Retired Numbers: Seattle Mariners

(This is part of a series on retired numbers, with somewhat of a focus on Retired Number Bandits — players who wore a number that was later retired at any point after the person for whom it was retired first wore it. See the introduction for more information and explanation on Bandits.)

There are nine teams that have never had a Retired Number Bandit, but several of them have some pretty big asterisks. Probably the biggest asterisk of all: The Mariners have never officially retired a number. (UPDATE: The Mariners finally retired a number in 2016. See below.) At first glance, that’s not so surprising, as the Mariners have been pretty bad for most of their four decades in the league, with a 2898-3295 record and only four postseason appearances. But they have also had some outstanding players, which is why their list of unofficially retired numbers is somewhat lengthy.

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It’s somewhere between surprising and criminal that Griffey, Johnson, and Martinez have not yet had their numbers retired by the Mariners. Under team policy, Johnson is eligible, Martinez probably is, and Griffey just met the requirements. The policy states:

The Mariners plan to retire uniform numbers only very selectively and subject to substantially higher expectations than those applied to the Mariners Hall of Fame. To be eligible to have one’s number retired, the former Mariners should have either a.) been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and been in a Mariners uniform for at least five years, or b.) come close to such election and have spent substantially his entire career with the Mariners. Eligibility shall not commence until after the former player has been voted on once for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which for all practical purposes, means six years after retirement.

Ken Griffey Jr., 24

Griffey was just elected to the Hall of Fame with the highest percentage of the vote in history and will be the first player ever to go into Cooperstown wearing a Mariners hat. It’s possible that the Mariners were just waiting for Griffey, knowing that he would go into the Hall as a Mariner, and that the retirements of Johnson’s and Martinez’s numbers will follow shortly after Griffey’s.

No one has worn 24 for the Mariners since Griffey, and the team recently announced that his number will be retired this year, not just for the Mariners but throughout their organization.

UPDATE: Griffey’s number 24 was officially retired on August 6, 2016.

Coming Soon: Edgar Martinez, 11

Martinez has not yet been elected to the Hall of Fame, but he has gotten decent support over the years, jumping up to 43.4 percent of the vote in the most recent election. Edgar is a Seattle legend after spending his entire career there, and he is at or near the top of nearly every offensive leaderboard for the team. No one has worn number 11 for the Mariners since Edgar’s retirement.

UPDATE: The Mariners announced on January 24, 2017, that Martinez’s number 11 would be retired on August 12, 2017.

Unofficial: Jay Buhner, 19

Buhner’s number will never be officially retired unless the Mariners change their policy, because he is no one’s idea of a Hall of Famer and he fell off the ballot with 0.2 percent of the vote in 2007. But he hit a lot of home runs for the team — 307 in 14 seasons, including three straight years of 40-plus from 1995-97 — and his bald head and goatee became legendary in Seattle. He also has a permanent place in pop culture history, thanks to Jerry Seinfeld:

Unofficial: Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki, 51

Johnson is in the Hall of Fame, and he spent ten seasons with the Mariners. He went 130-74 with a 3.42 ERA and 2,162 strikeouts in 1,838.1 innings for the Mariners, and his name is all over the team pitching leaderboards.

One interesting storyline to watch will come up in six or eight years when Ichiro is elected to the Hall of Fame, as he wore the same uniform number — 51 — that Johnson did. After going all this time without retiring any numbers, it seems likely that the Mariners will retire the same number twice in the next decade.

Ichiro is the only Mariners player to wear Johnson’s 51 since his departure.

Unofficial: Lou Piniella, 14

Piniella managed the Mariners for ten seasons from 1993-2002, including all four postseason appearances in franchise history and the famous 2001 season when they won 116 games. He is also one of the only managers in history to be traded for a player: the Mariners traded Piniella and Antonio Perez to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2002 for outfielder Randy Winn.

Piniella’s number 14 has not been issued since his departure.

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