Aside from the fact they both are former big league infielders, Wade Boggs and Brent Gates would seem to have little in common.
Boggs was a five-time batting champion who collected 3,010 hits during his Hall of Fame career. Gates had a solid rookie season with the 1993 Oakland Athletics but was out of baseball by the end of the decade.
Yet Boggs and Gates are peers today, sharing starting positions on a team that made life miserable for the Seattle Mariners. You might note that Mariners fans already are plenty familiar with misery, and you would have a point, but at least the misery inflicted by this opponent is mythical.
We need a name for this collection of all-time Seattle pests – the Seattle Pests works for me – and somebody to deliver a lineup card to the umpire at home plate. Lee Mazzilli, are you available?
Mazzilli’s brief tenure as manager of the 2004-05 Baltimore Orioles is not remembered in vivid detail – OK, I’ll admit, I remember nothing about Mazzilli’s brief tenure as a manager – but in 19 games against Seattle, his team went 14-5.
This information was supplied by the same statistical database that provided the names of Boggs (who hit .342 against the Mariners) and Gates (who hit .344) as among the players Seattle pitchers have least enjoyed facing since 1977.
The criteria, by the way, is arbitrary but simple: A minimum of 125 at-bats for hitters, and at least 12 wins for starting pitchers.
Ladies and gentlemen, your all-time Seattle Pests:
• Joe Mauer, catcher. The Twins’ backstop, the only active position player on the Pests, is hitting .360 against the Mariners, but his inclination to rake against Seattle is not personal. He’s hitting .375 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hall of Famer Dave Winfield is, without question, the greatest athlete the state of Minnesota has ever produced, but Mauer belongs in the conversation.
Take the time he struck out in high school. It happened. Once. Mauer went back to the dugout and teammates asked him if he was feeling all right.
• Rafael Palmeiro, first base. He’ll always be linked to his comically emphatic denial during the House Committee hearings on performance-enhancing drugs, but I’m not here to pass judgment on Palmeiro. I’m here to at marvel at his batting-line splits in Seattle.
He hit nine home runs in 62 games in the Kingdome, then hit 17 home runs in 43 games at Safeco Field. Palmeiro’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was 1.025 in the Ballpark at Arlington, famous for its hitter-friendly conditions, and 1.024 in Safeco Field, famous for its hitter-phobic conditions.
Make of that what you will.
• Brent Gates, second base. A first-round draft pick, Gates was murder against the Mariners and mediocre (.258) against everybody else. In 1997, it made perfect sense for general manager Woody Woodward to sign Gates to a one-year contract as a free agent.
Gates appeared in 65 games, hitting .238. The ultimate Pest.
• Wade Boggs, third base. While it’s an urban myth that Boggs once consumed 64 beers on a trip from Boston to Seattle, his appetite for excess – on the field and off – is no secret. He loved to hit, and never showed up late for batting practice.
And when he hit in Seattle, it usually looked like batting practice.
• Rey Sanchez, shortstop. A .272 career hitter, Sanchez tortured the Mariners to the tune of .342. As Woodward was intrigued by the idea of Gates thriving in Seattle, Pat Gillick, Woodward’s successor, acquired Sanchez for the Mariners’ 2003 stretch drive. Sanchez can’t be recalled as a bust – he hit .294 in 46 games – but the thrill was gone. He had been born to bother the Mariners, not enable them.
• Rusty Greer, outfield. The Rangers’ version of Tarzan, who chased down line drives with a fearlessness that endeared him to baseball fans in general, hit .348 against the Mariners. But Greer paid a steep price for his adventuresome defense. He had surgeries on his neck, his shoulder, his elbow and his forearm, all while forgoing surgeries on his hip and knee.
• Ken Singleton, outfield. Singleton was a paradox: comprehensively talented as a player, he also was smart, eloquent, handsome and worldly. (He won the Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s version of the Nobel Prize.) And yet he was ridiculously underrated.
A three-time All Star who ranked as a Top 10 MVP candidate four times, Singleton received zero votes the first and only year he was nominated for the Hall of Fame.
But Singleton, who hit .341 against Seattle, should not be forgotten by Mariners fans. When it came to being a Pest, he was among the best.
• Manny Ramirez, outfield. Manny being Manny, he probably didn’t realize his history of crushing Mariners pitchers. For that matter, he may not realize his last hit for a baseball team affiliated with the majors, on June 3, was in Tacoma. Ramirez, attempting a comeback with the Sacramento River Cats, reached first base on a single that night, then left the game with what was reported to be a “hamstring issue.”
A few weeks later, Ramirez cut ties with Oakland, the River Cats’ parent organization.
• Carlos Delgado, designated hitter. Delgado was a free agent in 2005, and given his monster numbers against the Mariners – .351, with 29 homers and 90 RBI – general manager Bill Bavasi entertained the idea of bringing Delgado to Seattle.
The Mariners’ interest in the Toronto Blue Jays slugger was underscored by words not often used by baseball executives: “He’s got,” Bavasi said, “charisma.”
Delgado chose to sign with the Marlins, and Bavasi’s offseason hauls before 2005 turned out to be first baseman Richie Sexson and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
However you choose to remember the careers of those two in Seattle, I doubt “charisma” is part of the conversation.
• Pedro Martinez, ace. My favorite Pedro anecdote was chronicled in an award-winning story written by former Everett Herald columnist Larry Henry.
In April of 2000, a day after striking out 11 Mariners over seven shutout innings on opening night, Martinez intervened on a Diamond Club employee at Safeco Field.
“I’ll take those,” he said.
What he took were garbage cans.
“I carry garbage cans like anybody else,” Martinez said, “because I’m human like anybody else.”
He certainly didn’t pitch like it against the Mariners, winning his first 12 starts against them, and finishing 13-1 with a 1.57 ERA
• Roger Clemens, right-handed starting pitcher. Clemens career against the Mariners – 23-15, with 274 strikeouts in 321 innings – could be condensed by a game at Fenway Park, early into his breakout season of 1986, when he fanned 20 Seattle batters.
Fourteen years later, in Game 3 of the 2000 AL Championship Series, Clemens struck out 15 Mariners en route to a one-hit shutout.
Clemens’ late-career achievements may be fraudulent, but the record will show that he wasn’t merely a Pest against Seattle. He was a Beast.
• Chuck Finley, left-handed starting pitcher. Finley struck out more Mariners (180) than got hits off him (174), but his mastery over the M’s ebbed in the 2001 playoffs, when he went 0-2 for the Cleveland Indians.
• Mariano Rivera, reliever. The most effective closing-time pitcher in baseball history began his Yankees career as a starter. On Sept. 5, 1995, Rivera was charged with a loss after giving up home runs to Luis Sojo and Ken Griffey Jr., in a 6-5 Mariners’ victory.
It was his 10th career start, and he has yet to make another.
• Bench players. The Pests are deep. They boast the great Rod Carew (.356 against the Mariners), Vladimir Guerrero (.353), Harold Baines (29 homers and 132 RBI), and a bullpen anchored by Bert Blyleven (14-7, with five shutouts) and Tommy John, whose name these days is inevitably tethered to word “surgery.”
It’s easy to forget that John was an outstanding pitcher over two decades, and his numbers against the Mariners – 13-4, with a 2.28 ERA – suggest a tendency to confound hitters that was almost, well, surgical.
Still, if manager Lee Mazzilli is on the hot seat, and needs one pitcher to face the Mariners in the game of all games, he’ll start Pedro, keeping his fingers crossed as Gates leads off by lashing a double into the gap.
The Pests will score the run, of course. The Pests will score, and score again and again, before turning things over to a bullpen occupied by the likes of Blyleven, John and Rivera.
In real life, meanwhile, the first-place Rangers are taking on the Mariners this afternoon in Safeco Field.
The forecast is calling for a breeze.
13-1, 1.57 ERA 137 Ks in 103 IP vs. Mariners
Won his first 12 career starts against Seattle
.290 batting average 52 HRs, 144 RBI
Far and away most homers, RBI vs. Mariners all time
.360 batting average 21 2Bs, 36 BBs, .464 OBP
Highest BA, OBP against M’s all-time
.344 batting average 1.23 hits per game vs. M’s
Hit combined .258 against every other MLB team
.342 batting average 236 hits, 51 2Bs, 115 BBs vs. M’s
Had 691 at-bats in 184 games vs.Seattle
.342 batting average 15 2Bs
23 percent of his hits against M’s were doubles
.341 batting average 24 HRs, 77 RBI
Had .690 slugging percentage against M’s
.348 average 53 runs, .427 OBP
Hit .379 against Seattle in Kingdome
.316 average 39 HRs, 115 RBI
Has .656 slugging percentage against M’s
.340 average 30 HRs, 95 RBI
Recorded an OPS of 1.014 in 462 at-bats vs. Mariners
.351 average 30 2Bs, 29 HRs, 90 RBI
Had .728 slugging percentage against M’s
23-15, 3.30 ERA
321.2 IP, 274 Ks
Most wins, innings pitched and strikeouts vs. M’s
19-8, 2.81 ERA 227.1 IP, 180 Ks
Had more strikeouts (180) than hits allowed (174) against Mariners OTHERS Of NOTE
.356 batting average
.353 batting average
39 2Bs, 29 HRs, 132 RBI
14-7, 2.86 ERA
13-4, 2.28 ERA
3-4, 2.74 ERA 34 saves, 76 Ks in 75.2 IP vs. Marinersjohn.email@example.com