From left, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. pose for photographers on Opening Day, 2010 / Wiki Commons
Less than a week ago, Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics, and a former member of the Seattle SuperSonics, broke Reggie Miller’s NBA record for career 3-pointers made when he hit his 2,561st in a 92-86 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. A four-time All-Star with the Sonics from 2003-07, Allen has since made three All-Star teams as a member of the Celtics. Which begs the question: which professional athletes, with a minimum of four years wearing a Seattle uniform, had the best careers after exiting the Pacific Northwest? Our double-bonus Top 5 list:
Rafael Soriano: Soriano spent his first five professional seasons (2002-06) laboring in the Mariners’ bullpen. Seattle traded him on Dec. 7, 2006, for Horacio Ramirez in one of the most ill-conceived swaps in franchise history. Ramirez went 8-7 with a 7.16 ERA in his only year (2007) in Seattle. Soriano spent two years as Atlanta’s set-up man, saved 27 games as its closer in 2009, and had a major league-high 45 saves for Tampa Bay in 2010, when he won the Rolaids Relief award. After signing a three-year, $33 million contract with the Yankees, he will serve as Mariano Rivera’s set-up man in 2011.
Tom Chambers: When Sonics’ coach Bernie Bickerstaff made it clear that he no longer wanted Chambers, the 6-10 forward went to the Phoenix Suns as the first unrestricted free agent in NBA history to change teams. Chambers, a one-time All-Star in Seattle, became a three-time All-Star after departing. He exacted revenge on the Sonics on March 24, 1990 by dropping 60 points on them.
Tino Martinez: Martinez spent his first six major league seasons with the Mariners, then went to the Yankees on Dec. 7, 1995, in a trade the Mariners made in order to shed payroll (the Mariners netted Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock in the deal). After hitting 88 home runs for Seattle, Martinez smacked 251 more for the Yankees, Cardinals and Rays over the next 10 seasons.
Norm Johnson: Johnson, the Seahawks’ placekicker from 1982 through 1990, kicked 228 field goals during his nine-year run and made one Pro Bowl (1984). After the Seahawks released him in order to employ John Kasay, Johnson went onto play nine more years for Atlanta (1991-94), Pittsburgh (1995-98) and Philadelphia (1999). During those nine seasons, Johnson kicked 249 field goals. He led the NFL in field goal percentage in 1993 (96.3 percent) and made the Pro Bowl that year.
Ray Allen: Allen has averaged 17.4, 18.2, 16.3 and 17.3 points per game in the four seasons since the Sonics sent him and Glen Davis to the Celtics for Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and a 2008 second-round draft pick (Trent Plaisted). He made three All-Star teams since decamping Seattle and a week ago became the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader.
Kevin Mawae: Mawae played center for the Seahawks from 1994-97 before departing in free agency to the New York Jets. He never represented Seattle in a Pro Bowl game, but made eight appearances, most by any former Seahawk, in the contest following his Seattle exit.
Steve Hutchinson: A three-time All-Pro left guard with the Seahawks (2003-05), Hutchinson has been a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time first-team All-Pro since leaving for the Minnesota Vikings (his departure came just weeks after Seattle appeared in Super Bowl XL). No Seattle sports team ever fell apart faster after the loss of one player than the Seahawks did following Hutchinson’s departure. In many ways, the Seahawks still haven’t recovered.
Alex Rodriguez: Rodriguez could easily move up on this list because he, too, is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, provided voters don’t hold his steroid use against him the way they’ve held it against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Since leaving Seattle following the 2000 season, A-Rod has won three MVP awards, two Major League Player of the Year awards, six Silver Slugger awards and two Gold Gloves. He hit 189 home runs as a Mariner and 424 since departing.
Dennis Johnson: Impetuous and moody when he played for the Sonics (MVP of the 1979 NBA Finals), Johnson went to Phoenix in a one-for-one trade for Paul Westphal, whose Seattle career was cut short due to injuries. Johnson wound up in Boston, where he won two championship rings with the Celtics. The Basketball Hall of Fame welcomed him, belatedly and posthumously — in 2010.
Randy Johnson: The Big Unit pitched in Seattle for 10 years (1989-98), becoming the franchise’s all-time wins (130) and strikeouts leader (2,162). But the second half of his career was better. Johnson won four of his five Cy Young awards and 173 of his 303 career wins after departing in a trade. A co-World Series MVP (with Arizona) and No. 2 in baseball’s all-time strikeout list, Johnson will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And he’ll probably enter Cooperstown as a Diamondback, not a Mariner.
“Top 5 List” is published every Friday as part of Sportspress Northwests package of home-page features collectively titled, The Rotation.
The Rotations weekly schedule:
- Monday: That Was The Week That Was A snarky, day-by-day review of the week just ended.
- Tuesday: Wayback Machine — Sports historian David Eskenazi’s deep dive into local sports history, replete with photo eye candy.
- Wednesday: Nobody Asks But Us — We ask, and answer, fun and quirky questions nobody else is asking.
- Thursday: Water Cooloer Cool: Art Thiel takes on the weekend for the benefit of the more casual fan.
- Friday: Top 5 List — The alpha and omega of Northwest sports, at least as far as we’re concerned.