So many stars: Mariners' best hitting seasons
SEATTLE -- When picking the best individual season by a Mariners position player in franchise history, there is no shortage of candidates. In the interest of spreading the wealth, we’re only going with the very best season from each individual in coming up with a Top 5 all-time list. Here are our choices:
1) Ken Griffey Jr., 1997
The hard part with Griffey is picking just one out of his 10 All-Star seasons in Seattle, but the tiebreaker comes down to that season that helped him win the American League MVP Award that sits in his Florida home from the ’97 campaign. The hardware was well earned, as Junior -- in his prime at age 27 -- led the AL with 56 homers, 147 RBIs, 125 runs scored and a .646 slugging percentage in 157 games while stealing 15 bases for good measure. Griffey hit .304 with a .382 on-base percentage as well as providing Gold Glove Award-winning defense. It’s hard to top the 165 OPS+ (though Griffey did so twice, at 171 in ’93 and ’94), or equal the 56 bombs (though Griffey did just that the following year in ’98). But for the whole package, Griffey was in peak form in ’97, leading Seattle to just its second AL West title and its first 90-win season.
2) Edgar Martinez, 1995
Another Hall of Famer with a bevy of big seasons, Martinez’s best came in the Mariners’ magical ’95 run, when he put up an incredible .356/.479/.628 slash line with 52 doubles, 29 home runs and 113 RBIs in the strike-shortened, 145-game campaign. Martinez led the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, runs scored (121), OPS (1.107) and OPS+ (185). His batting average, on-base and slugging percentages all wound up being the best of his 18-year career -- and that doesn’t even get into his heroics in the ’95 postseason, when Martinez established himself on the national stage.
3) Alex Rodriguez, 1996
It would be difficult to break into a full-time starting role at age 20 with any bigger bang than A-Rod did in ’96, when he led the Majors with a .358 average and 54 doubles and topped the AL with 141 runs scored as Seattle’s rising star at shortstop. His final line of .358/.414/.631 with 36 home runs and 123 RBIs helped him finish second to the Rangers’ Juan Gonzalez in an extremely close AL MVP Award vote and served notice of his impressive career to come as he earned the first of 14 All-Star berths and 10 Silver Slugger Awards. The .358 average wound up being the best of Rodriguez’s 22-year career and the .631 slugging percentage and 1.045 OPS were the second best of his career, topped only in 2007 when he won his third AL MVP Award while playing third base for the Yankees.
4) Ichiro Suzuki, 2004
Again, the challenge is choosing the best of Ichiro’s best. It’s tough to top his AL MVP and Rookie of the Year Award-winning campaign in '01, but Ichiro was even more productive at the plate in ’04, when he racked up 262 hits, breaking George Sisler’s 84-year-old MLB record of 257 in a season. The Wizard led the Majors that season with his .372 batting average, which wound up being the highest of his remarkable 19-year MLB career. Ichiro also stole 36 bases, scored 101 runs and won the fourth of his 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards.
5) Bret Boone, 2001
At age 32, Boone turned in by far the best season in his 14-year career and combined with Ichiro to lead Seattle to its record-setting 116-win season. After signing as a free agent to play second base for the Mariners, Boone slugged 37 doubles and 37 homers, led the AL with 141 RBIs and posted an imposing .331/.372/.578 line in 158 games. His 153 OPS+ was 13 points higher than his next best season in ’03.