All-Time All-Mariner Roster: Second Base
Bret Boone, 2001. There’s no doubt this is it. Stellar defense, and by far, the best offensive season by a Mariner second baseman. This is one of the ten best seasons at the plate by a Mariner ever, and — well, unfortunately for him, many of the higher spots are occupied by young Griffey and Alex seasons, so the good defense doesn’t help him climb the ladder much on the all-time all-season chart.
So with no interesting discussion here, assuming fans want to discard Boone’s years for whatever reason, should we talk about whether the best non-Boone season was Li’l Joey Cora 1997, Jack Perconte 1984, or Harold Reynolds 1989? The Cora-Reynolds axis of power dominates the second-tier of Mariner 2B-seasons.
Yep, there’s no argument to be had here. Bret Boone’s 2001 season is one of the great second base seasons of all time, and there’s not another Mariner second base season within 300 yards of that performance. This is just a slam dunk – ’01 Boone had the best second baseman season in M’s history.
So, in lieu of talking about his 2001 season anymore, I’m going to diverge and talk about the 2001 performance that got the least amount of notice for the most amount of value, and because Jr is going to dominate the CF discussion, we won’t get to talk about him again in this series. In 2001, Mike Cameron was unbelievably awesome, and simply overshadowed by some historic performances from his teammates, but we can’t miss out on just how great he was that year. His .267/.353/.480 mark in that run environment was worth about 20 runs more than an average hitter. Meanwhile, he was the best defensive player alive, putting up a season where his glove alone was worth about 20 runs more than an average defensive center fielder. When you factor in the position adjustment, Cameron was legitimately a 5 win player in 2001 – that’s a borderline MVP candidate in most years.
Now, obviously, with Boone and Edgar and Olerud putting up the offensive numbers, a guy who was remarkably valuable while hitting .267 simply wasn’t going to attract the attention of the fan base, but in 2001, Mike Cameron had more value to the Mariners than Ichiro has had in any single season since he’s been a Mariner. Cameron was the most valuable outfielder on that 2001 team, and as good as Ichiro was in 2004, ’01 Cameron was better still.
When the best defensive player alive is also two wins better than a league average hitter, you have a remarkably valuable player, and that’s exactly what Mike Cameron was in 2001.
Bret Boone gets the nod here for having one of the best seasons ever at his position, but let’s not miss out on how good the guy playing the outfield behind him was.
No skipping ahead! Not to digress too far, but yes– one of the things that we used to have to harp on all the time was that the 2001 Mariners didn’t have a star — they had so many it was hard to pick them out. In the top thirty or so offensive years you got Boone, here, Edgar, Ichiro, Cameron, and Olerud, and four of those guys were really good defenders at their positions. That’s crazy.
Anyway, back to Boone. His 2003 is a fair distance back, and then the gap between him and Cora 97/Peconte 84 is so huge I didn’t believe it until I looked it up. Boone 01 to Cora 97 is the gap between Cora 97 and Harold Reynolds 86, when he hit .222/.275/.290 — the worst Mariner 2B season ever (offensively)(though Lopez 07 is close). Offensively, this is one of the top ten seasons by any Mariner ever, and this is a team that had Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinez in the prime of their hitting careers.
.331/.372/.578 from a quality defensive second baseman. What’s there to argue about? I guess you could say that his 5 SB against 5 CS brings him down a little compared to the 16-3 2003 version, but that still doesn’t close the gap.
So yeah. Boone’s 2001 is the best season by a Mariner second baseman ever.