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Nelson Cruz’s Top Ten Mariner Home Runs

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Goodbye my slugger, goodbye my friend

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson Cruz has 360 MLB homers to his name. 163 with the Mariners, 157 with the Rangers, 40 from a season in Baltimore, and more to come in Minnesota as the coveted free agent joins the Twins. He’s gone deep off Mike Timlin (born in 1966), and Jacob Nix (born in 1996). He’s left souvenirs in every American League ballpark, including one that doesn’t exist anymore.

We were so, so lucky to watch Nelson do his thing for our local nine. It was four years of towering flies and zooming line drives, each one more pleasurable to watch than the last. These ten particular home runs encapsulate the Nelson Cruz: Seattle Mariner experience quite nicely. With Cruz signing a one-year deal this morning with the Minnesota Twins, let these clips be a touchstone to what is now a bygone era in the team’s history.

10. $12 Memory – July 3, 2018

This home run was like Mötley Crüe’s career, unremarkable on its own, but legendary for the debauchery that ensued.

The scene begins with Angels’ righty Noe Ramirez toeing the Safeco Field pitcher’s mound. He’s wearing the Angels’ normally awful red jerseys with the red numbers. But wait, what’s this? Faux patriotism has made the bad jersey even worse by adding stars and stripes to the lettering, making things even harder to read? Nelson Cruz will not stand for this.

Nellie drew a straight line between him and the Mariners’ other iconic designated hitter by lasering a ball into Edgar’s Cantina. When it landed, the M’s added some insurance runs to their lead over Anaheim, and a fireworks display of overpriced beer lit up the left field seats.

On the one hand, I feel for Sir Tank Top in this situation. Judging on the fullness of his cup, and the fact that this was the eighth inning, Sir Tank Top had expertly nursed the beer into the game’s final stages, allowing him to keep the buzz going after the stadium’s beer vendors shut down. “I’m stoked,” he said, probably.

If he continued pacing himself, Sir Tank Top could have enjoyed the sweet taste of suds while listening to the Jimi Hendrix victory song, as the Mariners would win this game minutes later.

Instead, Sir Tank Top reached for an 109 MPH baseball with only a plastic cup and some Bud Light to protect him. It was in that moment that Sir Tank Top realized he had made a mistake.

  • Alcohol everywhere.
  • Things getting destroyed.
  • Tank tops.

Mötley Crüe has never been prouder.

9. RIP Héctor Santiago – September 25, 2016

Héctor Santiago is a 30-year-old man from Newark, New Jersey. He went to college in a place called Niceville, Florida that I swear I am not making up. He has a 4.05 career ERA, 46 wins, and an All-Star appearance in 2015. In twenty years I will almost surely not remember him.

I say that to say this: we should probably be paying more attention to Héctor Santiago. We should all remember him twenty, thirty, and even one hundred years from now. Because on September 25, 2016, his soul left his body.

That fateful day in the upper Midwest saw Santiago surrender two home runs to Nelson Cruz, take the L, and push the Twins into triple digit losses. Yet against all odds, Héctor Santiago continued to live. Bless him.

8. Tropicana Juice – August 18, 2017

I do not know this to be a fact, and don’t want to launch into baseless speculation, but I would not be surprised to learn that Nelson Cruz has some sort of personal vendetta against Brad Boxberger. Just look at how he treated poor Boxy (who will appear again later) in this August 2017 affair.

I love this home run for two reasons.

1) Nelson Cruz utterly spanked this baseball. Perhaps he was trying to rescue the ball, and give it a better life, by hitting it clear out of the state of Florida.

2) The Mariners were already winning this game 6-1 in the ninth inning. Boxberger tried to sneak a get-me-over, middle-in, 92 MPH fastball past Nelson Cruz, who was not having that. Boxberger was punished for his bad decision-making, and I love that Nellie pounced on the opportunity rather than just letting it slide for sportsmanship purposes. This is like a pick-six at the end of a football game that was decided in the third quarter.

7. The Sound – September 13, 2016

What are some of your favorite sounds? I like horns on rap songs, and that noise some jars make when you open them. A basketball swishing perfectly through a hoop always hits the ear nicely. So does Frank Ocean’s voice. Who doesn’t love babies’ laughter? Puget’s kind of cool, I guess.

I also like this sound.

Our own John Trupin devoted lots of digital ink to this very sound, which he described by saying “I have never heard a sound like that before from tree and cowhide.” I agree with John on his Robert Frost-level nature writing, and now I want tree and cowhide to collab on a song soon.

Oh and also this home run broke Statcast.

6. The Arrival – April 30, 2015

This is the first seminal Nelson Cruz home run I remember. This specific game was nothing to write home about—a ho-hum 5-2 win on a Wednesday in Arlington—and I only remember it because I watched the highlights that night while brushing my teeth. When I saw Nellie unload on poor Wandy Rodriguez, I felt a jolt of energy rarely experienced before.

In watching Nelson’s demolition of that baseball, it finally dawned on me that he was ours. We had a fearsome slugger in the middle of the lineup, protecting Canó, who could roll out of bed and post 30-homer seasons. That was a new and exciting feeling, and somehow, so was every home run. Even three years and over 150 home runs later, each time Nelson left the building I felt the same way I did that day in my bathroom. The joy of watching your favorite team make a splashy free agent signing who is both fun to watch and productive as hell is hard to beat. I will miss that immensely.

5. 493 feet – September 24, 2016

493 feet is so far, y’all. Nelson Cruz absolutely clattered this ball.

4. The Lone Walk-Off – September 22, 2017

It is a bit of a surprise that Nellie only had one walk-off homer with Seattle. It is a tremendous bummer that it came in a virtually meaningless game at the end of 2017’s Honey Bucket of a season. Here’s proof that it actually happened, courtesy of a bootleg YouTuber.

I remember watching this happen at a two-star sports bar in Issaquah with some friends. It was a couple months after we graduated college. All of us had moved back to our shitty hometown and were living at our parents’ houses trying to figure out what to do with our lives next, right in that pocket where everything seems so important and simultaneously not important at all.

That seems like a fitting memory for this moment. A blip in the unremarkable human experience, amid a 79-win season and the bleakness of 22-year-old life, washed down by pitchers of bad beer, that I probably would have appreciated more given different circumstances.

(Aesthetic note: I will miss Cruz’s teal cleats more than I miss a lot of real-life people who affected my life.)

3. The First – April 11, 2015

You always remember your first.

For Nelson’s first in Mariner blue, it was in the romantic confines of the Oakland Coliseum. On a picturesque Saturday afternoon, in front of a handful of strangers, Cruz parked one down the left field line for his first with Seattle. At the expense of A’s reliever Dan Otero, Nellie nudged his new team into the lead with three clutch RBI just five games into his Mariner voyage.

The base runners here? Austin Jackson and Justin Ruggiano. The game’s winning pitcher? Tyler Olson.

It really is perplexing how the 2015 team couldn’t crack the playoffs.

2. Touch Tank – May 27, 2015

For as much as we make fun of the Rays for playing cheapo, indoor baseball for 12 people a night, let’s not overlook the fact that they have live sting rays swimming around in right center field. Tampa’s touch tank not only allows fans to combine aquariums and mostly mediocre baseball (America’s two favorite pastimes), it also provides opportunities for aquatic home runs.

While not as majestic as high, looping home runs into McCovey Cove or the Allegheny River, these bombs into the Rays’ pool are juicy retribution for Steve Irwin’s death. It can also serve as target practice for Nelson Cruz. This particular moon shot came at an important time too, as it broke a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth and propelled the M’s to victory. As far as I know the sting rays were not harmed but were absolutely reminded that the Crocodile Hunter still has shooters out here.

1. Game 161 – October 1, 2016

This is unquestionably Nelson Cruz’s best Mariner moment, and if we’re being honest, one of the best Mariner moments of the last decade, period. Yes, it’s all too fitting that this game eventually ended in a loss, eliminating the Mariners from the 2016 playoff race on the season’s penultimate day. But still, watch the video and try to transport yourself back to that day in 2016.

As Nellie’s ball cleared the fence, you probably thought it was finally going to happen. The playoff wall would crumble, the demons would be exorcised, and it’d be largely due to a free agent acquisition that finally worked out for Seattle. When the baseball came parachuting down into the night, as our playoff hopes would a few innings later, Nelson Cruz made it clear that Mariner fans would forever have a fond memory of him. Rounding the bases, fists pumping, with SEATTLE across his chest, trying his damnedest to give this franchise the glory it so deserves.