Friday, March 11, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Tacoma Rainiers

In our mind's eye, Franklin Gutiérrez will have an ample canvas. The Rainiers, AKA the Seattle Mariners B team, would play in Cheney Stadium, which has a 425-foot centrefield marking. Plenty of room to roam for the best-fielding centrefielder in the game today.

Far be it to suggest a pitching staff bereft of a starter with a 5.0 WAR could use the help of a big ballpark. The Rainiers boast a lefty-heavy staff.

Offensively, the mid-'90s M's are well-represented with Tino Martinez and Jay Buhner in the heart of the batting order. Of course, they were the supporting cast in those days, not the stars. The lack of depth means Canadian Michael Saunders could crack the lineup with a big 2011 season.

  1. LF Phil Bradley, 1985 (4.3). Gave Seattle some credibility in the mid-'80s. Jays fans might remember him more from the 1989 Baltimore Orioles who finished two games behind Toronto; a quick check confirms he did hit .349 with an 1126 OPS against T-dot pitching that season.

  2. 2B Bret Boone, 2002 (3.9). It's not like his entire career should be stricken based on some strong suspicions, but the 2002 Boone was closer to his true level than the 2001 (9.3 WAR) or 2003 (7.1) iterations. Was a second baseman of modest talent for much of his career.

  3. 1B Tino Martinez,* 1995 (4.6). A fine first basemen who's here since his best season (1997) came with the New York Yankees, who might have employed a decent first basemen or four.

  4. DH Leon Roberts, 1978 (4.1). The first Mariner to ever get a MVP vote after hitting .301/.364/.515 with 22 home runs in the team's second season of existence.

  5. RF Jay Buhner, 1996 (3.0). I'll take Seattle outfielders not named Junior or Ichiro who have been on SI's cover for $1,000, Alex. Buhner put Seattle on his back during their Drive of '95, hitting 14 homers in the final 29 games.

  6. 3B Adrián Beltré, 2006 (4.6). This is probably more representative of who he truly is than whenever he's in a contract season (see 2004, Los Angeles).

  7. CF Franklin Gutiérrez (pictured), 2009 (5.4). A worthy heir to the Mariners' tradition of fine defensive centrefielders; a one-man argument for why MLB should not just have the Gold Glove Awards, but a defensive player of the year award.

  8. C Bob Stinson,# 1978 (3.0) / Dave Valle 1993 (2.7). If it wasn't for this song, Bob Stinson would have been completely forgotten. A .258/.346/.404 line is good by the standards of Seattle catchers.

    Dave Valle's claim to fame is that when he was in a massive slump in 1991, Seattle bars began using his batting average as a beer price. No word of a lie, his absolute lowest average of the season came on the biggest drinking night of the summer, Independence Day, when he dipped down to .128, or $1.28 if you prefer.

  9. SS Craig Reynolds,* 1979 (2.4). Has it been mentioned there is a real big drop-off among Mariners shortstops after Alex Rodríguez? Omar Vizquel and Carlos Guillén also did their best work with other franchises, so that leaves the job open to Reynolds, who was the Opening Day starter in the Mariners' maiden season and also an all-star in '78. He co-holds the MLB record of three triples in one game.
  • RHS Erik Hanson, 1990 (4.6). Used his power curve to record 211 strikeouts in 1990, but was never again that dominant.

  • LHS Matt Young, 1983 (4.8). Was better than his lifetime 55-95 record, especially since one of those losses included being the first pitcher to throw an eight-inning complete-game no-hitter and not have it count as an official no-hitter. That was kind of a microcosm for Young's hard-luck career.

  • LHS Dave Fleming, 1992 (4.7). Was a one-hit wonder (17-10, 3.39 ERA in 1992 despite a low strikeout rate) before settling into a quiet normal life as a school teacher.

  • LHS Jeff Fassero, 1997 (4.4). One could set a watch to reading every summer to having Fassero linked to teams that needed another quality starter or a veteran left-hander. His best season was actually in 1996 with the Expos.

  • RHS Joel Piñeiro, 2002 (4.4). Quality over quantity; as a fifth starter, it is not such a big deal that Piñeiro is hard-pressed to hit 200 innings every season.

  • LHS Floyd Bannister, 1982 (4.3). Quick, who was the first Mariners pitcher to win a strikeout title? No, not Mark Langston. Bannister did it in 1982; he had only two double-digit strikeout games all season.
  • CF Ruppert Jones,* 1979 (3.3). Some at-bats could be found for the the original Mariner, who was their first expansion draft selection in November 1976.

  • OF Wayne Comer, 1969 (3.0). A cheat? Since the criteria for this owes more to Calvinball or TEGWAR, it is kosher to include one Seattle Pilot. Comer was the P's starting centrefielder before the franchise was bogarted by Bud Selig in Milwaukee.

  • 2B Joey Cora,# 1997 (2.3). It was not Edgar Martinez or Ken Griffey or Randy Johnson who carried the Mariners into their first league championship series appearance in 1995. It was Cora. Admit it.

  • 3B Jim Presley, 1986 (2.0). Adequate player who was one-man explanation for (a) why Edgar Martinez will have a long road to Hall of Fame induction and (b) why the Mariners did not have a winning season until 1991. The two go hand-in-hand. Anyone who had a complete set of 1987 Topps baseball cards (with the awful wood grain design) has a good chance of recall Presley's rather rank ratio of bases on balls (32) to strikeouts (172).
  • RHR Shigetosi Hasegawa, 2003 (3.0). Had a good career in two cultures (3.33 career ERA in Japan, 3.71 in the American League). Was the closer for the Mariners' most recent good team in 2003.

  • LHR Ed Vande Berg, 1982 (2.6). Considered the original LOOGY, since in 1982-83 he had more appearances than innings pitched. That means Tony La Russa cannot take full credit for developing the modern bullpen? Let us hope so.

  • RHR Jeff Nelson, 1995 (2.5). Threw a wicked slider; among a select few who played for both teams in those three Mariners-Yankees post-season series.

  • RHR Mike Timlin, 1998 (2.5). Won two World Series rings with two different AL East franchises who are not named the New York Yankees, so that narrows it down considerably. He's needed more in the Seattle stream.

  • CL David Aardsma, 2009 (2.0). Hard-throwing closer for the current Mariners; control can be an issue.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

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