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Mariners' Top 5 first basemen: Johns' take

@gregjohnsmlb
March 30, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Greg Johns’ ranking of the top five first basemen in Mariners history. Next week: second basemen.

1. Alvin Davis, 1984-91
Key fact: His 20.1 bWAR is highest among all Mariners first basemen

Unlike catcher, where Dan Wilson was the clear choice, there’s a viable debate between Alvin Davis and John Olerud as the top first baseman in franchise history. But while Olerud is fresher in the minds of many fans, there’s a good reason why Davis is still known as "Mr. Mariner."

Davis was the inaugural member of the team’s Hall of Fame -- one of just seven players inducted overall -- and still works with the club as a roving instructor at age 59. He was the American League Rookie of the Year and an AL All-Star in 1984, when he hit .284 with 27 homers and 116 RBIs, and went on to play eight of his nine MLB seasons in Seattle -- finishing his Mariners career with a .281/.381/.453 line in 4,892 plate appearances.

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After Davis was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in 1997, he threw out the first pitch at the next game in the Kingdome to Ken Griffey Jr., who acknowledged Davis’ place in franchise history.

“Do you think there will ever be another Mr. Mariner?” Griffey asked reporters. “I don’t. Alvin is the original and only one.”

2. John Olerud, 2000-04
Key fact: Won three AL Gold Gloves in five seasons in Seattle

Signed as a free agent before the 2000 season at age 31, John Olerud helped his hometown club reach the playoffs the next two seasons with his patient bat and sterling glove. The lanky left-hander grew up in nearby Bellevue, Wash., starring as a two-way player for Interlake High School and Washington State University before an outstanding 11-year run with the Blue Jays and Mets.

With the Mariners, he posted a .302/.401/.472 line with 21 homers and 95 RBIs while earning AL All-Star honors for the 116-win team in 2001 and was the AL Gold Glove first baseman in 2000, ’02 and ’03. Though his average dropped in his final two seasons with Seattle, he still posted the highest on-base percentage of any first baseman in franchise history at .388 while batting .285 in 702 games.

Olerud is one of just four players in franchise history to hit for the cycle, along with Adrián Beltré, Alex Rodriguez and Jay Buhner.

3. Bruce Bochte, 1978-82
Key fact: Hit .316 as an All-Star in 1979

Though he wasn’t a big power bat, Bruce Bochte put together a very productive five-year run for Seattle, with a .290/.370/.429 slash line, totaling 58 home runs and 329 RBIs in 681 games. He earned AL All-Star honors in 1979, when he hit .316/.385/.439 with 16 homers and 100 RBIs.

Known as an introspective player with a natural curiosity for the world, Bochte abruptly retired and moved to Whidbey Island in 1983 at age 32, coming off a season when he batted .297 with 12 homers and 70 RBIs. He returned with the A’s a year later and played three more seasons before retiring for good in ’87.

4. Tino Martinez, 1990-95
Key fact: Racked up 31 homers and 111 RBIs in breakout ’95 season

Drafted by Seattle in the first round in 1988, Tino Martinez played the first six seasons of his 16-year Major League career for the Mariners. By far his best season in Seattle was his last, in 1995, as he was named an AL All-Star while posting a .293/.369/.551 line for a team that captured the baseball world’s attention by earning its first playoff berth and knocking off the Yankees in a dramatic AL Division Series.

Martinez wound up getting traded to the Yankees that winter along with relievers Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir for third baseman Russ Davis and starting pitcher Sterling Hitchcock. He compiled a 7.7 bWAR in his time in Seattle.

5. Richie Sexson, 2005-08
Key fact: Set club record for HRs by a first baseman with 39 in ‘05

After signing a four-year, $50 million deal as a free agent before the 2005 season, Richie Sexson came out swinging. He hit .263 with 39 homers and 121 RBIs during his first season with the Mariners and followed that up in '06 by batting .264 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs in ’06. But his numbers dropped dramatically his final two years, and he wound up being released midway through the ’08 season. He posted a 6.6 bWAR his first two years but minus 1.1 in his final two seasons.

Honorable mentions

David Segui played just two seasons in Seattle in 1998-99, but his .300 batting average is the best for any regular first baseman in club history.

Paul Sorrento is another who made the most of a two-year stint (1996-97), with 54 homers and a .511 slugging percentage.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.