Long-time Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager announced his retirement via his wife’s Twitter account last week. And so the debate began whether the number 15 will be worn in Seattle ever again.
Seager, who played his entire 11-year career at the hot corner for the M’s, was given a standing ovation when he was removed from game 162 this year immediately after Seattle was eliminated from playoff contention. The Boston Red Sox went final in a 7-5 win over the Washington Nationals, and Mariner skipper Scott Servais called time to remove his captain from the game. While the exit was incredibly emotional for fans at T-Mobile Park, the Mariners players, and Seager himself, there was immediate speculation on social media as to whether or not the team would pick up the one-time All-Star’s $2 million option.
As it turned out, the team declined Seager’s option, and he was granted free agency. We had plenty of thoughts regarding his potential landing spot on the Baseball Together Podcast. One included the potential for retirement because of what appears to have been a lingering elbow issue.
In an era where Mariner prospects were dealt to contenders like middle schoolers trading Pokemon cards, fans weren’t sure what to expect with the roster from day to day. Some felt they couldn’t be sure if the name on the jersey they bought at a game would be with the team by the time they got home that night. Through a decade of mediocrity and underperformance, Seager was a rock at third base for the M’s. He played fewer than 150 games in a season only one time, which was the 2019 season after he tore a ligament in his wrist during Spring Training. However, Seager played every game of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. His 2021 campaign was hit with some ups and downs as he ended the season with a .212 batting average and a .723 OPS, but the team felt his presence in the clubhouse.
Seager took on the role of clubhouse mentor for one of the youngest rosters in MLB with an average age of hitters at 27 years old and pitchers at 28 years old. Only the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians were younger than this year’s M’s. The young players looked up to the vet as he worked with them to help build the confidence of players who struggled after making debuts.
After the team traded away closer Kendall Graveman to the Houston Astros while the AL West division rivals were in town, it’s said that Seager raised hell in the clubhouse at his displeasure with the trade and the team’s constant disregard for what it takes to win. I believe his raw emotion is one of the things that powered the Mariners to a 35-23 record after the trade and remaining in contention for a Wild Card berth until the final innings of the season.
While there’s no question that Seager wasn’t able to put together a Hall of Fame career, the question remains whether or not his number will be retired in Seattle. Seager’s impact on the Mariners’ roster for his 11 years in the big leagues is unquestionable. He was named to the AL All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in 2014 and finished 12th in MVP voting in 2016. More importantly, he was the epitome of class and leadership every day.
As part of answering the question about retiring Seager’s number, we have to examine what it takes to have such an honor bestowed upon a player in Seattle. As of the writing of this blog, only Jackie Robinson’s number 42, Ken Griffey Jr.’s number 24, and Edgar Martinez’s number 11. All three have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Ichiro’s number 51 will likely be immortalized soon, and Felix Hernandez’s number 34 could also be added. In contrast, the likes of Randy Johnson, “Mr. Mariner” Alvin Davis, and fan-favorite Jay Buhner haven’t been given such an honor. So, to think that Seager has put together the type of career necessary to retire his number in Seattle might be somewhat ambitious. That being said, this Mariner fan would still like to see it.