When Álex Rodríguez signed with the Texas Rangers after the 2000 season, he forever damaged his reputation with Seattle fans. An unfortunate development considering A-Rod could’ve been the greatest Mariner ever.
During a career spanning over two decades, Rodríguez was a three-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, and a 10-time Silver Slugger winner. His most noteworthy achievement – entry into the exclusive 3,000 hit/600 home run club with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Albert Pujols.
Álex Rodríguez’s Career Stat Line
A-Rod’s on-field accomplishments during his lengthy career certainly validate his Hall of Fame worthiness. But what about Rodríguez’s time in Seattle? How does he stack up among the best Mariners ever?
Comparing Rodríguez to Seattle’s best can be challenging. In seven seasons, he played 790 games for the team – far fewer than the best hitters in franchise history appeared in. Therefore, his conventional counting statistics (hits, doubles, home runs, RBI) won’t necessarily stand out when contrasted to longer-tenured stars.
Then again, several traditional and advanced stats suggest A-Rod is one of top Mariner hitters in club history.
A-Rod’s Mariners Stats With Team Rankings
Although home runs and wins above replacement (WAR) are cumulative, Rodríguez ranks relatively high in both categories. Not bad for a player with just 790 contests in a Mariners uniform.
A-Rod’s batting average, OBP, and OPS+ are top-three among players with over 3,000 plate appearances with Seattle. Moreover, he boasts the highest career slugging percentage in franchise history.
Beyond the numbers, A-Rod had a pair of top-three finishes in MVP voting and four Silver Sluggers before leaving Seattle. Remarkable achievements, but “greatest Mariner ever” seems like a stretch for someone with less than 800 games with the team.
It is, but I said, “A-Rod could’ve been the greatest Mariner ever.” Obviously, this lofty distinction was out of his reach – he played 15 seasons after leaving Seattle. In reality, Rodríguez cemented his Cooperstown résumé with the Rangers and New York Yankees.
No, discussions about the greatest Mariner never involve A-Rod. Instead, Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Félix Hernández, and Ichiro Suzuki are the candidates routinely bandied about. They’re also the five players with a higher WAR than the polarizing star on the preceding table.
As already noted, time benefits these players over Rodríguez. Edgar spent his entire career as a Mariner, so has Félix thus far. The others left via trade, but not until accruing more seasons with the team. With this in mind, I crafted a fun comparison of A-Rod to the best hitters in franchise history using a more even-handed method.
Through his first seven seasons a major leaguer, Rodríguez recorded 3,515 plate appearances as a Mariner. What if we compared his Seattle production to the first 3,515 career plate appearances of Griffey, Martinez, and Ichiro?
Some of you may be surprised by the results.
Best M’s Hitters Thru First 3,515 Career PA’s
Ichiro setting the pace in total hits certainly won’t shock fans. After all, the groundbreaking star from Japan owns the franchise record in the category. But how many expected Rodríguez would place second? Or his batting average would be so similar to Edgar’s?
Both Edgar and Ichiro were special players, but most Seattle fans would likely select Griffey as the greatest Mariner. Ironically, Rodríguez outperformed Junior in every area except OBP during the early stages of their respective careers. In the end though, the Hall of Famer doubled A-Rod’s playing time with the team.
And of course, that’s the rub for disgruntled Mariners fans – A-Rod left.
In hindsight, both player and team clumsily mishandled Rodríguez‘s Emerald City exit. A-Rod claimed money wouldn’t determine his free agent destination. Yet, he signed baseball’s richest contract with the downtrodden Rangers. This transgression permanently alienated a segment of Mariners fans.
Conversely, the Mariners had to know their budding superstar was likely to leave once his contract expired. Most high-profile Scott Boras clients gravitate towards the highest bidder. For this reason, it’s puzzling the Mariners didn’t trade A-Rod before he walked.
Fast forward to 2019; the now-retired Rodríguez is an entrepreneur and a broadcaster with ESPN. Just prior to Opening Day, A-Rod reflected on his time as a Mariner with Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. Stone noted a “sincerity and warmth that shines through” during his exchange with the former Mariners star, who harbors no ill-will towards fans unwilling to absolve him of perceived fouls against their team.
In retrospect, the awkward breakup between Rodríguez and Seattle shouldn’t matter when assessing his standing among the best players in team history. He was a generational talent with the credentials to prove it.
Perhaps the true reason resentful fans consider A-Rod a pariah is they, like me, understand he could’ve been the greatest Mariner. Otherwise, why the lingering hostility nearly two decades after he left town?
In reality, A-Rod’s stay in Seattle was time well spent – even if some Mariners fans prefer to not celebrate it.