Former Mariners center fielder Mike Camerontold the Washington Nationals he is retiring after a 17-year major league career. The 39-year-old Cameron, a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in December, but quit six days in advance of the mandatory reporting date for Washington's position players.
For fans wondering how the 2012 season will unfold for the Mariners, 90-plus-game losers in three of the past four seasons, the retirement of a player who has been absent the local scene for eight years is not going to rock the morning.
What is interesting, especially for those who are fond of the 2001 Seattle season, is Cameron’s retirement leaves only five players still active from the team that won an American League record 116 games.
Of those five, only one,Ichiro, is guaranteed a major league roster spot in 2012 – this from a 2001 team that used 20 position players and 15 pitchers to tie the 1908 Chicago Cubs for the most regular-season wins ever.
On the basis of his 12-8 record in 2011, achieved over 25 starts, Freddy Garcia, a Mariner from 1999 through mid-2004, has a shot at securing a job at the back end of the Yankees’ rotation, but the other three active players who got on the field with the 2001 Mariners are iffy propositions.
Carlos Guillen, the shortstop on that ’01 team, is trying to make the Mariners as a 35-year-old free agent. He is coming off an injury-marred season with the Detroit Tigers and hasn't played anything close to a full season since 2007.
Joel Piniero, who went 6-2 for the ’01 Mariners and 7-7 last season for the Angels, will join the Philadelphia Phillies in spring training this week, also as a free agent.
Jamie Moyer, who didn’t pitch last year following Tommy John surgery, will attend the Colorado Rockies camp. Moyer, 9-9 for the 2010 Phillies, is 49.
Along with Ichiro, the 2001 AL MVP, Cameron represents the last great era of Mariners baseball. Cameron came to Seattle Feb. 10, 2000, in the trade that sent franchise icon Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds. The deal: the Reds swapped Cameron, Jake Meyer, Antonio Perez and Brett Tomko to the Mariners for Griffey, Seattle’s career leader in home runs (then 398, ultimately 630).
Cameron played with the Mariners from 2000 through 2003, appearing in 610 games with a .256 batting average, 87 home runs and one All-Star appearance (2001). The Mariners allowed him to depart in free agency, mainly because of his hitting woes at Safeco Field. He signed with the Mets, and later played with San Diego, Milwaukee, Boston and Florida.
During Cameron’s Seattle tenure, the Mariners went 91-71 (2000), 116-46 (2001), 93-69 (2002), 93-69 (2003), and made two playoff appearances before collapsing to 63-99 the year after he left. The Mariners are entering in their ninth year of recovery.
Although Cameron played only four Seattle seasons, he became a popular replacement for Griffey. We offer the following as “Cammy’s” greatest Mariner moments:
- April 7, 2000: Scaled the center field wall at Safeco Field and robbed New York’s Derek Jeter of a home run in the eighth inning of a 7-5 victory, receiving a standing ovation from the home crowd.
- Aug. 1, 2000: Smacked a botton-of-the-19th-inning, walk-off homer against former Mariners starter Jeff Fassero, providing a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field.
- Aug. 19, 2001: Went 4-for-4 with a grand slam and a franchise-record eight RBIs in a 10-2 victory over New York at Yankee Stadium.
- Oct. 2, 2001: Broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run homer and robbed Tim Salmon of a grand slam with a catch over the center field wall in a 14-5 victory over the Angels.
- May 2, 2002: Tied a major league record with four home runs at Chicago, twice teaming with Bret Boone on back-to-back homers in the first inning, another MLB record, in a 15-4 Seattle victory.
Since Cameron, the Mariners have employed numerous center fielders, including Randy Winn, Jeremy Reed, Ichiro, Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo and Franklin Gutierrez.