On September 3, 2018, on a patently pleasant late-summer evening at Safeco Field, the Mariners beat the Orioles 2-1. The game was largely insignificant apart from Edwin Díaz recording another save, and in turn getting closer to the single-season record, and the Orioles adding another loss to the heap.
This game was a microscopic blip on the MLB radar. No one will, or frankly should remember any of the events on the field. If not for Electric Eddie night offering free haircuts and cool T-shirts to the Mariner faithful, this game could have been a “tree falling in the forest while no one’s around” situation. Had I not been in attendance, there is zero chance I would have devoted any energy to the game.
Of course, mixed in with the Erasmo Ramirez cutters and Baltimore’s parade of quad-A hitters, Kristopher Negrón made his Mariner debut. Wearing number 45 on his back, pinch running for Nelson Cruz, the 32-year-old (!!!) journeyman officially opened his Seattle account. He would not even make it 90 feet, as Ryon Healy grounded out on a spectacular play by Jonathan Villar in the next at-bat. This ended the inning, stranding Negrón and closing the book on him for that night, given that he pinch ran for the designated hitter and did not make another plate appearance.
Every part of Negrón’s profile (utility man on his fifth organization, never hit for great power or average, over 17 times more minor league plate appearances than MLB ones) suggests that he will soon fade to the deep recesses of our memories. For as much handwringing over Andrew Romine’s continual presence on the roster, a guy like Negrón is always a nice reminder that yes, it actually could be worse. Seeing Negrón stand on first, soak in the picturesque setting of Safeco at sunset, then trot back to the dugout after roughly 35 seconds of fame confirmed my idea of him becoming an all-time “Remember that guy?” player. His similar pinch-run and dip routine on Tuesday night only furthered this.
After a hesitant trip down memory lane, I’ve dug up some players from each season of this decade who fit the Negrón description of little contribution, virtually zero name recognition, and infinite laughs after remembering that the Mariners paid them to play for the team. Let’s begin with a pair of early-decade relievers.
2010: Chris Seddon and Brian Sweeney
2010, being the incredibly cursed year that it was, featured two relief pitchers who passed through like Abe Simpson. Both Seddon and Sweeney, somehow, someway, managed to log at least 22 innings during that abominable season. Sweeney, also inexplicably, was in his second tour of duty with the M’s after debuting in 2003 at the normal prospect age of 29.
The dreary duo combined for 59.1 innings in 2010, with Sweeney taking 37 and Seddon hurling 22.1. The former managed to have both a strikeout and walk rate under 10% that season, while the latter was good for four walks and nearly two home runs per nine innings. How the 2010 Mariners failed to meet expectations is still wildly perplexing.
Take a guess which of the dudes below is Sweeney and which one is Seddon.
Seddon is on the top, Sweeney is on the bottom.
2011: Chris Ray
Chris Ray’s largest contribution to Major League Baseball came in 2006, when he saved 33 games for an Orioles team led by Miguel Tejada, Corey Patterson, and Ramon Hernandez. Five years later, after stops in Texas and San Francisco, Ray ended up in teal, tossing 32.2 innings for the 2011 Mariners. Strangely enough the righthander named Ray, who is from Tampa Bay, graced an MLB mound for the final time against the Tampa Bay Rays.
On that fateful day in July of 2011, the Mariners were handed an 8-0 L. Erik Bedard recorded four outs while surrendering five runs. He was relieved by Aaron Laffey, who committed a balk. The Rays’ lineup included Johnny Damon. The Mariners 3-4-5 hitters were Dustin Ackley, Miguel Olivo, and Mike Carp. Adam Kennedy started at first base. Ray went two innings and allowed two hits, courtesy of Casey Kotchman and Sean Rodriguez. What I’m trying to say is I don’t really blame Ray for assessing the situation afterward and deciding that maybe he didn’t want to do this anymore. He was released on August 15 and never heard from again.
2012: Josh Kinney
At this point, it feels a little like piling on the relievers, who are already the most forgettable players on any team. However, for the 2012 squad, Kinney is easily the most milquetoast reliever from a bullpen that included Carter Capps, Charlie Furbush, Brandon League, Lucas Luetge, and a two-game cameo by George Sherrill.
Kinney came up with the Cardinals in 2006 and immediately won a World Series, pitching 6.1 scoreless innings in St. Louis’ unlikely playoff run. He would sign with the White Sox in 2011 as a free agent but manage to make just 13 appearances with Chicago. His lone year in the Pacific Northwest saw Kinney log single-season career highs in innings (32), strikeouts (36), and saves (1). In a game that historians will write leather-bound books about, Kinney recorded a seven-out save against the Twins, braving the Trevor Plouffe, Matt Carson, Pedro Florimon triumvirate along the way.
2013: Robert Andino
Robert Andino hit .184/.253/.237 in 85 plate appearances with the ’13 Mariners. It’s more important to remember him for this walk-off single two years earlier that denied the chicken and beer Red Sox a playoff spot.
2014: Cole Gillespie
In 2014, with the Mariners in the playoff hunt all season, the team started Cole Gillespie 19 times. Once, Lloyd McClendon even batted the supremely over-matched Gillespie fourth. Here’s Seattle’s starting lineup from that day.
Please don’t ever forget that the Mariners ended that season one game behind Oakland for the second wild card spot.
Gillespie hit .254/.312/.324 in his short stint with the Mariners before the Blue Jays claimed him on waivers. The plain-looking baseballer hit one Mariner home run before disappearing into the ether, taking Alex Cobb deep at Tropicana Field on a day in which he shared the outfield with Endy Chavez and James Jones. Miraculously, in 2015 he posted a 111 wRC+ over 157 plate appearances in a bit role with the Marlins.
2015: Logan Kinsey and John Hicks
INT. Matthew’s living room – the year is 2065
*pulls up a battered old recliner*
*plops down in it haphazardly*
*pours a glass of whisky*
*pats my knee to beckon the nearest grandchild, who asks to hear about baseball pre-robot umpires and before bat flips carried a mandatory three-year prison sentence*
*I pull the kid just close enough for them to smell the alcohol on my breath, but not enough for them to see how drunk I am*
“Listen kid, (drunk hiccup) it was all bad. People like Logan Kinsey and John Hicks were just allowed to be Major League Baseball players. They didn’t even have to throw 105 MPH or be ambidextrous pitch framers like today’s pitchers and catchers do.”
*the kid live streams this whole exchange using special contact lenses, I go tragically viral*
2016: Steve Johnson
Stop, stop laughing, stop that right now. Yes, I can assure you that despite having a name that sounds like if a saltine cracker volunteered as a narcotics officer, Steve Johnson was a Seattle Mariner. Look, here’s proof.
He pitched in 16 games, and even picked up a win. Wait until the fellas at his local bowling alley hear about this!
2017: Tyler Smith and Ryan Garton
As hard as it is to forget about people who were on the team a year ago, I must admit that I do not recall ever watching Tyler Smith or Ryan Garton play baseball.
Only time will tell if these two leave a bigger mental footprint than Kristopher Negrón, pinch-runner extraordinaire. All I know is that if Smith, Garton, and Negrón ever decide to team up, they could enjoy a storybook evening of people refusing to believe that they ever played for the Seattle Mariners.
If I forgot about your favorite, well, that’s sort of the point. But please feel free to drop some obscure names in the comments below.