Mariner of the Day: Mark Langston

DMZ · January 29, 2008 at 7:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

In total, Mark Langston contributed as much to the overall success of the Mariner franchise as any other player in franchise history, and I’m not at all joking.

Drafted in 1981 in the second round, Langston was pick #35, the M’s second in that round — they took Kevin Dukes with #27, and he never made the majors. Three good pitchers came out of that round, Gubicza right ahead of him, and Frank Viola two picks later (John Elway was drafted at the end of the round, other picks were Darrin Jackson, Mike Gallego, and Sid Bream). Three years later, Langston started 33 games for the Mariners and went 17-10 with a 3.40 ERA in the Kingdome. He gave up only 16 HR, walked 118, and struck out 204. He finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting, behind Alvin Davis.

Between Langston and Jim Beattie, the Mariners had two worthwhile pitchers and a chance to win even with their undistinguished offense. It’s too bad his relief was so wretched. That 1984 team went 74-88 with an offense made up of Alvin Davis and parts of Dave Henderson and Ken Phelps. It was the second-best finish in franchise history.

That closeup on his baseall caard didn’t do him any favors, though.

Click on the picture for the ebay auction. The guy only wants $1 for that card.

Then he sucked in 1985. Really sucked. And he was better but not good in 1986.

1987, though, he went crazy.

1987: 19-13, 272 IP, 14 complete games, 30 HR, 114 BB, 262 K, an ERA of 3.84 when the league ERA was 4.74
1988: 15-11, 261 IP, 16 HR (!), 110 K, 235 K, an ERA of 3.35 against a league ERA of 4.17.

That’s crazy. The M’s 78-84 finish in 1987 was as much Langston’s as anyone’s.

In 1989, then, he had to be traded. The M’s sent him to Montreal for what many people thought was a pretty crappy haul: Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Randy Johnson. Their record with the M’s:

Brian Holman: three seasons including 1989, started 80 games, threw pretty well.
Gene Harris: tossed to the Padres in 1992 after three seasons of unremarkable relief
Randy Johnson: Leads the Mariners in career (with the M’s) ERA, win percentage, WHIP, H/9, K/9 (at 10.58, he’s 2.4 ahead of Mark Langston at 8, shutouts (19, ten more than Langston at 9), walks (hee hee), wild pitches (66), and hit batsmen (89).

The single-season Mariner board is dominated by Randy, Jamie Moyer, Langston, and Erik Hanson’s brief glory (we’ll get to that).

Trading for someone like Randy, you never know what you’re going to get. The minor and major leagues are both chock-full of pitchers who, if only they could do that one thing, would be truly great. Refine their command a little. Locate their fastball consistently. Throw their breaking pitches for strikes. Randy Johnson at the time of the trade was a huge, painfully thin, emotional pitcher with amazing talent and an uncertain future. He turned into a sure Hall of Famer.

But back to Langston. Like many players of the time, he signed with the Angels and made our lives pretty much miserable from 1990 on, until 1995, when in the one-game playoff against Randy, Randy pitched one of the finest games in Mariner history, a complete-game three-hit shutout in which he gave up one home run – the only run – walked one and struck out 12. 12.


And then there’s this:

MARINERS 7TH: Blowers singled to left; T. Martinez reached on a
fielder’s choice on a sacrifice bunt [Blowers to second]; Wilson
out on a sacrifice bunt (third to second) [Blowers to third, T.
Martinez to second]; Cora was hit by a pitch; Coleman lined to
right; Sojo doubled to right [Blowers scored, T. Martinez
scored, Cora scored, Sojo scored (error by Langston)
struck out; 4 R (3 ER), 2 H, 1 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0, Mariners 5.

I don’t want to dwell on that, too much. It was one play, and the M’s would have won the game without it. And as much as my adoration for Randy threatens to overwhelm everything, we should recognize what Langston did for the generally hapless Mariner teams he played for: his record was 74-67, he started 173 games, threw 1198 innings. He struck out 1,078 hitters. His career RA/9 stood at about 4.5, his ERA at 4.

And for three full years when he was here – 1983, 1986 and 1987 – Langston was one of the few Mariner starters in that time I could see was pitching that night and not walk up those exterior ramps without having resigned myself to seeing the team get pounded for the loss (“Mike Trujillo’s starting? Why?”).

That deserves a moment of recognition. Thanks, Mariner of the Day Mark Langston. It was good seeing you play while you were here.

(and just to pre-empt the inevitable, Randy Johnson did not quit on us, I’ll be banning everyone who says otherwise, and I’m not kidding)


39 Responses to “Mariner of the Day: Mark Langston”

  1. smb on January 29th, 2008 7:44 am

    And then Rex Hudler made a snide comment at Langston as he walked by him in the dugout, and Langston raised his head from between his knees and screamed at him through his tears, and for a nanosecond I felt bad, and then I remembered Tony Phillips and my empathy disappeared in an instant. And hey, Eduardo Perez was a member of that team…only the Angels drafted him as a rookie instead of trading a prospect for him when he was already washed up. Ahh, memories.

  2. xxtinynickxx on January 29th, 2008 7:44 am

    Mark Langston…..come back and show that you are a better option then Bedard!

  3. Zobmie on January 29th, 2008 7:54 am

    Oh, and just for an update. The guy never got his .99 cents for his Mark Langston card. No one bid on it.

  4. Russ on January 29th, 2008 8:00 am

    Thanks for the Langston tribute. As you say, he was the lone bright spot on a dismal Mariner’s roster. Langston appeared on a local Seattle radio program fairly frequently and proved himself to be a pretty funny guy who liked music and showed a lot of knowledge. Great player.

    Randy Johnson is a Hall of Famer. I miss watching “Mr. Snappy”.

  5. bakomariner on January 29th, 2008 8:15 am

    good write-up of good memories…

    and another good reason to hate rex hudler…

  6. msb on January 29th, 2008 8:17 am

    and just to pre-empt the inevitable, Randy Johnson did not quit on us, I’ll be banning everyone who says otherwise, and I’m not kidding)

    will there be bees?

  7. The Ghost of Spike Owen on January 29th, 2008 8:25 am

    And for three full years when he was here – 1983, 1986 and 1987 – Langston was one of the few Mariner starters in that time I could see was pitching that night and not walk up those exterior ramps without having resigned myself to seeing the team get pounded for the loss (”Mike Trujillo’s starting? Why?”).

    Derek, I remember Langston and Mike Moore being a pretty potent one-two punch in ’86 and ’87, but I was six and seven years old at the time, respectively.

    Am I indulging in nostalgia? Looking forward to the Erik Hanson breakdown as well. Love the blasts from the past.

    Do Spike Owen! And Batman!

  8. galaxieboi on January 29th, 2008 8:27 am

    I’ve always felt bad for Langston after that game. He was one of my favorite M’s (along with Spike Owen) as a kid and it killed me to see him that upset.

    For awhile there in the late-80’s it really seemed (to me, being 10-13) the M’s weren’t so far from contending. *sighs*

  9. galaxieboi on January 29th, 2008 8:39 am

    Wow, Langston wasn’t a bad peak guy either. ERA+ of 124, 125, 135 (split year with SEA and MON), 86, 137, 109, 141. I wonder what the park factor was for the Kingdome…

  10. smb on January 29th, 2008 8:40 am

    I’m unsure if it’s even possible not to have a “God hates me” moment after giving up a grand slam to Luis Sojo on a ball that rolls down the first base line. Especially when it’s just the sprinkles on top of the turd sundae the Halos had to put together just to let it get to that one game playoff.

    Rex Hudler is the Danny Bonaduce of the MLB. He managed to seem like he was juiced all the time even though his numbers didn’t suggest an advantage. Not a surprise he would be the one to blame Langston for one bad throw in one game against the backdrop of the team effort it took to choke away a 13-game division lead with barely any time left in the season. I can honestly say I felt compassion for Langston when he was that upset after throwing the ball away, yet I couldn’t muster any for Joey Cora several weeks later. Wonder if the Angels fans have any sympathy for Langston with respect to that game…

  11. fetish on January 29th, 2008 8:44 am

    I want Briley

  12. joealb1 on January 29th, 2008 8:49 am

    Love this stuff Derek!

  13. Carson on January 29th, 2008 8:50 am

    Excellent write-up, Derek. Langston was awesome for a while, and we got even more awesome when we traded him. So yeah, he deserves a big thank you. Seriously, what was baseball thinking with those tight uniforms though? They’re rivaled only by the NBA’s short shorts.

    By the way, nice to see once again that the only thing authors here write about, and all the regulars care about, is negativity, right? Damn us non fans.

  14. Larry_from_Tacoma on January 29th, 2008 8:56 am

    You forgot the high leg kick! What a thing of beauty.

    My favorite Langston moment: an afternoon game against the A’s, no one is at the park, & I can sneak down to the field level. Mark has got it going, & a late-career, overweight Dave Parker is walking up to the plate. I scream out, “Parker, you’re going to whiff!” which can be heard throughout the Dome. & sure enough he did. That was fun.

  15. JR Ewing on January 29th, 2008 9:09 am

    jeremy reed and mike morse are the last hope that the “gift that keeps on giving” (the langston trade), survives. something tells me this gift is on life support even though both still remain on the 40 man.

  16. Jar on January 29th, 2008 9:17 am

    Mark Langston was one of the first baseball players I was a real fan of, him and Griffey.

  17. Jar on January 29th, 2008 9:20 am

    I guess that makes Langston first…..

    But Griffey holds a special place since I was a huge fan from day 1 with him.

  18. Jimmie the Geek on January 29th, 2008 9:30 am

    Derek, I remember Langston and Mike Moore being a pretty potent one-two punch in ‘86 and ‘87, but I was six and seven years old at the time, respectively.

    At that time, my two favorite players were Mike Moore and Harold Reynolds. I have no logical explanation for that, they just were. I hope Moore gets a Mariner of the day spot soon!

    My favorite Moore memory was his hit (a double!) in the ’89 World Series. 🙂


  19. Dave in Palo Alto on January 29th, 2008 9:38 am

    Great write-up Derek. Langston was the real deal. He was also fiercely competitive, or at least seemed that way when I saw him thrashing in the dugout after being pulled from a start in Baltimore.

    He is also great testimony to foolishiness of trading young talent for a few days of an expiring vet contract, a mistake repeated with Houston’s trade for Randy.

    What’s this talk about a trade for Erik Bedard?

  20. MyOhMy on January 29th, 2008 9:49 am

    Look at the IP in ’87 & ’88 (272, 261 respectively) … especially in light of the Bedard trade talk. The M’s would be HOPING for 200 innings which would be a career high! Hmmm

  21. BrianV on January 29th, 2008 10:02 am

    I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Brian Holman. I’ll never forget being glued to the TV the night he came within an out of a perfect game in Oakland – a game that he actually had an at-bat in because Lou pulled the DH. He singled.

    Ken Phelp’s home run was one of my first memories of being heartbroken by the Mariners. Before that time I’d never really been that invested in them, always assuming they’d stink.

    I also have a picture of me with him on the infield of the Kingdome from some sort of father-son event that year. I can’t remember if it was before or after the near-perfect game, though.

  22. Steve T on January 29th, 2008 10:18 am

    Thank you for this. Langston was special. Maybe the first real player on the M’s, the first guy you could look at and say “he could play on the other team, he could play anywhere”. Those were grim days to be an M’s fan, when baseball, REAL baseball, seemed like a foreign game that other teams played against us.

  23. bellacaramella on January 29th, 2008 10:19 am

    No trip down Langston’s memory lane would be complete without noting his five-year, $16 million free agent contract with the Angels in 1989. It was a record at the time, and the Angels beat out the Yankees and Dodgers for Langston’s services because they were willing to go five years and include a no-trade provision.

    I remember seeing the headline and pic of Langston in an Angels cap in the Journal-American and thinking, How will we ever compete?

    A summary of his career, courtesy NYT, upon his retirement in March 2000: Langston, a seven-time Gold Glove, finished with a 179-158 career record and 3.97 earned run average in 16 seasons with Seattle, Montreal, California-Anaheim, San Diego and Cleveland. He ranks seventh among left-handers with 2,464 career strikeouts after leading the American League three times in his first four seasons.

  24. Jay R. on January 29th, 2008 10:24 am

    My most vivid memory of Langston was sitting in the family backyard, listening to the M’s on the radio (since they were rarely on TV in those days). It was a warm summer evening, and Langston struck out something like 17. Niehaus was really on his game back then too, and made the whole thing come to life.

    Wow, that was a long time ago. Getting old sucks.

  25. smb on January 29th, 2008 10:30 am

    Niehaus was on his third pitcher of beer by that point in the game back then…hence the ever increasing duration of the call “Looooowwwwwww ball two” as the games wore on. Good times!

  26. dlb on January 29th, 2008 10:48 am

    Mark Langston was the one guy where he wanted out because we were “always going to lose” and in your head and heart you just begged him to stay because you knew as soon as he left the M’s were going to get good…and viola they did.

    The best part of the one game playoff for me was not Randy’s masterpiece or Sojo’s inside the park grand slam effort, but it was instead seeing Langston laying on the ground in disbelief that finally he got the M’s into the playoffs.

  27. smb on January 29th, 2008 10:58 am

    “and viola they did.”

    Leave Frank out of this. Langston was better anyway.
    Definitely a “God hates me” moment on the turf, though.

  28. Wilder83 on January 29th, 2008 11:30 am

    Great write-up!

    However, Randy Johnson had one of the most interesting shutouts every recorded in baseball history:

    “Randy pitched one of the finest games in Mariner history, a complete-game three-hit shutout in which he gave up one home run – the only run”

    He was so dominant, even the homerun he gave up didn’t actually count!

    Okay, okay, I just thought it was funny.

  29. Jim Thomsen on January 29th, 2008 11:54 am

    #24: I remember that game. It was Langston’s rookie season, and he had that curve just dropping off a top shelf all game. At one point, he struck out eight batters in a row. It was a meaningless game in a meaningless season … and Dave Niehaus was going absolutely crazy.

    My other immediate Langston memory is that he often got put to work as a pinch-runner, maybe half a dozen times a season during his Mariner tenure. Can you imagine a #1 or #2 pitcher being used like that now?

    It was truly a shame that Langston had his worst year as a Mariner when Mike Moore had his best. The M’s weren’t going to win jack in 1985, and yet, two young front-line starters having near-Cy-Young seasons would have induced multiple fangasms among the Mariner faithful.

  30. Jonah Keri on January 29th, 2008 12:15 pm

    As an Expos fan, I have very fond memories of Mark Langston. Very, very rarely did the Expos ever hold down first place at that point in the season, identify that they needed to go for it, then go out and get a top-flight player for the stretch drive. Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and go for it. And in fact, Langston pitched very well for the Expos–they fell short in ’89 for other reasons.

    Funny, at the time the deal was made, Expos die-hards saw Johnson as a very talented but extremely unpredictable pitcher who may or may not have been able to harness his stuff. Many folks at the time saw Gene Harris as the key to the deal–the guy who made the least out of his career.

  31. Jim Thomsen on January 29th, 2008 12:24 pm

    Jonah’s right. Gene Harris was seen as a possible closer.

    Brian Holman was seen as a steady #2 or #3, and Johnson was the wild card of that trade in every sense of the word. If he had imploded early and disappeared by 1992, nobody would have been surprised.

  32. smb on January 29th, 2008 12:32 pm


    Love your work. Wonder if Jeffrey Loria’s baseball people kept saying “Gene Harris’ arm! Gene Harris’ arm!” a la fake Steinbrenner to Frank Costanza about Ken Phelps. They are the two times I can recall off the top of my head the M’s getting a prospect in trade who turned into a bonafide star for the team.

  33. scott19 on January 29th, 2008 12:36 pm

    10: They actually might these days…after all, the “Curse of the Cowboy” (if indeed there was such a thing) was finally broken in ’02.

  34. kearly on January 29th, 2008 1:49 pm

    Great post, DMZ.

    Langston was before my time as a fan but RJ will always be one of my all time favorite Mariners. That game in ’95 is probably the single greatest M’s game of all time, even without it being an ironic game between RJ and Langston. Good times.

  35. Say Hey on January 29th, 2008 2:16 pm

    I believe I have that baseball card (those were my “hard core” collecting years. Just looking at that brings me back. Thanks for the post!

  36. eponymous coward on January 29th, 2008 5:10 pm

    So let’s get it straight, it’s banning for saying RJ quit, bees if Jones is just a prospect?

    Can we do a post on other forbidden topics here at USSM, and their punishement? For instance, what’s the penalty for discussing the traffic in McCall, Idaho?

  37. DMZ on January 29th, 2008 5:39 pm

    I just wanted to have a nice thread about Mark Langston. Is that so wrong?

  38. Carson on January 30th, 2008 1:54 pm

    You knew it was coming, Derek. You really did.

    Not even 40 comments (probably only 25 unique responders) to a serious post, about something totally cool and positive.

    Probably closing in on 1000 comments regarding the Bedard trade since Sunday.

    But the authors and regulars here only care about negativity, you see.

  39. pmallard on February 16th, 2008 1:47 am

    I was 11 years old when I watched Langston pitch a no-hitter into the ninth in Toronto June ’89. Somehow he lost 3-2.. I was absolutely CRUSHED..

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