Close Look: 2 Mariners legends set to enter Baseball Hall of Fame race

Jan 24, 2024, 5:53 PM

Seattle Mariners hall of fame Félix Hernández Ichiro Suzuki...

Félix Hernández and Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a 2010 win over the Yankees. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the number of former Seattle Mariners players voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame was raised to seven with the election of Adrián Beltré.

Former Mariners 3B Adrián Beltré among three voted into ’24 Hall of Fame class

With the 2024 class now set, attention can turn to next year’s ballot. And it’s going to be a big one for the Mariners.

Both all-time baseball hit king Ichiro Suzuki and longtime Mariners ace Félix Hernández will be up for election for the first time in 2025. Ichiro is considered a shoo-in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, meaning the number of M’s in Cooperstown should raise to at least eight next year, while the voting with King Félix will be very interesting to watch.

Let’s break down both of their Hall of Fame cases.

Is Ichiro more than just a lock?

No player in professional major league history has more hits than Ichiro, who between nine seasons in Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball and 19 in MLB registered 4,367 hits. He passed Pete Rose’s previous record of 4,236 hits in 2016, and still went on to play in parts of three more MLB seasons after the milestone.

Not only that, but Ichiro made 10 All-Star Games (including a MVP-winning performance in the 2007 game in San Francisco), and won 10 Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers and two batting titles.

There has already been speculation that Ichiro could be the first position player and just second player overall to get into the Hall of Fame with 100% of the vote. So far, only legendary New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been a unanimous Hall of Fame selection. Can Ichiro do what greats like Derek Jeter (99.74%), Nolan Ryan (98.79%), Cal Ripken Jr. (98.53%) or even Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr. (99.32%) couldn’t?

I mean, Ichiro should be a unanimous selection, right? After all, Ichiro’s MLB career started by winning American League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in his first big league season, helping the Mariners tie the MLB record with 116 wins in the regular season. He would then go on to break an 84-year-old single-season hits record with 262 in 2004, tie Rose’s record with 10 seasons of 200 hits or more, and become the first player ever with 10 straight seasons of at least 200 hits. A more pure hitter in baseball history you will not find.

There’s also the fact that Ichiro was a trailblazer. He was the first Japanese position player ever to play in MLB (he beat Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s New York Mets debut by a day in 2001), and he quickly became a phenomenon and the league’s first true Japanese superstar.

From essentially Ichiro’s 2001 debut until he was traded to the Yankees during the 2012 season, he was the Mariners’ best player. Well, at least until the other name we need to get to turned into a star himself.

Will King Félix add one more jewel to his crown?

Just like with Ichiro, you don’t need to explain to anybody who remembers the prime of King Félix just how special he was. The big question with his Hall of Fame candidacy, however, is if that prime is enough for admission into Cooperstown.

Hernández won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, was named an All-Star six times, and led the league at least once in each of ERA, wins, shutouts, starts, innings pitched, WHIP, FIP, hits allowed per nine innings, and home runs allowed per nine innings.

He played his entire 15-year career with the Mariners, and unfortunately his best years seemed to coincide with a particularly poor stretch of offensive performance from Seattle’s lineup. When all was said and done, Hernández owned a 169-136 record, 3.42 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 2,524 strikeouts – and, sadly, no playoff appearances.

Coming short of 200 career wins and 3,000 strikeouts may hurt his Hall of Fame case, but there’s no question that Hernández was always in the conversation for best pitcher in baseball from 2009 to 2014, and likely only Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw can say he was better than Hernández over that full six-season period.

Hernández probably won’t be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and it’s up for debate whether he will make the 75% cut at all before his candidacy is over. But don’t count him out, either. The outpouring of support that finally got Edgar Martinez into the Hall in his final year of eligibility showed that Seattle sports fans know how to get behind a cause like this.

The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be Sunday, July 21 in Cooperstown, N.Y., with voting for the 2025 class opening to members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America next fall and the results announced in January 2025.

Former Seattle Mariners in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Seven players who wore the Mariners uniform during their career have been elected into the Hall of Fame, including two whose plaques feature the player in an M’s hat. Here is the full list of M’s at Cooperstown:

• Gaylord Perry – inducted in 1991, played for Mariners from 1982-83
• Goose Gossage – inducted in 2008, played for Mariners in 1994
• Rickey Henderson – inducted in 2009, played for Mariners in 2000
• Randy Johnson – inducted in 2015, played for Mariners from 1989-98
• Ken Griffey Jr. – inducted in 2016, played for Mariners from 1989-99, 2009-10*
• Edgar Martinez – inducted in 2019, played whole career for Mariners from 1987-2004*
• Adrián Beltré – to be inducted in 2024, played for Mariners from 2005-09*

*Featured as a Mariners player in Hall of Fame plaque

More on the Seattle Mariners

Baseball America’s Glaser: Mariners prospect Colt Emerson is ‘on a rocket’
The fun story of how Cal Raleigh heard about Haniger’s Mariners return
Drayer: How former M’s reliever Danny Farquhar landed back with Mariners as a coach
Drayer’s Notebook: Seattle Mariners sign local product to swing role
What They Said: New Seattle Mariners OF Luke Raley on his role

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Close Look: 2 Mariners legends set to enter Baseball Hall of Fame race