Few surprises on All-Decade team

Few surprises on All-Decade team

The first decade of the new century definitely had its ups and downs for the Mariners.

There was the American League-record 116 wins in 2001 at one end of the spectrum, and the 101-loss team in '08 at the other end. The organization welcomed right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, and watched him collect hits faster than anyone in Major League history, and said goodbye to a franchise legend, designated hitter Edgar Martinez.

Ken Griffey Jr., the best player in franchise history, departed the first year of the new decade and returned for the final year of the 10-year period. And the Mariners unveiled the first Japanese-born catcher.

In all, 197 players appeared in at least one game during the decade, and to determine the best candidates at each position, a star-studded four-man committee was formed.

Leading off was Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus, the voice of the Mariners since the first game in franchise history. Next up is Jay Buhner, one of the most productive and popular players to wear a Mariners uniform. Lee Pelekoudas, who started his career with the Mariners as the traveling secretary and eventually served as interim general manager, gave his front-office insight on the topic, as did Tim Hevly, the Mariners' public relations director.

That's 88 years worth of watching Mariners baseball.

Each member of the committee was supplied a list of at least two candidates at each position and could add anyone of their choosing. It must have been a thorough list as no players were added.

The selections came via an hour-long conference call in the late afternoon on a Thursday -- because Niehaus was in Kauai on vacation and he sleeps in.

Several positions were slam-dunks, like designated hitter.

Mariners All-Decade team
POS Player
C Dan Wilson
1B Jon Olerud
2B Bret Boone
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Adrian Beltre
OF Raul Ibanez
OF Mike Cameron
OF Ichiro Suzuki
DH Edgar Martinez
SP Jamie Moyer
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Freddy Garcia
SP Aaron Sele
SP Joel Pineiro
SU Arthur Rhodes
CL Kazuhiro Sasaki
MGR Lou Piniella
"He had the best approach I've ever seen," Buhner said of Edgar Martinez. "He never got himself out. You have no idea how hard it was for him to do what he did all those years.

"He never got an infield hit and his eyes were so bad over the last four or five years that I don't see how he played as long as he did. All the work he had to do on those eye-chart drills. Quite honestly, I don't know how he did it."

A .312 career hitter, Edgar batted .295 during the five years of the decade he played, hitting 117 home runs and drove in 581 runs, and retired at the end of the '04 season.

"Best right-handed hitter I ever saw," Niehaus added.

It was not nearly as easy selecting a five-man starting rotation.

Left-hander Jamie Moyer, who had two 20-win seasons during the decade and became the franchise leader in wins, was a unanimous selection. So was Felix Hernandez, a 19-game winner last season. He compiled a 58-41 record and 3.45 ERA in 138 starts.

"He and Felix have to be on there," Buhner said.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia also got some love -- and a spot in the rotation. He was 59-42 during the decade, going 18-6 in 2001 and 16-10 the following season.

The fourth and fifth spots went to right-handers Joel Pineiro and Aaron Sele, though not convincingly.

"Sele took the ball every fifth day and we usually won," said Pelekoudas, referring to the 32-15 record Sele compiled in the 2000 and '01 seasons.

"I am thinking the same thing," Hevly said.

Pineiro had a 58-55 record in 148 starts from 2000-'06, which isn't great, but better than most starters during the decade. Right-hander Gil Meche and left-hander Jarrod Washburn also were considered.

Catcher was one of the most difficult positions to determine who was the best. Dan Wilson was the primary receiver for the first six seasons and Kenji Johjima the final four.

Wilson got the nod.

"Dan was the backbone of the club during the first few years [of the decade] when we had a lot of success," Pelekoudas said.

"The catcher is the quarterback of the ballclub," Niehaus said. "Dan was that, and more. He led not only on the field, but off the field. He personified everything a manager wants in a catcher."

First base also brought out some debate.

"[Richie] Sexson had two very good years," Pelekoudas said. "I still vote for [John] Olerud, but Sexson is not that far behind, based on the first two years."

But the other panelists agreed that the 73 home runs and 228 RBIs Sexson had in the first two years of a four-year contract were overshadowed by the 32 home runs and 93 RBIs during the final two years of the contract.

Olerud, meanwhile, was steady throughout his five seasons (2000-'04), batting .284 with 72 home runs, 405 RBIs and a Gold Glove at the position.

"I go with Johnny just because of what he brought to the ballpark every day," Buhner said. "For me, I know Richie had a couple of good years at the beginning, but the way he acted inside and outside of the clubhouse [the final two years] is a huge deal for me."

"I am an Olerud guy," Niehaus said. "Not only was he a pretty good offensive player, but he made such a difference to the rest of the infield because of his defense."

Other positions were fairly cut-and-dry, with Bret Boone (.283 average, 127 home runs and 482 RBIs in five productive seasons) swamping Jose Lopez at second base; closer Kazuhiro Sasaki (129 saves, 3.14 ERA) getting the nod over J.J. Putz; Arthur Rhodes (28-16, 3.05 ERA in 312 games) easily being tabbed as the best setup reliever; Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop, through no fault of his own; defensive whiz Adrian Beltre at third; and a stellar outfield of Ichiro, Mike Cameron and Raul Ibanez.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.