The Seattle Mariners organization has been around since 1977. Which makes finding the franchise best player a bit easier. So who does it come down to? Ichiro vs Ken Griffey Jr.
Baseball-Reference has the top 24 players in the Mariners franchise history with Griffey Jr., at no.1, Edgar Martinez at no.2 and Ichiro at three. This ranking system is solely based on WAR.
So it is time to take a look at the career of Ichiro He won Rookie of the Year, MVP, a batting title, and a Gold Glove in 2001. He was part of the Mariners team that set a Major League Baseball record with 116 wins and some consider it the most disappointing team of all-time since Seattle lost to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Ichiro possed a cannon for an arm in right field. He was also considered by many as the fastest player in baseball.
He also had two different stints with the Mariners and in those 14 total seasons with the franchise his batting average was .321. He recorded 2,542 hits with 295 doubles, 79 triples, 99 home runs, 633 RBI, 438 stolen bases, 1,181 runs scored, an OBP of .365, slugging percentage of .416, and an OPS of .757.
When it came to Ichiro there was a lot of talk especially from those around the Mariners organization about his impressive displays of power in batting practice. That power did not translate in game situations though.
Interestingly enough the Mariners traded a number of talented young player to make Ichiro the face of the franchise. As the seasons went by his teammates began to get frustrated with him including an allegation that someone threatened to “knock him out.”
During Ichiro’s first run with Seattle losing became a constant. While not all his fault it is not surprising that some of his teammates did not get along with him. It seemed especially from the outside that he cared more about his batting average than providing a big bat in the middle of the lineup for a team that year in and year out struggled to put runs on the board. One also might question whether the power displays he supposedly put on in batting practice were actually real especially when only 18.6 percent of his hits went for extra bases.
Throughout his career Ichiro was a leadoff hitter with Seattle. The issue with him is that he was not one to work counts, he hardly walked and the most he ever received in a season was 68. Making it not surprising that the best his on-base-percentage can get described as is decent.
Did Ichiro get on base? Yes. Was the percent high enough? No. For example take his 2004 season in which he set the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262, he only walked 49 times, and got on base 315 times, which ranks 61st all-time.
With the speed Ichiro possessed he did not steal enough. His career-high was 56, yet he also got caught 14 times that year. The following season he only stole 31 times while getting caught 15 times.
So it is not surprising that he did not run much. What is though is the numbers of runs he scored. With the amount of times he was on base and with that speed, the most he ever scored was 127 and that is when he was a complementary part of the lineup. That ranks 308th all-time.
With the Mariners he went to 10 All-Star games and won 10 Gold Gloves. While he did have a cannon for an arm in right field his overall defense does get overrated a bit. So with that it is time to take a look at Griffey Jr.
He also had two different stints with the Mariners franchise. He entered MLB at the age of 19 and played a total of 13 seasons with the club. Injuries and a strike did hinder some of his numbers.
Griffey Jr., did win an MVP in 1997. He patrolled center field and won 10 gold gloves. He is among the greatest defensive center fielders in MLB history. Even opposing fans can picture the leaping catch in Yankee Stadium that he made.
For Griffey Jr., his run from 1996-1999 with the Mariners is one of the best of all-time. He hit .294, averaged 123 runs scored, 30 doubles, three triples, 52 home runs, 142 RBI, 19 stolen bases, an OBP of .381, slugging percentage of .615, and an OPS of .996.
With the Mariners his overall numbers were a .292 average, with 1,843 hits, 1,113 runs scored, 341 doubles, 30 triples, 417 home runs, 1,216 RBI, 167 stolen bases, an OBP of .374, slugging percentage of .553, and an OPS of .927.
So the question now becomes who was better for the Mariners? Ichiro the leadoff hitter with several flaws or Griffey Jr., one of the most complete players of all-time.
The answer is Griffey Jr.