Felix Hernandez falls just below, but he is most certainly a Hall of Famer to us.
In the 40 years the Mariners have existed they have had 12 Hall of Fame or Hall of Fame caliber players on the team. A total of 32 out of those 40 seasons, one of those types of players have been on the roster, including every single season from 1987 on. Not too bad, right? Even in the dismal years, there has been some sort of saving grace.
Everything is relative, and throwing out those numbers sounds great, but how does it look in comparison to other teams?
The Other Teams
The Yankees lead the pack with 37 HOF or HOF-caliber players. The Dodgers are second with 26. The Dodgers, Red Sox, and Reds have had one of these players on their roster for each of the 40 years of the Mariner’s existence. The Rangers and Angels come in at 38 each and the Cardinals come in at 37.
The poor Rays come in last with only 2 players and 3 seasons. However, they have made 4 playoff and 1 World Series appearance, all happening in years without one of those players. Not bad for their relatively short existence.
The Rockies are the only team to have never had a HOF player on their roster. If nothing else, that’s a reason to finally induct Larry Walker (Hall Rating 151.019).
Teams have made playoff appearances 30 times without having a HOF or HOF-caliber player on their roster at some point that season. It has only happened 6 times prior to 2010, with 3 of those occurrences happening in 2007. It’s a fun little piece of trivia that shows a pretty clear correlation between good players and making the playoffs, in case that wasn’t logically obvious already.
These upper echelon teams have the combination of being lucky and good. Lucky to see great players and good because they go to the playoffs all the time. I hope those fans appreciate their good fortunes.
How Do the Mariners Compare?
Players on Roster: 22nd with 12
Years with Player(s) on Roster: 18th with 32
Playoff Appearances: Not last! They beat out the Rockies (3, with 1 World Series appearance), and the Marlins (2, which includes 2 World Series titles). With 4 playoff appearances they tie the Expos/Nationals (also 0 World Series appearances) and the Rays (1 World Series appearance).
Mariner fans aren’t extraordinarily lucky by any means. However, we have seen one of the best players in baseball history and a rare first-ballot Hall of Famer in Ken Griffey Jr. We watched one of the most dominating pitchers of all time develop with Randy Johnson. We experienced the evolution of the Designated Hitter through the career of Edgar Martinez. Those are pretty amazing experiences.
Are those experiences worth a lack of playoff success? Would you trade Ken Griffey Jr for a World Series victory? There are many debates to be had on this subject.
This weekend we get to watch the man who defined a new position in baseball have his number retired. It’s a special piece of baseball history that Mariner fans get to have for themselves. Whether or not Edgar Martinez is ever inducted into the Hall of Fame, he is a truly special player and we are absolutely lucky to have watched his entire career.