I have never stepped foot in the city of Seattle and yet I have a huge spot in my heart for the Seattle Mariners.
There is no rhyme nor reason for it. I just have always wanted the Mariners to put a winning product on the field. As of this writing, they remain the only current Major League city to have never hosted a World Series. (Washington DC hosted the 1924, 1925 and 1933 World Series when the Senators were the team.)
Over the years, they have had superstars in their prime like Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. But I have been pulling for them long before that.
I loved the trident hats, with or without the star, and in the mid 1980’s they looked like they were finally putting together a winner. And one of the keys was third baseman Jim Presley.
With a last name like Presley, it is no secret to why he was called “Hound Dog.” He was drafted as a high school player from Pensacola Florida in the 4th round of the 1979 draft by the Mariners.
He initially struggled but by 1982, earned his way to AA. In 1984, he was in Seattle. In his big league debut, he doubled off of future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. While the Mariners lost that game and lost a lot more games in 1984, they were putting together an interesting squad.
Alvin Davis was the Rookie of the Year. Mark Langston was a stud young hurler. Mike Moore had a world of talent. And piece by piece, the team was assembling a stellar lineup with two budding aces at the top of rotation.
In 1985, Presley asserted himself as one of the top players on the squad, clubbing 28 homers and posting a .808 OPS. The team went nowhere again as neither Langston nor Moore could coordinate their brillant seasons.
1986 started with a bang for Presley. In the bottom of the 9th of opening day, he launched a game tying homer off of Donnie Moore. Then in the bottom of the 10th, with 2 out, he crushed a walk off grand slam against Ken Forsch.
That game set the stage for his All Star season. He would sock 27 homers and drive in 107 runs along the way. And with Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds and Rey Quinones, was part of a young and potentially lethal infield. Throw in the bats of Phil Bradley and Danny Tartabull and Langston and Moore in the rotation and the Mariners looked like they were on to something good.
By the end of the 1986 season, Dick Williams had taken over as manager. Just 2 years prior, he turned the hapless Padres into a pennant winner. He also transformed the Expos into contenders and before that turned around the Red Sox in 1967 before winning back to back titles in Oakland.
In other words, he knew how to turn the fortunes of a team around. And Seattle looked like the next great conquest for the man who would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Presley held up his end of the bargain with a 24 homer season in 1987. Harold Reynolds led the league with 60 stolen bases, Alvin Davis drove in 100 runs, Phil Bradley still hit the ball well and Seinfeld punchline Ken Phelps hit 27 homers and posted a .959 OPS.
Despite that firepower and a 19 win season from Mark Langston, the Mariners failed to post a winning record in a very winnable AL West.
That was in all probability the best chance for that Mariners squad. Presley’s numbers slipped in 1988 as the A’s took over control of the AL West. In 1989, new names like Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson started emerging in the Pacific Northwest. Martinez eventually pushed Presley out of a job.
After the 1989 season, he was dealt to Atlanta where he played one season, missing the pennants and Division titles that would follow. After a few months with the Padres in 1991, his big league playing career was done.
Over the years, Presley has found life as a coach with both the Marlins and the Orioles. But I will always remember him as one of the very talented Mariners who played on a team that had the players and the right manager but couldn’t put it all together.