The Top Ten Biggest Seattle Sports Disappointments

It’s a cloudy-ass day in July and we haven’t had any sports that I give a shit about in over three months, so why not kick off the month with a big ball of negativity?!

Once again, in the absence of any decent sports news, I take inspiration from the Brock & Salk podcast, where one of the listeners asked the question of who is on your Seattle sports Mount Rushmore for biggest disappointments? I’m clearly unable to limit my disgust to just four individuals, so you get a Top Ten from me (with an extra Honorable Mention – FREE OF CHARGE – because these disappointments are like my babies, I can’t leave any of them out!).

Being a Sports Disappointment is obviously a nebulous concept with lots of different definitions, so here’s mine (for the sake of today’s argument): these are people who we expected to be great when they came here, and ultimately totally sucked. How they got here is irrelevant, so I’m not factoring in (as heavily) if it was a lopsided trade, a high draft pick, or an inflated contract (with the basis that all of these players were terrible for their respective Seattle sports teams, one would assume a poor trade, draft slot, or contract is a given anyway). Similarly, this can’t be based on someone else that our team passed on in the draft, because there would be inherent disappointment already built into that selection.

Malik McDowell, for instance, doesn’t qualify for this list. He’s certainly one of the most damaging draft picks of the last decade for the Seahawks, but as a second rounder, I don’t think expectations were astronomical that he’d be anything truly amazing. Likewise, trading away Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice doesn’t qualify, because I would like to think most people noted that right away to be a terrible deal, and as such I can’t imagine there were great expectations for ol’ #0.

Without further ado, let’s get to our Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero. The Mariners traded for the former #1 overall baseball prospect early in 2012 from the Yankees. Given Michael Pineda’s career since he left Seattle, this is one of those infamous Lose/Lose deals. Nevertheless, the next ten guys I talk about must’ve been REALLY bad, because Montero was as mediocre as it gets. The main reason why he’s on the outside looking in is because by the time he came to Seattle, there was already a building consensus that he wasn’t long for the catcher position. He just didn’t have the build, the skills, nor the presence with the pitching staff for his defense to measure up. The hope was that maybe he could land at first base with some practice, but ultimately I think most saw him as a future DH. Regardless of that, there was NO QUESTION that his bat would be what provided the bulk of his value, and when you’re talking about those Mariners squads from 2008-2013, a hulking power bat from the right side of the plate was our white whale. Montero was SUPPOSED to be our cleanup hitter for the next decade; instead he hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015, and is more known for his ice cream sandwich fight than his “prowess” on the baseball diamond.

#10 – Danny Hultzen (Mariners)

This is the only real draft bust on the list (not to say there aren’t some REALLY BAD draft picks going forward, but at least those guys played a little bit!). Hultzen was a #2 overall draft pick, considered to be the safest starting pitcher prospect of the 2011 draft, and appeared to be on the fast track to make it to the Major Leagues within 2-3 years. Even if there was a question of his stuff – and his high-ceiling/ace potential – if his arm injuries didn’t totally derail him, we WOULD HAVE seen him pitch for the Mariners relatively early in his career. We’ll never know how disappointing that might’ve been, but I remember being really high on this guy when we got him, and it’s one of the great What If’s in recent Mariners history.

#9 – Justin Smoak (Mariners)

He’s sort of in that Jesus Montero realm, in that he was formerly a very highly-rated prospect, with the bloom starting to come off the rose by the time the M’s were able to acquire him. Oddly enough, when we made the deal in 2010, it’s reported that the Mariners turned down a proposed offer from the Yankees which would’ve included Montero! What did we do to get so lucky as to end up with BOTH when all was said and done?! Again, we’re talking about the Dead Ball Mariners of 2008-2013 or so; Smoak was really the first bite at the apple of trying to turn around our moribund offense. Switch-hitter with power, elite first base defense, good eye at the plate, and a proven minor league track record to hit for average, get on base at a high clip, and impress with his power to all fields. That ended up translating to the Bigs as Warning Track Power, someone who couldn’t really hit from the right side at all, a very LOW batting average, and someone who would consistently roll over on pitches instead of hitting to all fields as advertised. While his defense played, and he had an okay eye for taking walks, he also struck out a ton and didn’t start figuring out how to play at this level until he left for Toronto, where he was an All Star in 2017 (with 22+ homers in the last three seasons, the high being 38 in that aforementioned All Star season).

#8 – Aaron Curry (Seahawks)

As a #4 overall draft pick in 2009, you can certainly point to any number of linebackers taken after him and lament Tim Ruskell’s poor decision-making. BUT! I said we’re not doing that here! So, instead let’s just look at the situation at the time: the Seahawks were coming off of a pretty abysmal 2008 season where the defense just had NOTHING going for it. The offense looked like it MIGHT be salvagable with our aging veterans, but the defense needed an injection of youth and explosiveness. Curry was famously the “safest” pick off the board, as someone who could come in, play right away, and play at a high level. Even then, though, his game started getting picked apart pretty quickly. We soon learned there wasn’t much of a pass-rushing threat to his game, which made him ostensibly a coverage linebacker. The Seahawks have long prided themselves on quality linebacker play, so that checks out. Except, as it turned out, Curry couldn’t even do THAT well! He did, in fact, nothing well, and two years later we traded him to the Raiders in the middle of the 2011 season for draft picks (one of which would turn out to be J.R. Sweezy, which wasn’t too shabby of a return, all things considered).

#7 – Dustin Ackley (Mariners)

Speaking of #2 overall draft picks, welcome to the first pick of the Jack Zduriencik Era in 2009! I wrote pretty extensively on the topic of Dustin Ackley over the years, to the point where the rest of my list today SERIOUSLY conflicts with that post I just linked to. But, I would argue the parameters of the argument today are a little different. I’m trying to eliminate all outside factors and just focus on the players themselves. Yes, Ackley was VERY disappointing! He was supposed to be a guy who hit for a very high average, with enough pop/speed/defense to make him a regular All Star for his Major League career. Instead, he was middling at best and hasn’t cracked a Major League roster since 2016. I would also put part of the blame on the Mariners’ front office, as they continuously dicked around with him. He was a primo first baseman in college, with some experience in the outfield. What did we do? We made him a second baseman, which almost certainly stunted his development. Then, when that failed, we tried to make him a centerfielder, even though he really didn’t have the range or ability to cover that much ground (especially in Safeco Field at the time). And yet, the bat never showed up in Seattle, so that’s ultimately why he’s such a disappointment.

#6 – Chone Figgins (Mariners)

You really, REALLY hate to see it! This was the first big free agent bust of the Jack Zduriencik Era: four years, $36 million in December of 2009. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this signing! By this point, we’d long realized that Safeco Field – with its configuration, and with our Marine Layer in Seattle – would be death to home run hitters. Guys like Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, among others, tried and ultimately failed to replicate their prior glories in Seattle. But, Figgins was the opposite of that! He was an undersized Jack-Of-All-Trades type of Swiss Army Knife you could plug in at nearly EVERY position on the field, with zero power hype to speak of whatsoever! And, most importantly, he’d hit for the Angels in a big way (.291 average & .363 on-base percentage in Anaheim across 8 seasons before signing with the Mariners). Slot him in at third base (his preferred position) and at the top of your batting lineup, and watch him hit .300 and steal 40+ bases! He somehow reached that stolen base plateau in his first year here, but his average dropped about 40 points overnight. He couldn’t get along with the Mariners’ management (and, presumably, some of the players) and was deemed the very worst signing of Jack Zduriencik’s career. Smarter baseball people than myself probably saw all this coming, but I’ll admit it was a rude awakening for me.

#5 – Percy Harvin (Seahawks)

If this were a list of my own personal Most Loathed Seattle Sports Athletes, Harvin would probably rank higher. I have no problem invoking his name among the greatest all-time Seahawks blunders because he is SO unlikable (the peak being him punching out Golden Tate before our Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season). Why he doesn’t rank higher here is the fact that we DID win that Super Bowl (mostly in spite of him), on top of the fact that I think most of us realized – when the deal was made – that it was too high a price to pay for ANYONE, even with his ability (at the time). Still, he had proven in his career with the Vikings to be a lethal gadget player on offense, and one of the best return men in the Special Teams department. While we could see the cost in draft picks and contract compensation was stratospheric, it was hard not to dream big about what this offense could be with Harvin in the fold. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, AND Percy Harvin?! Come on! And, then he immediately got injured upon arrival, and didn’t really end up making any impact whatsoever until we reached the Super Bowl. The highlight of his Seahawks career was the kickoff return for a touchdown against the Broncos. Some thought he deserved consideration for the Super Bowl MVP, but we were already up 22-0 at the time, so I mean. The bottom line is, Harvin dogged it in 2014 – taking himself out of games, refusing to play through anything more than a hangnail – and was traded in the middle of the season for whatever we could get. So much wasted money and potential.

#4 – Erik Bedard (Mariners)

Everyone points to the lopsided deal – that sent the Orioles a ton of quality baseball players – but the true crime is just how bad Bedard became as soon as he got here! He was a bona fide Ace-type pitcher for Baltimore – so much so that he was deemed to be the #1 over Felix Hernandez in his first year here – and the expectation was that our rotation would lead us back to the playoffs with Bedard in the fold. Instead, he was a consummate Five-And-Dive artist who both stunk AND couldn’t stay healthy. Why he’s not higher on this list is because all of those Mariners teams were VERY terrible and would have been regardless, with our without Bedard. Still a bitter pill to swallow.

#3 – Rick Mirer (Seahawks)

The bigger disappointment here is the fact that the Seahawks had the #2 pick at all, and not the #1 (which would’ve guaranteed us Drew Bledsoe). In that Dustin Ackley piece, I had Dan McGwire among the biggest draft pick disappointments in Seattle sports history, but that largely hinged on who we DIDN’T get in that draft – namely: Brett Favre – but I don’t think anyone REALLY expected greatness out of McGwire (except for the inept Seahawks ownership group at the time). Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was very highly regarded. Even if he wasn’t the ideal QB of that draft, he wasn’t supposed to be a bad fall-back option. But, he was worse than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. He nearly destroyed my standing as a Seahawks fan for the rest of the 1990’s! The saving grace for Mirer is the fact that we were able to flip him for a first round draft pick in 1997.

#2 – Jeff Cirillo (Mariners)

I just remember LOVING this deal so much! In December of 2001 – coming off of the Mariners’ 116-win campaign – we were looking at one of the most complete teams in the Major Leagues. One of our main weak spots was third base, where we employed the pedestrian David Bell. Cirillo, on the other hand, had a remarkable 10-year career to that point with the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies, where he hit over .300, had an on-base percentage over .450, hardly ever struck out, and played a quality third base! I mean, on a team with Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, Edgar, Cameron, Wilson, Guillen, McLemore, and the rest, Cirillo was only going to put us MORE over the top! That’s when we got our first big taste of what happens when guys come over from Colorado: the thin air they play in made hitting at home a breeze. Meanwhile, in Seattle, even for someone like Cirillo – who wasn’t a natural power hitter by any means – it seems like Safeco just got in everyone’s heads if nothing else. He hit for a miserable .234 across two partial seasons, and his on-base percentage plummeted to a ridiculous .295! To add insult to injury, those two seasons coincided with two of the most frustrating years to be a Mariners fan, where both teams won 93 games, yet failed to make the playoffs because baseball is dumb and only had one Wild Card team at the time. To add even more insult to even more injury, we traded him away in early 2004 and got essentially nothing back in return.

#1 – Vin Baker (Supersonics)

You don’t see a lot of Sonics on this list, because for the most part – until the bitter end – we were a pretty well-run organization. Sure, you can point to the litany of failed centers we drafted in the 2000’s, but I would argue most fans saw through those duds the minute their names were called. Similarly, everyone wondered why someone like Jim McIlvaine was given such a high-money contract, so to be “disappointed” would mean you’d have to have high expectations for someone who had hardly done anything in his career to that point! Vin Baker, on the other hand, was a multi-year All Star in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. I almost didn’t want to include Baker on this list, because for some reason I have memories of more good times than actually existed. The truth of the matter is – upon trading for him when Shawn Kemp forced his way out in a 3-team deal, justifiably, because McIlvaine – the Sonics only enjoyed ONE quality year out of Baker. The first year here, the 1997/1998 season, when he maintained his All Star streak and led the Sonics to a semifinals appearance in George Karl’s last go-around in Seattle.

He then immediately fell off the cliff. The strike-shortened season saw Baker’s alcoholism creep in, resulting in a ballooning of his weight that drastically reduced his effectiveness on the court. For some reason, in spite of his fall-off, the Sonics rewarded him with a 7-year, $86 million deal. Yet, he was never the same, with three increasingly-mediocre seasons to follow before we were able to trade him to the Celtics for a bunch of role players. There’s a lot of unfair resentment towards Baker for tanking his career the way he did, but I think mostly people just feel sorry for him. No one in Seattle wanted to see Shawn Kemp leave; indeed Wally Walker & Co. did a remarkable job of destroying a championship-calibre squad. But, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we were able to get Baker here initially! His game – if maybe not his personality – fit this team PERFECTLY! He had a better post-up game than Kemp, could shoot from long range better than Kemp, and overall you didn’t have to worry about the ups & downs. Baker was a steady 20/10 type of guy when he got here, night-in and night-out. Which makes his post-1998 years SO disappointing! His wasn’t the type of game that should’ve deteriorated so quickly. Kemp’s game was more raw athleticism; Baker’s game was fundamental basketball prowess. Yet, when it’s all said and done, two of the great basketball tragedies to come out of that lockout season were Baker and Kemp, both succumbing to being out of shape and never ultimately recovering.

The Mariners Pounded The Twins And Also Made Two Draft Picks

The Mariners beat the Twins 14-3.  The Mariners scored in 6 of the 9 innings, and every batter had at least one hit.  Mitch Haniger busted out with 4 hits, 4 runs, and 2 RBI; Nelson Cruz had 2 hits, 2 runs, and 4 RBI; Ben Gamel had 2 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs; Seager, Valencia, Zunino, and Tyler Smith all had multi-hit games as well.

Yovani Gallardo, after being given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, gave up 2 runs in the bottom half to sicken me to my core.  But, to his credit, he managed to settle down and went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs, 7 hits, and walked only 1, while striking out 5.  He had a lot of wait time between innings, which couldn’t have been easy, so it was nice of him to look semi-competent in a laugher.

The real news of the day belongs to the MLB draft.  The first two rounds took place last night and the Mariners made two selections.

  • First Round, 17th Pick – Evan White, 1B
  • Second Round, 55th Pick – Sam Carlson, RHP

White is a college kid with good offensive numbers, great defensive abilities, and an all-around great attitude according to everyone who talks about him.  Someone had mentioned his defensive abilities could translate to the outfield – which would obviously give him a lot more value as an overall baseball player – but the Mariners are saying he could have Gold Glove defensive ability at first base, so that’s where he’ll start out.  It also doesn’t hurt that he’s going to sign right away and join up with the Everett Aqua Sox.

John Olerud is probably the lazy comparison, but I dunno, I’m not really a guy who focuses too hard on the minor leagues.  Was Olerud an athletic marvel coming out of college?  I always assumed he was a plodder from the get go.  Either way, if White turns into Olerud, I would absolutely take that in a heartbeat.

I understand the thought process behind moving a guy to a more premium defensive position, like centerfield for instance, which is what people have said about White.  But, just look at the Mariners:  how long have we been trying to fix the first base position?  How many years have we just been getting by with 1-year deals on guys we’re hoping will have bounce-back seasons?  First base is an absolute need position for this team, so I’d really rather they not screw around with switching positions and whatnot.

I don’t know if the power numbers are super there, so I wouldn’t expect this kid to be a pure slugger.  But, it’s promising to hear he’s gotten better every year.  First base doesn’t have to be a 40-homer a year target; I’d gladly take half of that with a good batting average and great defense.  Either way, we’ll likely know more about him in three years or so.

Sam Carlson is an interesting pick for us, as many had projected him to be a first rounder.  Some even projected him over Evan White!  He’s a high schooler out of Minnesota who already throws in the mid-90s, so that’s pretty freakin’ sweet.  It appears a lot of teams were wary of picking him, as he agreed to go to the University of Florida, so it looks like it’ll take a little extra money to get him to sign.  We’ll see.  The team is confident they’ll get him, but I guess they have to be.  He most likely didn’t say he was a lock to go to college, so I figure there has to be some wiggle room there.

The question that has to weigh on his mind is whether or not he can improve his draft stock by going to college for a year or two.  There’s a big risk there, considering he can go and look pretty bad and fall way down in the draft.  But, there’s also a chance to get back in that first round and maybe even into the Top 10.  Those are the chips he’s holding in negotiations.

All in all, an interesting day for Mariners fans.  Rounds 3-10 happen today, followed by the rest taking place tomorrow.  I can’t imagine I’ll get much more in depth on the topic, considering I know nothing about high school or college baseball players.  I just hope there are some future quality Major Leaguers in there.

The Greatest Comeback In Mariners History

About an hour into the game last night, I texted my brother, “God damn fucking worthless ass Miley …”

It couldn’t have been much later than the first inning, but of course we were already losing 4-1.  On the heels of the previous day’s meltdown with Paxton, Miley was trying to one-up him.  So, I did what I usually do when I’m confronted with a losing Mariners effort:  anything but watch more baseball.  In this particular case, it involved my continuing pursuit to catch up on The Americans (no spoilers!).

As I do, I tend to have a little A.D.D. when it comes to entertaining myself at the end of the day, so I was flipping in and out, occasionally checking in on the score of the game, when I saw it was 12-2, Padres.  Well!  All right then!  I guess I can go fuck myself, if I think there’s going to be any chance of a comeback!

When I returned to Twitter to check on the game, it was 12-7 and Robinson Cano had just been hit on the hand to load the bases.  To be honest, I was more concerned that we had just lost Cano to an injury, but when he stayed in the game and it looked like he’d be all right, I have to admit, the thought of a full-on comeback intrigued me.  5 runs in the final 3 innings?  That’s do-able, right?

If I’m being honest, had I stuck around and watched the whole first half of the game, and forced myself to endure beyond the 12-2 deficit, my hopes for a comeback would’ve been pretty bleak.  But, 12-7 is an entirely different animal!  12-7 is like 12-2 didn’t even happen!

But it did, and that’s what makes this game so amazing.

The top score is the previous "biggest comeback in franchise history"; the bottom score is from last night ...

The top score is the previous “biggest comeback in franchise history”; the bottom score is from last night …

I’ve mentioned it repeatedly, but I’ll say it again:  I’m one of those knobs who first became a fan of the Mariners in 1995, during the stretch run of awesomeness.  Almost right away, I went from not knowing much of anything about baseball, to trying to be the biggest super fan of them all.  Before the 1996 season, I joined the Mariners Fan Club, which I want to say came with free tickets to a game, a media guide (which I still have, btw, and it’s awesome), and a bunch of other crap, for what I want to say is a pretty reasonable price.  Essentially, for the price of tickets, you get all this other stuff, plus tickets.

My first-ever game that I saw in person was April 15, 1996, in the Kingdome, against the California Angels.  Did I have my dad buy me a scorecard so I could learn to keep score that day?  You bet I did!  Do I still have that scorecard somewhere in my dad’s house?  You’re damn right I better, or I’m gonna be pissed!

As you can see from the snippet of a box score I posted above, the Mariners started out that game down 9-1, before roaring all the way back to win 11-10.  It was, up until last night, the largest comeback win in Mariners history.  Someone named Paul Menhart started for the Mariners, went 3 innings and gave up 7 runs.  Edwin Hurtado followed him – just trying to eat up some innings – and gave up 3 runs over the next 3 innings.  Rafael Carmona went an inning to bridge it to Norm Charlton, our closer, who came in for the 8th inning.  Once the Mariners took the 1-run lead in the bottom of the 8th, Charlton came back out for the 9th to lock it down, with the crowd (including my dad and myself) going absolutely nuts.

Last night’s game, I shit you not, was WAY more impressive.  Not just because the Mariners were down an extra couple runs, but in the way we came back.  Let’s go back to that 7th inning, down 12-7, with the bases loaded and 1 out.  Nelson Cruz was at the plate and I want to say he saw somewhere around 11 pitches before finally striking out.  That was the ONLY time, all game, where the Mariners failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position.  They’d finish the game 11/12 in that category!  Now, you can complain about Cruz’s at bat all you want, but even though he didn’t score anyone, or take a walk like he probably could have, I want to say he really tired the pitcher out.  From there, with 2 outs now, this happened:

  • Seager 2-run single; 12-9
  • Lee 1-run single; 12-10
  • Iannetta 1-run single; 12-11
  • Romero 1-run single; 12-12
  • O’Malley 1-run single; 13-12
  • Aoki 1-run single; 14-12
  • Aoki stole second base
  • Guti 2-run single; 16-12
  • Cano ground out

I mean, isn’t that unbelievable?  To be perfectly honest, I would’ve settled for the 12-10 deficit after Lee’s at bat.  I thought, for sure, with the slump he’s been in over the last month, that Iannetta was the easiest of easy outs.  Then, when he somehow found a hole, I was DOUBLY sure Romero wouldn’t do anything.  After he also somehow found a hole, it just got silly.  O’Malley?  Sure, why not?  Aoki?  Whatever, dude, get some!  Guti?  Shut the front God damn door!  At that point, it was destiny.  The Mariners would do whatever it took to keep that average with runners in scoring position as high as possible, without actually being perfect.

From there, it was a simple game of hold-on.  Luckily, we had our best three pitchers in Vincent, Benoit, and Cishek, all lined up and ready to lock down the final three innings.  And, thanks to the unearned run allowed by Vincent, Cishek even got the save!

With Joel Peralta’s release earlier in the day, someone had to fill the gap in the bullpen.  When it comes to personnel on the 25-man roster, that spot went to Cody Martin, who was doing some starting down in Tacoma, but essentially was called up to be a warm body given all the poor outings we’ve gotten recently from our starting pitchers.  He actually came in last night and pitched a scoreless inning!  I didn’t see a lot of what he had to offer, but it looked pretty average to my untrained eye.

As it turned out, filling Joel Peralta’s role as Giant Turd Sandwich in the bullpen somehow, mysteriously, fell to Mike Montgomery, who came in the game immediately after Miley, and gave up 3 runs of his own, on top of a few inherited runners Miley left him.  Suffice it to say, had Montgomery pitched like he’s pitched just about the entire season to this point, the game wouldn’t have been nearly as big of a Padres blow-out (and, indeed, may not have even qualified for the largest comeback in Mariners history).

Of course, the goat of the game falls on Miley himself, who – when he’s bad – is just the God damn worst.  When he’s good, he’s fine, but he’s never going to be overpowering, and he doesn’t seem to have it in him to limit the damage when his stuff isn’t particularly “on”.  He is, in essence, exactly who we thought he was coming into the season, and the offense is letting him off the hook by providing him with among the most run support in all of baseball.

Make no mistake, by season’s end, if we’re relying on Miley to be a third starter for this team, we’re in trouble.  He can be an okay innings-eater as a back-end of the rotation guy, but he is by no means someone I want to rely upon when the games start to really matter.

In closing, I’d like to – as briefly as I can – take you back to August 5, 2001.  The Mariners, in their greatest-ever season, where they would end up winning 116 games and tying the all-time record, had a 14-2 lead after the 5th inning, and proceeded to remove a bunch of starters to allow them to rest for half a game.  You can see, by and large, those bench guys who came in did next-to-nothing the rest of the way.  Meanwhile, Aaron Sele fell apart in the 7th, and a pretty good bullpen just totally shit the bed through the 9th.  At that point, with the game going to extras, it was only a matter of time.  Ichiro, Edgar, and Olerud were all pulled, but the team as a whole was just defeated.

It was, as a fan, one of my lowest points for a regular season game, in ANY sport.  To have the game so in control, and then watch helplessly as it’s chipped away, until finally you’re dead in the water and there’s nothing you can do but await the inevitable … I wouldn’t wish that on many people.  Last night, the game was decided in the 7th, and as Padres fans, you probably just sat there stunned for the final three innings, miserable and bitter.  In 2001, the misery lasted from the 7th through the 11th innings.  With each passing out, there was some hope of the Mariners ending the suffering, until finally it went to extras, and at that point, more outs were just delaying the inevitable.  Either way, it’s not a good feeling.

But, in a completely different way, nearly 15 years later, did we – as Softy noted on Twitter last night – exorcise those demons?  Well, technically, that was the last year the Mariners made the playoffs.  And, I’ll admit, even when we were in the thick of it against the Yankees that October, that defeat to the Indians was staunchly in the back of my mind the entire time.  Could last night’s game be the type of reverse-mojo THIS team needs?  A team that looks to finally break the string of seasons without a playoff berth?  A team that – should it break that string – might have what it takes to go all the way?  Unlike a certain 116-win team 15 years ago?

Look, I’m just asking questions here.  No harm in that, right?

The Last Great Mariners Rebuild

The Seattle Mariners played their first season in 1977.  From 1977 through 1994, the Mariners were varying degrees of terrible.  Sometimes Two times, “terrible” came with a winning record (1991 & 1993), but no post-season appearance.  Then, in 1995, the Mariners broke on through with an AL West title and a legend was made.  People still talk about those 1995 Mariners in a reverential tone and for good reason.  Baseball fans in the northwest starving for the sweet taste of success finally had something to hang their hats on.

From 1995 through 2003, the Mariners were varying degrees of successful.  Those nine seasons saw the Mariners make the playoffs four times, winning three division titles.  Seven of those nine seasons saw the Mariners with winning records.  Two insanely good A’s teams prevented two 93-win Mariners teams from going to the playoffs four straight years from 2000-2003.  These were the good times.  Everything abruptly fell apart in 2004 and the team was blown up.

From 2004 through present day, the Mariners have returned to their varying degrees of terrible.  In the nine full seasons from 2004-2012, the Mariners have had a winning record twice.  They’ve finished last in the AL West seven times.  It’s been one rebuild after another, with no end in sight.  Just a continuation of the cycle of losing, ad infinitum.

Of course, if the Mariners could do it once, SURELY the Mariners can do it again.  It took until their 19th year of existence before the Mariners made the playoffs; if it feels hopeless now, just imagine what it must have felt like for Mariners fans in the early 1990s.  They say something about learning from history or being doomed to repeat it, but what if in this case we take a look at something that went RIGHT for the Mariners in their history and seeing if we can repeat THAT?

As fans, we have to believe that a turnaround is right around the corner.  I know I’m on here quite a bit, bitching about how nothing is ever going to get any better (because why would we think that?  What is trending well enough for us to deserve the luxury of hope?), but if I truly felt that way, why would I continue to follow this team?  I’m not a baseball fan, per se; I’m a Mariners fan.  I don’t sit around watching random baseball games in my spare time; I watch Mariners games.  If the Mariners moved to Oklahoma City, I would stop watching baseball, the same as I have stopped watching professional basketball.  If the Mariners had never existed, I never would have started watching baseball in the first place (you get the idea).  So, since it’s been established that I’m a Mariners fan, it should also be established that yes, I do hope they’re able to turn things around sooner rather than later.  I’m not 100% cynical.  I’m just beaten down and broken, but all that can change if a few things fucking broke right for the Mariners for once!

The one thing Jackie Z has done right in his tenure as general manager is:  he’s re-stocked the farm system with an abundance of talented prospects.  Of course, none of that talent (save Kyle Seager and a couple bullpen arms) has panned out at the Major League level, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

There is no “right way” to rebuild.  It’s a combination of youth and veterans.  It’s a combination of draft picks, trades, and free agent signings.  It’s a combination of luck, strategy, and luck again.  In an ideal world, your Major League roster would be riddled with your own draft picks still playing on rookie deals.  Every trade you made would work out splendidly for you and would tank for your trade partner.  Every free agent signing would be a “buy-low” situation where they immediately turned their careers around.

Or, if you like concrete examples:  every draft pick would be Ken Griffey Jr., every trade would net you Jay Buhner in return, and every free agent would be Bret Boone circa 2000/2001.

So, in an attempt to try and forget the miseries of our present-day situation, I’d like to go back to a simpler time where a team comprised of a mix of youth and veterans shocked the world by winning their very first division title in the most dramatic of fashions.  How was THAT team built?  What can we learn from how that team did what it did?  And how did that team evolve into the greatest regular season team in baseball history?

***

1995 Seattle Mariners

Rebuilds don’t happen overnight.  A lot of these guys were brought into the fold well before everything magically came together in 1995.  I’m not going to get into every single player, but I’ll go over the highlights.

Dan Wilson (catcher) was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1990 in the first round.  That was the same year Lou Pinella signed on to manage those very same Reds.  That was also the same year the Reds won the World Series and wrote Lou’s ticket as an elite baseball manager for the next couple decades.  Sweet Lou hitched his wagon to the Seattle Mariners in 1993 with the task of turning around the worst franchise in baseball.  Dan Wilson got his first taste of the majors in a September cup of coffee in 1992.  Wilson got some more playing time in 1993, but was then traded along with Bobby Ayala to be reunited with Pinella before the 1994 season.  Wilson played considerably in ’94, earned the starting job in ’95, and never looked back.

Tino Martinez (first base) was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1988 in the first round.  He received his cup of coffee in 1990 and didn’t play a whole lot in the Majors through 1991.  Martinez was mediocre (but played a lot more) from 1992-1994, then finally had his breakout season in 1995 (.293/.369/.551).

Joey Cora (second base) was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1985 in the first round.  Cora didn’t start earning regular playing time until after he’d been traded to the White Sox in 1991.  His numbers weren’t particularly impressive, but he was improving as he played regularly through the 1994 season.  Then, in April of 1995, Cora signed as a free agent with the Mariners.  In spite of what we choose to remember about Little Joey Cora, I think many of us forget just how productive he was as a Mariner.  From 1995 through August of 1998, Cora had a slash line of .293/.355/.406.  He was traded at the August trade deadline in 1998, then abruptly retired to go into coaching after the end of the season.

Mike Blowers (third base) was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1984 but did not sign.  He would go on to be drafted three more times before he finally signed with the Montreal Expos in 1986.  He would be traded to the Yankees in August of 1989, then traded to the Mariners in May of 1991.  Blowers originally broke into the Majors with the Yankees in 1989, but he wouldn’t become a starter in the Majors until 1993 with the Mariners.  He would go on to be traded by the Mariners after that historic 1995 season, but would later come back on one-year free agent deals in 1997 and again in 1999 before retiring after that 1999 season.

Ken Griffey Jr. (center field) was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners with the #1 overall pick in the 1987 draft.  He would become a starter in the 1989 season and would not look back.  In February of 2000, the Mariners would trade him to the Reds.  They brought him back as a free agent in February of 2009 before he retired in June of 2010.

Jay Buhner (right field) was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in January of 1984.  In December of that very same year, Buhner was traded to the Yankees.  Buhner got his cup of coffee with the Yankees in September of 1987, played a bit more in 1988, then was traded at that year’s deadline to the Seattle Mariners for Ken Phelps.  Buhner became an everyday player in 1991 and was a core piece of the Mariners’ offense for the next decade.

Edgar Martinez (designated hitter) signed as an amateur free agent with the Seattle Mariners in December of 1982.  He didn’t break into the Majors until 1987 and didn’t become an everyday player until 1990.  He would go on to become the greatest designated hitter in baseball history.

Randy Johnson (starting pitcher) was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1985 in the second round.  The Big Unit got his cup of coffee in September of 1988, making four starts.  He was traded in May of 1989 to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston.  He became an immediate starter for the Mariners and progressively got better until he broke out in 1993, coming in second in the AL Cy Young race.  Johnson would go on to win that award in 1995, leading the Mariners to their best playoff finish in franchise history.  He would go on to be dealt to the Astros at the 1998 trade deadline and never return.

I’ll spare you Tim Belcher‘s long history for the most part:  he was drafted in 1984 and kicked around with four different teams before he signed with the Reds in May of 1995, where he was promptly traded to the Mariners two weeks later without ever throwing a pitch for the Reds that season.  Belcher made 28 starts for the Mariners that season, going 10-12.  He would not be retained by the Mariners beyond 1995.

Chris Bosio (starting pitcher) was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982 in the second round.  He had a good career with the Brewers over 7 seasons, then signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in December of 1992.  In 1993, Bosio pitched the second-ever Mariners no-hitter.  In 1995, Bosio started 31 games and went 10-8.  He hung around to start the 1996 season, struggled mightily, and retired at season’s end.

The Mariners traded for Andy Benes from the San Diego Padres at the July deadline in 1995.  He would go on to make 12 starts down the stretch, going 7-2.  He would sign a free agent deal with St. Louis before the 1996 season and would never be heard from again.

The bullpen was a piece of work, anchored by Bobby Ayala (came over in the Dan Wilson trade in 1993), who appeared in 63 games.  Norm Charlton was originally traded by the Reds to the Mariners prior to the 1993 season, but he would be injured, lose all of the 1994 season to injury, and eventually sign with the Phillies in 1995.  He was released by the Phillies in July of 1995 and signed on with the Mariners four days later.  Jeff Nelson was originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1984, but then was drafted by the Mariners from the Dodgers in something called a “minor league draft” in 1986.  He became a regular reliever in 1992 and was consistently productive thereafter.

That, more or less, is the 1995 Mariners.  Obviously, there were lots of bench players and fill-ins (Rich Amaral & Alex Diaz filling in admirably for an injured Junior), and a lot of players who were tried out as starters in the rotation, but the players I listed comprised the core.  Seven guys brought over in trade, three free agents, and four guys who were drafted by the Mariners (well, three guys and Edgar, who was an amateur free agent and played his entire career under the same organization).

1996 Seattle Mariners

With the base already in place, I shouldn’t have to keep re-hashing the core group that remains.  The first big misstep in what would become a long line of soul-crushing missteps by the organization came on December 7, 1995, when the Mariners traded Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the New York Yankees.  In return, they received a starting third baseman in Russ Davis, and a starting pitcher in Sterling Hitchcock.

Davis was the most error-prone third baseman I’ve ever seen.  He was supposed to make up for that with his bat, but in the four years he wore a Mariners uniform, he never surpassed 21 homers in a season, with a Mariners career slash line of .256/.309/.446.  Tino Martinez would go on to have an outstanding career with the Yankees, hitting 175 homers and 180 doubles over the next six seasons.  Jeff Nelson would go on to be a fabulous bullpen presence for the Yankees over the next five seasons, before returning as a free agent to the Mariners prior to the 2001 season.  Sterling Hitchcock, meanwhile, lasted one season with the Mariners (1996) where he sucked.  Then, he was traded to the Padres for Scott Sanders, who also sucked.  Sanders lasted one season with the Mariners (1997) before being traded for two guys who did nothing.  Suffice it to say, the Mariners lost the SHIT out of this trade.

All was not totally lost for this 1996 team, though.  The Mariners signed Paul Sorrento (first base) as a free agent before the season started.  Sorrento was an okay veteran who had played in 7 regular seasons with two different teams before coming to the Kingdome where he would mash the hell out of the ball for the 1996 and 1997 seasons.  We let him go after 1997 and he signed with Tampa Bay where he would finish out his career.

Alex Rodriguez (short stop) was drafted with the #1 overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1993.  He got his cup of coffee in 1994, and mostly rode the pine in 1995 before earning the everyday short stop job in 1996.  He would put up MVP-type numbers in this season, yet be denied his rightful honor thanks to the idiots who voted for the MVP award that season (they picked Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers who had a markedly inferior season).  A-Rod would be a Mariners favorite from 1996 through the 2000 season before taking the money and running to the Rangers in 2001.

Rich Amaral (left field) was signed as a free agent before the 1991 season before ever playing a game in the Majors.  Amaral earned a lot of playing time in 1995 after Griffey went down with injury that cost him a majority of the season.  As a reward for doing such a good job, Amaral earned the left field job in 1996.  He would go on to stick around (mostly as a bench player) through the 1998 season before signing as a free agent with the Orioles and ending his career in Baltimore.

So, the ’96 lineup had new additions Sorrento & Davis with holdovers in Amaral, A-Rod, Wilson, Cora, Griffey, Buhner, and Edgar.  Pretty fucking good … until you get to the pitching staff …

Hitchcock became the de facto pitching ace for this team after Randy Johnson went down in May with his back injury.  He would return in August as a reliever and never started a game for the Mariners the rest of the season.

Bob Wolcott was a Mariners draft pick from 1992 in the second round.  He made his first starts in the Majors in 1995 in August and earned himself a playoff roster spot that netted him the start in Game 1 of the ALCS (as the rotation had been spent just trying to get past the Yankees in five games of the ALDS).  From that ALCS victory, Wolcott earned himself a rotation spot in 1996.  He mostly underwhelmed.  He played one more season in Seattle (1997) and was lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft of 1997.

Jamie Moyer was drafted back in 1984 by the Chicago Cubs.  He had played in 10 Major League seasons with five different teams (Cubs, Rangers, Cardinals, Orioles, Red Sox) before he was traded by the Red Sox to the Mariners at the 1996 deadline.  Moyer would go on to play 11 years with the Mariners and end up one of the best pitchers in team history.

Terry Mulholland, on the other hand, would NOT go down as one of the best pitchers in team history.  The 1996 Mariners were enjoying unprecedented offensive success, but injuries had throttled their pitching staff.  Mulholland, like Moyer, was a veteran of a million other teams before he was traded to the Mariners at the 1996 deadline.  He came in and did okay, but it would prove to be a fruitless endeavor as the Mariners – while above .500 – failed to make the playoffs.  Mulholland would never pitch for the Mariners beyond this season.

The primary bullpen addition (with Charlton and Ayala leading the way for the most part) was Michael Jackson.  He was another longtime vet who the Mariners brought in on a 1-year deal prior to the 1996 season.  He had pitched with the Mariners early in the 90s and was a quality arm in the bullpen who locked down the 8th inning and didn’t get nearly enough save opportunities.

1997 Seattle Mariners

The batting lineup was almost exactly the same in 1997.  Rich Amaral even enjoyed his usual 89 games of stellar fill-in duty.  The only major change in this year was the tantalizing tease that was Jose Cruz Jr.  He was drafted by the Mariners with the #3 overall pick in the 1995 draft and was brought up by the Mariners in 1997 to start in left field effective May 31st.  In his 49 games, Cruz had 12 homers and 12 doubles.  Along with Griffey and A-Rod, he was looking like another can’t-miss first round prospect who would go on to have a Hall of Fame type career.

Of course, this Mariners team couldn’t afford to live with their Pie in the Sky dreams of future glory; they had to strike NOW, while the iron was hot!  This was a good baseball team, with another massively impressive offense, and little in the way of pitching (especially bullpen pitching).

So, at the trade deadline, the Mariners made the two trades that will forever be a black mark on this organization.  On the same day, the Mariners sent Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek (two minor leaguers with incredible promise) to the Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb.  Slocumb was immediately inserted into the closer’s role because Norm Charlton had officially hit the wall in his career.  The other trade was one Jose Cruz Jr., who was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric.  Both of those two were inserted into the regular bullpen rotation.  Timlin was okay, Spoljaric was a lefty and not that good.  This mishmash of a bullpen, with a surprising resurgence by Bobby Ayala, managed to get the job done enough to get the Mariners into the playoffs, but it was a hefty price to pay that ultimately never did pay off in a World Series Championship as intended.

Lost in the shuffle of the 1997 season was actually one of the better trades in Mariners history.  In October of 1996, the Mariners traded a bunch of scrubs to the Expos for Jeff Fassero.  He fit in quite nicely with our rotation stalwarts of Randy Johnson (back and better than ever from his injury-plagued 1996 season) and Jamie Moyer.  Fassero rounded out our Big Three for the 1997 & 1998 seasons before falling off the cliff in 1999 and being traded away to the Rangers.

The Mariners plugged in some draft picks (Lowe, pre-trade, and Ken Cloude) as well as some veterans (Dennis Martinez, signed as a free agent; and Omar Olivares, who was brought over when the team dealt Scott Sanders to the Tigers) into the back-end of their rotation, but no one really stuck.  For this season or long-term.

1998 Seattle Mariners

The primary addition to the starting lineup was David Segui (first base) who was signed as a free agent.  The team had let Paul Sorrento walk and needed some kind of production.  Segui was a solid, if unspectacular contributor who had a nice year and a half with the Mariners before being traded at the 1999 deadline.

The 1998 Mariners continued their revolving door at left field, with no one of import taking the bull by the horns.

The ’98 Mariners had what amounted to a stable starting rotation, shock of shocks.  After the Big Three, Ken Cloude was granted one of the final two spots.  He was drafted by the Mariners in the sixth round in 1993 and made his first Major League start in 1997.  He would start 30 games in 1998, but his ERA would be over 6 and he would go only 8-10.  Cloude was primarily a bullpen pitcher, with a few spot starts here and there in 1999, then his career would be over.

Grabbing the final rotation spot was veteran Bill Swift.  Swifty was drafted by the Mariners in the first round in 1984, but was traded away in 1991 and bounced around for a while before signing as a free agent in February of 1998.  He would go 11-9 with a 5.85 ERA in 1998 and then he would retire.

The 1998 Mariners were the first team of this era to end the season with a losing record.  I’ll be damned if I know how that’s possible with an offense this stacked, but let’s go ahead and start with Randy Johnson.  This was a contract year for him and he was pretty much blowing it.  He was 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA in his 23 starts before the trade deadline.  The Mariners as an organization had balked at the notion of re-signing him to a long-term extension, citing the 1996 season and his back injury as a reason to be cautious.  Tensions grew from there and by the trade deadline, the team knew it wasn’t going to be able to retain him beyond the season.  They felt they had to trade him to get some kind of value back in return.  So, he was dealt to the Astros (where he proceeded to dominate the shit out of the National League with a 10-1 record and a sub-2 ERA) for prospects.

One could also blame the 1998 misfortunes on the bullpen.  They managed only 31 saves as a unit, with Bobby Ayala returning to his absolute nadir (a 1-10 record with a 7.29 ERA and more blown saves – 9 – than regular saves – 8).  Ayala would be traded prior to the 1999 season and we would never have to see his punk-ass again.  Mike Timlin did an admirable job stepping up and doing what he could, but everyone else from Spoljaric to Slocumb to Bob Wells on down all stunk the joint up.  Our five primary bullpen guys went a combined 12-26; take from that what you will.  At least no more major trades were made that could blow up in our faces later.

1999 Seattle Mariners

A bit of a lineup shake-up here, with Joey Cora moving on and being replaced by David Bell (second base) who we received for Cora in a 1998 trade deadline deal with the Indians.  Bell would never wow you with his bat, but he was a solid infield glove man who would go on in subsequent seasons to lock down third base (and give us all a break from Russ Davis’ stone hands).

Of course, in 1999, Davis was still around.  As was Wilson, Segui, A-Rod, Griffey, Buhner, and Martinez.  The left field circus continued with Brian Hunter, who we received in trade from the Tigers for a couple of nobodies.  Hunter stunk at the plate, but stole 44 bases, so whatever.

The real shakedown happened, of course, with the pitching staff.  Freddy Garcia and John Halama, who we received in the Randy Johnson Trade, made their debuts with the organization in 1999.  Garcia, in fact, made his Major League debut with the Mariners.  Garcia was still a little raw as a rookie, but he was rock solid and would quickly go on to be this team’s ace.  Halama was another soft-tossing lefty in the Jamie Moyer mold.  He was okay in 1999 and would go on to be no better than okay going forward.

As I mentioned before, Jeff Fassero fell apart this season and was dealt away.  Gil Meche rounded out the rotation.  He was drafted in the first round in 1996 and immediately made an impression upon his first start that July.  Yes, it was a loss, and yes, his numbers weren’t very good.  But, he showed a live fastball, a wicked curve, and a whole lotta promise.  People were much higher on Meche than they were on Garcia, but either way, this looked like the beginning of a long run of quality starting baseball from our rotation.

The bullpen was re-tooled prior to the 1999 season, with Jose Mesa being signed on as the closer.  He would play two seasons in Seattle and would not be missed when he left.  Jose Paniagua was signed off of waivers in 1998, where he played in 18 games for the Mariners.  He got the bulk of the 8th inning work in 1999 and was a solid, live-arm guy who would never mature into a closer.

These Mariners also suffered through a sub-.500 season, with growing pains in the rotation (Meche, Halama, and Garcia all in their first full seasons) and Fassero completely losing it.  There just wasn’t enough pitching to hold together this team with all its hitting prowess.

2000 Seattle Mariners

While the first great Mariners rebuild came to fruition in the 1995 season, the last great Mariners rebuild reached its apex in 2000 and 2001.

The core players from that 1995 team that remained on the 2000 Mariners were:  Dan Wilson (catcher), Jay Buhner (right field), and Edgar Martinez (designated hitter).  Yes, A-Rod was on that ’95 team, but he was not a regular.  There’s been quite a bit of turnover leading us up to what would be the zenith for this franchise in 2000 and 2001.

John Olerud was a longtime veteran who signed prior to the 2000 season to replace David Segui (who replaced Paul Sorrento, who replaced Tino Martinez).  Olerud finished his career as a starter in a Mariners uniform, seeing his release in the middle of the 2004 crater of a season.  Olerud would finish his career as a part-time player with the Yankees and Red Sox.

Mark McLemore was another longtime veteran who signed prior to the 2000 season to be a utility player.  He found a home as a second baseman and caught fire as a super utility player in 2001, bouncing around from left field to third base to wherever else they needed him to play to give others days off.  McLemore stuck around through the 2003 season before leaving in free agency to play one final year in Oakland before retiring.

Mike Cameron (center field) was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 1991 draft.  He played in all or parts of four seasons with the White Sox before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in November of 1998 for Paul Konerko.  He started for one season with the Reds before Ken Griffey Jr. demanded to be traded to Cincinnati and only Cincinnati after the 1999 season.  In return, the Mariners received Cameron (because they no longer needed a center fielder, thanks to Griffey being there), Brett Tomko, and two other guys.  Or, I guess you could say the Mariners received Cameron and three other guys, but that’s neither here nor there.

Mariners fans were a little salty about the whole Griffey thing, especially coming on the heels of the whole Randy Johnson thing (which, if you believe certain reports, is what caused Griffey to sour on the organization in the first place, since the Mariners were not taking care of the veterans who brought them all this success).  Mike Cameron helped fans get over Griffey by being a wizard in the field and not a total disaster at the plate.  He was actually quite productive in his four years with the Mariners.  Cameron left for greener pastures after the 2003 season, signing as a free agent with the Mets, but he will always be accepted as a Mariner for Life thanks to his efforts in Seattle.

The starting rotation featued a combination of six guys.  Aaron Sele signed as a free agent before the season and won 17 games.  Paul Abbott originally signed as a free agent with the Mariners before the 1997 season.  He was primarily a reliever with some spot-start duties.  In 2000, he was forced into action and produced admirably.  John Halama and Freddy Garcia (again, from the Randy Johnson trade) got their share of starts.  Jamie Moyer, the longest-tenured holdover from that trade in 1996, had an injury-plagued 2000 season.  And Gil Meche started off the season in the rotation before leaving with a dead arm in early July.  He would not pitch again in the Majors until the 2003 season.

Kaz Sasaki signed as a free agent from Japan prior to the season, immediately started closing, and won the Rookie of the Year award.  He was the first of back-to-back Japanese Rookies of the Year the Mariners would sign.  Sasaki played in four seasons, went to 2 All Star Games, saved 129 games (the franchise leader), and totally fell apart in 2003.  He would retire after that season and never played in the Majors again.

Jose Mesa and Jose Paniagua stuck on as middle relievers, but the biggest addition (arguably) was Arthur Rhodes, who signed as a free agent before the season.  In his initial tenure with the Mariners, across four seasons, he appeared in 276 games (never fewer than 66 appearances in a season) and had a 3.07 ERA.  He was the left-handed reliever we’d been looking for since 1995 and aside from a couple of nasty innings in the 2000 and 2001 American League Championship Series’ against the Yankees, he was arguably the best reliever this team has ever seen.

With that kind of turnover, the Mariners found the mysterious answer to the equation of how to make the playoffs.  The core had dwindled from what it was in 1995, but with pieces like Olerud, Cameron, Garcia, Rhodes, Moyer, and Sasaki, they had managed to climb that mountain once again.

2001 Seattle Mariners

In 2001, it would only get better.  116 wins, unheard of in the modern era.  There wasn’t a tremendous amount of turnover, but there were two very big names involved that would change the organization forever.

First, there was A-Rod accepting a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers.  He would go on to use steroids and become the most hated former Mariner the world has ever known.  In his place, the team started Carlos Guillen at short stop, who was another gem in what was a surprisingly decent trade for Randy Johnson.  How amazing is it that every piece we got back for Randy in 1998 ended up starting for the Mariners by 2001?  I would argue it’s pretty unheard of.

The other big move was signing Ichiro from Japan and making him our everyday right fielder.  By this point in his career, Jay Buhner was simply a part-time player and he graciously gave way to the incoming Ichiro, who set the world on fire in his rookie season, winning the ROY as well as the MVP award.

A little more under the radar was the Bret Boone signing.  We got him for pennies on the dollar and made him our second baseman.  In return, we got a near-MVP season out of him, and a stud second baseman through 2003 before starting his inevitable decline in 2004 and being traded away in the middle of the 2005 season.

Dan Wilson and Edgar Martinez were the only two holdovers from that 1995 team now, with David Bell continuing to man third base, and Mark McLemore platooning with Bell at third and with Al Martin in left field.  Al Martin was supposed to be our big deadline deal in July of 2000 to help bolster our outfield hitting.  He did no such thing and was a total bust.

Freddy Garcia finally made that next step as the ace of the staff in 2001.  Aaron Sele was still oddly productive (in the win/loss department, if not in the actual pitching department) as was Paul Abbott.  Jamie Moyer won 20 games to lead the team.  Our rotation was rounded out with Halama and Joel Pineiro, who was a 12th round draft pick by the Mariners in 1997.  Pineiro would earn full time starting duty in 2002, but would never pan out as we’d hoped.

The bullpen was almost exactly the same as in 2000, except we replaced the dud that was Jose Mesa with the newly signed Jeff Nelson, who was still awesome.  Norm Charlton even made a comeback and was somehow good again; I’m telling you, these 2001 Mariners could do no wrong!  Until the playoffs, that is.

2002 Seattle Mariners

The 2002 Mariners traded David Bell prior to the season because they had previously traded for the hot-hitting Jeff Cirillo from the Colorado Rockies for Jose Paniagua and others.  The hot-hitting Jeff Cirillo never showed up, though.  Instead, his nothing-hitting twin brother showed up and sucked my will to live.  Cirillo played two mediocre seasons before being dumped on the Padres prior to the 2004 season for batting donuts.

Other than the Cirillo hubbub, the starting lineup was pretty much intact, with McLemore earning the starting left field job.

The rotation took some hits, with Halama and Abbott stinking up the joint, when they managed to stay healthy.  Moyer, Garcia, and Pineiro locked down the top three spots, with James Baldwin – a veteran free agent signing – totally crapping the bed.  The rest of the starts were spread out over a bunch of different pitchers, no one of note worth mentioning.

Sasaki, Rhodes, and Nelson locked down the best three-man late innings bullpen unit in baseball, with Shigetoshi Hasegawa signing in free agency to make a good bullpen even better (picking up the slack from losing Paniagua).

As I said before, this team would win 93 games, but it actually managed to finish THIRD in the AL West, with Oakland winning 103 games and Anaheim winning 99 and taking the Wild Card.  That’s just a crusher any way you slice it; 93 games in most years would be enough to get you there!  Not in 2002.

2003 Seattle Mariners

After the 2002 season, Lou Pinella left for another opportunity, this time in Tampa, where he made his offseason home.  The Mariners signed on Bob Melvin and tried to keep the train a-rollin’ with most of the same crew attached.

Same infield:  Wilson, Olerud, Boone, Guillen, Cirillo.  Cammy and Ichiro were still here, along with Edgar Martinez.  New addition:  Randy Winn (left field) who was traded to us by Tampa.  Winn played two and a half years with the Mariners, and they were quality seasons for him, but ultimately he’s a forgotten man for a couple reasons.  He came on too late, without a playoff appearance to his name.  Also, let’s face it, we were spoiled as Mariners fans.  We’d been blessed with this cavalcade of elite power hitters and Winn was anything but.  He was a nice piece, but ultimately not enough to push us over the edge into the post-season.

2003 came with it the oddity of having the same five pitchers start all the games that season.  Again, we had Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, and Joel Pineiro.  Gil Meche returned from the wilderness of Injuryland to grab one of the final spots, with Ryan Franklin bringing up the rear.  Franklin was drafted by the Mariners in 1992, but didn’t sign until May of 1993.  He had his cup of coffee in 1999, then didn’t return to the Majors until 2001 out of the bullpen.  He had a few starts in 2002 and must have shown enough in Spring Training to win a job in 2003, because there he was.  Franklin was never what I would call “good” …

For as steady as our starting rotation was, the bullpen was a bit of a mess.  Sasaki became way too hittable and lost his closer’s job.  Rhodes was losing a bit on his fastball and his ERA suffered for it.  Nelson was still rock solid, and Hasegawa was dy-no-mite as the eventual closer replacement.  Julio Mateo was a bullpen regular with the Mariners after signing as an amateur free agent back in 1996 as a 19 year old, as was Rafael Soriano (also signed in 1996 as an amateur, though as a 16 year old).

In 2003, the A’s again won the AL West, though they only bested the Mariners by 3 games, winning 96.  The Mariners were 2 measly games back of Boston for the Wild Card, so once again they were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The 2004 Mariners, I think seeing the writing on the wall, tried to reload by signing Raul Ibanez, Scott Spiezio, and Rich Aurilia, but it wouldn’t be enough.  Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, and John Olerud all fell apart.  Dan Wilson was getting up there.  And the young pitching core of Garcia, Meche, Pineiro, and Franklin just weren’t panning out the way we’d all hoped.  The 2004 Mariners bottomed out with 63 wins and it was time to start all over again.

The only piece that would stick long term would be Ichiro, as even Jamie Moyer was traded in the middle of 2006 so he could go to a winner before he retired.  It’s been non-stop rebuilding ever since, and nothing thus far has worked for more than a season before falling apart again.  The 2013 Mariners are well on their way to a fourth place finish with the current regime led by Jackie Z on very thin ice.

What will the next great Mariners rebuild look like?  I haven’t a clue, but I doubt it looks very much like the team we’re watching right now.  Here’s to hoping the mojo returns soon, for the sake of my sanity and yours.

2001 Seattle Mariners: The Best Team To Never Reach A World Series

You can find this post, and others like it, in the menu bar at the top, under “Seattle Playoff Futility”.

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.  – Vince Lombardi

Remember what Vince Lombardi said:  If you lose, you’re out of the family! – Homer Simpson

What the hell’s going on out here?! – Vince Lombardi

In February, 2012, I wrote the first three posts in the series entitled:  Seattle Playoff Futility.  All three were about the Seattle Mariners, as sort of a prelude to the 2012 season.  I had intended on finishing the brief 4-season volume on the Mariners that very same month, but for whatever reason I put it off.  It has continued to lurk in my To Do list of blog posts to write ever since.  The longer I waited, the more daunting it seemed.

I have to somewhat relive that 2001 season again!  I don’t think anybody wants that!

Nevertheless, it must be done.  What better time to do it than now?  So, without further ado:  the very last time the Seattle Mariners reached the playoffs.

Safeco Field opened in July of 1999.  Going into 2001, the Mariners had endured a season and a half in one of the toughest-to-hit-in parks in all of Major League Baseball.  In their first full season, 2000, the Mariners scored the 7th most runs in all of baseball with 907.  To put that in perspective, a decade later in 2010, the Mariners were dead last, scoring 513 runs.

Well, let’s go one better:  in 2001, the Mariners led ALL of Major League Baseball with 927 runs scored.  To put THAT in perspective, since 1900, the team that scored the most runs in a single season was the 1931 New York Yankees with 1,067.  Legitimately, on paper, we’re talking about one of the greatest baseball teams of all time when we’re talking about the 2001 Seattle Mariners.

I mean, the record speaks for itself:  116-46.  It’s just an astounding figure!  Here’s how the record breaks down by month:

  • April:  20-5
  • May:  20-7
  • June:  18-9
  • July:  18-9
  • August:  20-9
  • Sept/Oct:  20-7

The most losses in any given month was 9!  How insane is that when you’re talking about a team that plays every fucking day?

The Mariners played 52 series of baseball in 2001.  Here’s how it broke down:

  • Series Wins:  42 (15 of which were sweeps)
  • Series Ties:  4
  • Series Losses:  6 (with 1 sweep)

So, there’s just a brief overview.  This team was lethally good.  But why?  Well, let’s take a look at the players involved.

It’s been mentioned before, this was the fourth and final Mariners team to make the playoffs.  The first was back in 1995; it was led by the likes of Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner.  In 1997, you still had those guys, plus a player in Alex Rodriguez who was already putting up MVP-type numbers in only his second full season as a starter.  Slowly but surely, that core was chipped away.  After the 1997 season, Jay Buhner stopped being a full-time player.  Whether it was injury or a down-trending performance at the plate, he saw his number of games decline through the rest of his career, ending in a VERY-diminished bench role in 2001, appearing in only 19 games.  The front office was worried about Randy’s back, so they traded him in 1998 instead of giving him a much-deserved contract extension (he would go on to win four Cy Young Awards and a World Series in 2001, but more on that later).  After the 1999 season, seeing how the Mariners treated their superstars, Ken Griffey Jr. demanded a trade to the Cincinnati Reds (he would go on to play in 9 more injury-plagued seasons with the Reds & White Sox, hitting 213 homers and driving in 620 runs, though only 4 of those seasons saw him have over 500 plate appearances).  After the 2000 season, A-Rod signed the (then-) biggest contract in MLB history, 10 years, $252 million (he would go on to win 3 MVP awards and a World Series in 2009, though he will also go down as largely a disappointment and a steroids-cheat).

By 2001, all that was left was Edgar Martinez.  Yet, somehow the Mariners managed to put enough horses around him to create one of the best teams ever.

Mike Cameron came over in the trade for Ken Griffey Jr. (along with three other stiffs, including Head of the Stiff Brigade Brett Tomko) and was an instant sensation.  While he didn’t exactly approach Griffey’s production at the plate, and he had a super-human amount of strikeouts, he also was a freakish athlete in center field, endearing himself with the types of reckless, against-the-wall catches that made Griffey so special.

Of course, just because he wasn’t a Griffey-level stud at the plate doesn’t mean he was a slouch.  He averaged nearly 22 home runs a season in his four years with the Mariners, along with nearly 29 doubles, 27 stolen bases, and 89 runs scored.  So, you know, he wasn’t any kind of 40/40 man or anything, but for a guy in center, that’s more than solid production.

Another big “get” was Bret Boone.  He began his career in Seattle back in the early 90s, then knocked around with the Reds, Braves, and Padres before re-signing with Seattle in 2001.  A one-year deal for a little over $3 million, essentially we were taking a flyer on a guy on the wrong side of 30 to come in and play second base.  This obviously didn’t please the previous second baseman, Mark McLemore, but in the end it worked out for the best.

Which is a fucking all-time understatement.  For our $3 million investment, we got a guy in Bret Boone who hit .331, 37 homers, 37 doubles, slugged .578, scored 118 runs and hit in 141 RBI.  He finished 3rd in the MVP voting (more on that later).  Mind you, this was a guy whose previous highs over a full season were .267 (in 1995), 24 homers (in 1998), .491 slugging percentage (in 1994), 102 runs (in 1999) and 95 RBI (in 1998).  At no point would you ever point to this guy and say, “Yeah, he’s capable of what he did in 2001.”

Of course, knowing what we know about the era he played in, it’s hard not to wonder, but I’m going to save that argument for another time.  In the end, steroids or no steroids, it’s not like they helped us to a World Series or anything.

Boone, starting in 2001, had a 4-year run for the ages before he started to break down.  He really earned that contract extension going into 2002, and he actually lived up to it.  He would average, per season, from 2001-2004:  30 homers, 112 RBI, 34 doubles, 98 runs, .289 batting average, and a .501 slugging percentage.  In 2005, he was done, and shipped off mid-season, but that was a small price to pay for the best second baseman in the game over that stretch.

John Olerud was signed prior to the 2000 season to anchor first base.  He had long been a standout defensively, with a steady bat that always hit for a high average and moderate power.  From 2000 through 2002, nothing changed.  He averaged nearly 20 homers and 40 doubles per season through those three years, with a batting average close to .300 and an on-base percentage close to .400.  He was nobody’s middle-of-the-order hitter, but then again, on this team, you didn’t need him to be.  He would simply get on base any way he could and wait for others to hit him in.  For one of the slowest runners in baseball, he still scored on average 87 runs per year.  In 2003, he started his quick decline into obscurity, but in that sweet spot, there weren’t many guys I’d rather have.

Of course, I’m saving the best for last.  Ichiro Suzuki was signed by the Seattle Mariners on November 18, 2000.  The Mariners paid a little over $13 million to the Orix Blue Wave, then signed Ichiro himself to a 3-year, $14 million deal.  All told, it was a $27 million investment for three years of the best hitter in Japanese baseball history.  At the time, people wondered if the Mariners paid too much.  Knowing what we know now, I’d say that was the steal of the century.

We all know what Ichiro’s numbers are, so I won’t regurgitate them once again.  But, let’s just think about this:  In 2001 we had a guy who was 3rd in MVP voting and we had the actual MVP himself (as well as the Rookie of the Year) in Ichiro Suzuki!  For anyone who ever wondered how we would manage without the likes of Griffey, A-Rod, and Buhner, look no further.  Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, and Cameron joined a still-in-his-prime Edgar Martinez as the backbone of this record-setting offense.  They were supplemented by quality role players like Dan Wilson (still a defensive wizard and not a total black hole behind the plate), Carlos Guillen at short stop (part of the underrated Randy Johnson trade who would go on to be a much more consistent player with Detroit after the Mariners traded gave him away in 2004), David Bell at third (a player I couldn’t stand at the time, but who I have since grown to appreciate for his solid defense, especially after the adventure that was Russ Davis), and Mark McLemore being an every-man who found his career rejuvenated by playing multiple positions, before eventually supplanting Al Martin in left field down the stretch.

Sometimes, things just come together and work out beyond your wildest dreams.  And we haven’t even touched on the pitching side of things!

***

The 2001 Seattle Mariners averaged 5.72 runs per game.  Think about that.  On average, the Mariners could give up 4-5 runs every game and still win!  Suffice it to say, there were some pretty inflated win/loss records out of this starting rotation.

The Big Three consisted of Freddy Garcia, Aaron Sele, and Jamie Moyer.  The Chief came over in the Randy Johnson trade and pitched fairly well in his first two seasons in the Majors.  He was rounding into an Ace quite nicely.  In 2000, he took a big step forward, especially in the playoffs, and essentially earned that #1 pitcher role in 2001.  He didn’t disappoint.  A 3.05 ERA over 34 games (with a career-high 238.2 innings pitched), he struck out 163 batters and netted an 18-6 record.

Sele signed as a free agent before the 2000 season after a solid, if unspectacular 2-year stint in Texas.  He had a fastball around 89-90 miles per hour, straight as an arrow, with a solid curve ball and not much else in his arsenal.  He would throw strikes (only 51 walks vs. 114 strikeouts in 2001), eat up innings (215 over 34 appearances), and he would keep an ERA somewhere around 4 (actually 3.60 in 2001).  Not necessarily the guy you want as your #2 starter, but as a 3 or a 4, you’d take him.  And with this offense behind him, Sele posted a 15-5 record and didn’t really hurt us during the regular season.

Moyer was the most tenured pitcher of the bunch, having arrived at the trade deadline in 1996 from the Boston Red Sox.  Moyer played for the Mariners for about a million years and is generally one of the more beloved pitchers in M’s history.  As just about everyone was having a career year (or a career stretch of years), Moyer was no different.  He posted a 3.43 ERA over 33 starts and 209.2 innings, generating a 20-6 record, doing all kinds of Jamie Moyer things with his slow fastball and even slower change up.

So, Big 3.  53-17 record.  But wait!  There’s more!

The 2001 Mariners had Brett Tomko (Griffey Trade) and John Halama (Randy Trade) as their #4 and #5 starters to kick off the season.  Tomko lasted about three starts in the first month before he was stowed away in the bullpen (where he would remain through May before being sent down to Tacoma) in favor of Paul Abbott.  Abbott made his first start on April 28th and didn’t look back.  He finished the season with a 4.25 ERA over 28 appearances, yet he enjoyed (I believe) the most run-support in all of baseball, so his record ended up being an obscene 17-4.

Halama managed to stick in the rotation through the middle of July, but after the All Star Break, Lou opted to go with a different young pitcher in Joel Pineiro.  Pineiro made 11 starts from late July through late September before going back to the bullpen for the playoff run.  Halama and Pineiro combined for a 16-9 record, going to show that even the bottom of the barrel still managed to win more than they lost.

The bullpen was anchored by 2000 Rookie of the Year Kazuhiro Sasaki.  I think we all remember Sasaki as a decent closer, with a nasty forkball, who always (or almost always) seemed to choke in the biggest of games.  Which isn’t really fair, since his three-year run from 2000 through 2002 was one of the best in all of baseball.  In 2001, Kaz saved 45 games, but he blew 7.  In other words, he was no Mariano Rivera, but he was still pretty damn good.

The best relievers, actually, were behind him, in the 7th and 8th innings.  Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes were the epitome of stellar in 2001.  Rhodes posted a 1.72 ERA in 71 appearances, with only 4 blown leads all year.  Nelson posted a 2.76 ERA in 69 appearances, with only 1 blown lead all year.  With these three guys, all the starters REALLY had to do was keep a lead through 6 innings and most of the time that would equal a Mariners victory.

Rounding out the bullpen were guys like Jose Paniagua, who was okay in 60 appearances (after all, you can’t ALWAYS use your three best guys), Norm Charlton, who managed to bounce back with a pretty good season in 44 games of spot relief, and Ryan Franklin, who manned the long relief role for most of the year with adequate results.

I don’t know if this team was built with the intention of winning 116 games, but as things shook out, this team was most certainly built to CRUSH the regular season.

***

There was some amount of good luck on this team, but I wouldn’t by any stretch say they were defined by their luck.  This was a solidly-built roster from top to bottom, with a good mix of old and young.  Everyone fit in their roles and played the hell out of them.

The 2001 Mariners were 26-12 in 1-run games.  Obviously, that’s not a sustainable figure, but it goes a long way in explaining how the Mariners won so many games.  They absolutely beat up on the Angels and Rangers, posting a combined record of 30-9.  As stated above, there was never really a lull with this team.  Their longest losing streak was 4 games.  Their longest winning streak was 15.  Maybe not so obvious was the fact that this team indeed went wire-to-wire.  They had a 0.5 game lead after the first game (over the Angels, who had yet to play a game), then they were tied for first over the subsequent two days (with a 1-1 and a 2-1 record), then they absolutely ran away with this thing.

At the end of April, the Mariners had a 9-game lead in the AL West.  At the end of May, that lead was up to 14 games.  At the end of June, it was a 20-game lead (with a season-high lead of 21-games a few days later).  At the end of July, the lead was still 19 games.  At the end of August, the lead was 17 games as the A’s started their annual late-season push towards glory.

When 9/11 happened, the Mariners were 104-40.  Now, I’m not going to place ALL of the blame for the Mariners not making it to the World Series on 9/11, but let’s just say it was a poorly-timed event for everyone involved (and no, that’s probably certainly NOT the most horrible thing I’ve ever said or written in my life).  Up to that point, the Mariners were winning at a .722 clip.  The Mariners ended their season on a 12-6 run (after an 8-day layoff of sports).  Was the layoff to blame?  Did it give other teams a chance to rest while somehow also stifling our momentum?  I mean, one would think that if rest is good for the Yankees, then odds are it was also good for the Mariners; but, was it more helpful to them in the long run?  We’ll never know, but it’s an argument.

Another argument is the record itself.  116 wins, the most ever in a single season.  That was the prize the Mariners had their eyes on.  Did the pressure to get to 116 catch up to them?  It finally happened, after game 161.  The Seattle Mariners were tied with the 1906 Chicago Cubs, with one game to go to potentially hold the record outright.  In the end, that 162nd game of the season was ultimately a microcosm of the playoffs to come:  a sub-par starting effort, a somewhat pathetic effort from the bats, and a usually stout bullpen arm blowing it in the late innings.  This game had it all, and should’ve given us great pause about this team.

Nevertheless, the team had the record, and with it a new kind of pressure.  If you’re a team that has the most wins in MLB history and you DON’T go to the World Series and win it all, then can you truly be considered a great team?  Or are you just a footnote?

You have to believe that notion was weighing on the minds of everyone on this team.  And that pressure HAS to be what ultimately led to this team’s undoing.

***

The 116-win Mariners were to host the 91-71 Cleveland Indians, while the 95-65 New York Yankees were forced to tangle with the 102-60 Oakland A’s.  Those same A’s who finished the season a mind-boggling 29-4 to lock down the Wild Card.  A rematch of the 2000 ALDS where the A’s took the Yankees to 5-games before finally blowing it.  The Mariners, meanwhile, were embroiled in a rematch of the 1995 ALCS.  Only, this was a very different Indians team.

The 2001 Mariners played the Indians 7 times in the regular season.  Four games in Cleveland in early August, three games in Seattle in late August.  The Mariners were 5-2 in those seven games.  But, if you’re any kind of Mariners fan at all, there is one game between the Indians and the Mariners you will never forget.

Game 111.

Sunday, August 5th, 2001.  The third game of a four-game series, the Mariners had won the first two games with relative ease.  And it looked no different for much of the third.

The game started off innocently enough:  through one inning, no score.  Then, in the top of the 2nd, the Mariners busted out to a 4-0 lead thanks to a few doubles and a well-timed 2-RBI single by Ichiro.  Through two, starter Aaron Sele was cruising:  two hits and a walk, but no runs scored.

Then, things got downright NASTY in the third:  three straight singles to lead off the inning knocked the starter out of the game.  Seven of the next eight batters reached base either by hit, walk, hit-by-pitch, or error (and that lone out turned into an RBI sac fly).  Sele gave up another lone single in the bottom half and after three innings, the score was Mariners 12, Indians 0.

In the bottom of the fourth, Jim Thome hit a two-run home run, but in the top of the fifth, the M’s got two more on a flurry of hits to take a 14-2 lead.  Sele held that lead through the bottom half and at that point the Mariners had a 100% win expectancy.  The score stayed the same until the bottom of the seventh, when shit started hitting the fan.

A solo home run by a young Russell Branyan.  Two quick outs, then a single followed by two walks knocked Sele out of the game.  John Halama came in and immediately gave up a 2-run single before getting out of the jam.  14-5, Mariners.

Bottom of the eighth, leadoff homer by Thome.  14-6, Mariners.  A hit-by-pitch and another homer.  14-8, Mariners.  A groundout and two singles knocked Halama from the game.  Enter:  Norm Charlton.  An RBI double made it 14-9, Mariners.  Charlton ended the damage, then came back for the ninth.

A single, two outs, and a double kicked off the start of the ninth before Charlton was replaced by Jeff Nelson.  Mind you:  14-9, Mariners, one out away from victory, runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Nelson promptly gave up a walk and a 2-RBI single.  14-11, Mariners.  Enter Kaz Sasaki for now what has become a save situation.  A Kenny Lofton single loaded the bases, bringing up Little-O, who cleared the bases with a triple.  Game tied.  An out later and we’re in extras.

At this point, the Mariners haven’t scored a run since the 5th inning.  Ichiro, Edgar, and Olerud had all been replaced, because who would’ve thought that a 12-run lead could be blown so spectacularly?  Of course, the Indians replaced four of their starters, including Juan Gonzalez and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.

Anyway, the 10th inning came and went without a run scored.  Jose Paniagua came in, got a pop-out, then gave up three consecutive singles to lose us the game in the bottom of the 11th.  15-14, Indians.  One of THE worst games I’ve ever seen in my life.  Just an absolute back-breaker.

So, when we saw that the Indians were going to be our ALDS matchup, you can understand why everyone kept talking about Game 111.  Even though the Mariners did what they did in 2001, winning 116 games, dominating in every facet of the game, there were chinks in the armor that could easily be exposed.  Like, say, in a 5- or 7-game series.

***

Game 1 happened on October 9th.  Ace vs. Ace, Bartolo Colon vs. Freddy Garcia.  Colon was in his 5th season and actually just had a so-so year.  Very up and down.  He was only 14-12 with a 4.09 ERA, but he was clearly the best pitcher they had.  On any given day, he could absolutely shut down an opposing offense.  And, it just so happened October 9th was one of those days.

8 innings, 6 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs.  A Cleveland 5-0 victory to steal game one in Seattle.  Ominous start, to be sure.

However, the Mariners came right back two days later to dominate in a 5-1 affair, with Jamie Moyer out-duelling Chuck Finley.  Moyer went six, giving up 1, and the bullpen went 1-2-3 with Nelson, Rhodes, Sasaki.  The exact blueprint for most 2001 Mariners victories.  The offense only generated 6 hits, but made them all count, with Cammy and Edgar each knocking in 2 RBI apiece.

Game 3 took place on the 13th in Cleveland, with a rookie C.C. Sabathia taking the hill against Seattle’s number three Aaron Sele.  Sabathia won 17 games as a rookie and began his reign of kicking Seattle’s everloving ass every time he took the mound.

Only, this game wasn’t about Sabathia.  He was just okay, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, walking 5 and striking out 5.  No, this was about it being the Beginning of the End for Aaron Sele.  He had been pretty steady throughout the year, but what had been a sub-3 ERA going into June was approaching 4 by the end of the year.  In this game, he was a God-damned trainwreck.  He lasted only 2 innings before Lou yanked him out of there in favor of Paul Abbott.  Of course, Abbott was unbelievably worse!  He ended up giving up 8 runs over the next 3 innings!  The cherry on top was Jose Paniagua in the 8th inning.  In one inning of work, he managed to give up FIVE runs!  A 17-2 drubbing like nothing I’ve ever seen.

All of a sudden, the 116-game winners were one game away from elimination, with another game to go in Cleveland:  a rematch of Game 1, where Bartolo Colon torched us.

Things were pretty grim, but fortunately Colon wasn’t the same world-beater.  The Mariners knocked around 11 hits and brought the series back to Seattle.  Edgar was the big hero here with a double and a homer.

Game 5 was a carbon copy of game two, right on down to the brilliance of Moyer and the usage of the Big 3 in the bullpen:  Nelson, Rhodes, Sasaki.  The Mariners would go on to once again face the Yankees in the ALCS; a rematch of 2000 where the Yankees won in six games.

Like in 2000, the A’s once again took the Yankees to a deciding 5th game.  Unlike 2000, where the Yankees and A’s split the first two games in Oakland, in 2001 the A’s swept the first two games IN NEW YORK.  Are you kidding me???

I shit you not.  But, that’s when the Yankees’ pitching decided to flat out dominate.  Mike Mussina spun a 1-0 shutout in game three (going 7, with Rivera getting the 2-inning save).  El Duque, Orlando Hernandez proved what a big-game pitcher he could be by dominating in game four.  And Clemens led off the fifth game where the bullpen really sealed the deal.

***

Game 1 of the ALCS kicked off in Safeco on October 17th.  Andy Pettitte vs. Aaron Sele.  Hold on a second while I pull the gun out of my mouth …

This game was a 4-2 snoozer where the Yankees flat out dominated us.  Pettitte went 8, giving up 1 run off of 3 hits.  Meanwhile, Sele wasn’t terrible.  He only gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, but we just had no chance.  Our offense went AWOL.

Game 2 was also in Seattle, and WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!  Mike Mussina, dealing once again.  Freddy Garcia gave up 3 runs in the second inning; Mussina gave up 2 runs in the fourth inning (thank you Stan Javier 2-run jack), and that was it for the scoring.  The series went back to New York with the Mariners down 2-0.  10 hits in the first two games for Seattle.  Four runs scored.  Hold on a second while I finish tying this noose …

Game 3 showcased Jamie Moyer vs. El Duque.  GREAT!  Only the guy who murdered us in the ALCS in 2000, what joy!

Except, hold on a second!  The Mariners promptly gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the first, and held that 2-0 score through four, but THEN … POW!  A whole SHITLOAD of runs!  2 in the fifth, 7 in the sixth, 2 in the seventh, 1 in the eighth, 2 in the ninth.  A 14-3 DISMANTLING of the Bronx Bombers!  Where was THIS the first two games?  Ho HO, the offense is BACK, BABY!

Yeah, yeah no.  Mees-sir Superman no here.

Remember Game 4 in 2000, when it was Paul Abbott vs. Roger Clemens in Safeco Field, where Clemens threw probably the greatest post-season game in the history of ever?  Well, guess who the starting pitchers were in Game 4 of 2001.  Would Seattle be able to turn the tables?

Hold on a second while I finish lighting this bundle of dynamite strapped to my chest …

To be fair, Abbott and Clemens each went 5 innings, each giving up 0 runs.  So, there’s that.  In fact, in the top of the 8th, Bret Boone crushed a solo homer to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.

SIX OUTS!  Six measly fucking outs.  And here comes Arthur Rhodes!  Yes, he was one of many goats (but probably the most high-profile goat) in 2000, but he was also coming off a career-best season!  He was, for all intents and purposes, our very best pitcher in 2001.  And look at THIS!  David Justice!  Remember?  Remember how he killed us in 2000?  Well, what would you say if I told you … that Arthur Rhodes struck his fucking ass out!?!  Because that’s what happened!  Five measly fucking outs!

But, then Bernie Williams decided to come in and become the hero.  Slam.  Homer.  Tie game.  Rhodes got out of it two batters later, but the damage was done.

The M’s went down in order in the top of the 9th, and Lou decided to bring in Sasaki, our closer, even though this wasn’t a save situation.  You know what they say about bringing in closers in non-save situations, don’t you?  You don’t?  Well, essentially, what they say is:  don’t.  Don’t bring in closers in non-save situations.  Unless you want that closer to fuck your shit up but good.

He gave up a 2-run missile to a young Alfonso Soriano (playing second base, remember that?  When he was a second baseman?) with only one out in the 9th and that was the ball game and PLEASE fucking hold on while I finish swallowing this bottle of skull & crossbones poison …

So, I don’t know about y’all, but that was the final straw for me.  Ever since, I have hated-slash-never again trusted either Arthur Rhodes or Kaz Sasaki.  Which probably isn’t fair, because outside of that anomaly of a Game 3 where they scored 14 runs, the offense REALLY screwed the damn pooch here!  Two years in a row!

Game 5 featured Pettitte and Sele again and a bunch of terrible defense and I think you know where this is going.  YEP, you know where this is going:  Sele got torched, the bullpen sucked dick, the offense sucked many bags of dicks, and the Yankees won 12-3.

The all-time winningest team in the regular season … sigh … lost in the ALCS in five games.  One game WORSE than the 2000 Mariners, when all is said and done (who at least took the ALCS to six games).  If you wanted to expend the energy, I GUESS you could call bullshit on the whole 2-3-2 playoff format.  The team with the supposed home-field advantage had to play three straight games in Yankee Stadium a month after 9/11 … but I’m not going to sit here and blame that on the Mariners losing.  Fuck, man, this was a team effort and they would’ve gotten their shit kicked in no matter WHERE they played these games!

The team with the number one offense hit .211.  The team with the best bullpen in the game saw that very same bullpen give up 12 earned runs in 14 innings.  Aaron Sele, who had been, as I said, so steady, went 0-2 and looked miserable doing so.

The only solace I can take away from this crushingest of blows in a long, endless line of crushing blows, is the fact that the New York Yankees lost in the World Series in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, with Mariano Rivera blowing the final game and Randy Johnson winning in relief.  He shared World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling, and he couldn’t have been more deserving.  The same guy whose back was too fragile to re-sign to a long contract extension (if you even consider four years a “long” time, which was his initial contract with them) was World Series MVP on a team in its fourth year of existence.

The Seattle Mariners, meanwhile, have been around for 36-going-on-37 years.  The Seattle Mariners are one of two teams who have never been to a World Series (the other being the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals).  The Seattle Mariners have not been back to the playoffs since 2001 (thanks to those fucking Moneyball A’s in 2002 and 2003; God I hate Brad Pitt SO MUCH; I’m GLAD YOU FUCKING LOST AT THE END OF THAT SHITTY MOVIE [email protected]!!!2).

Running Diary of My First Mariners Perfect Game (DVR)

My last retro diary can be found here, of my first Mariners no-hitter.

I’ve seen the ends of perfect games, whenever ESPN would cut in, at a bar last Wednesday, whathaveyou.  But, I’ve never seen one all the way through.  I was thankfully out of town when Phil Humber did it to the M’s earlier this year.  So, this DVR replay is my first opportunity.

Since time is irrelevant when you’re talking about DVR replays (it is 8:11am as of this sentence, on Saturday morning), I’ll denote time by how many outs there are in the game.  Without further ado.

Pre-Game Intro:

Rubber match.  Rays won the first, Mariners won the second.

Top First, One Out:

Man, that was certainly a well-stroked first out.  Not a difficult catch, but still, wouldn’t lead you to believe we’d be looking at a perfect game.

Top First, Two Out:

And, a nice dig by Smoak!  Brendan Ryan’s throws are usually better than that.  Ragged way to open the game.

Top First, Three Out:

Ball pounded hard into the ground to Ackley.  One, two, three.

Bottom First:

Looks like Hellickson owns the Mariners.  Great.

Top Second, One Out:

First strikeout, by Longoria.  Out in front of a curve.  No chance.

This game is moving QUICK.  With the DVR fast-forwarding and all the consecutive outs, I should be finished with this in another 20 minutes or so.

Top Second, Two Out:

The shift.  Ryan, on the other side of the bag, easily throws Zobrist out.

Top Second, Three Out:

First pitch fastball swinging, easy fly out to left.  For as tricky that first inning was, the second inning was as non-eventful.

Bottom Second:

One hit in the first, erased by a double play.  Hellickson seeing the minimum thus far.

Dan Wilson doing color commentary sounds like he’s trying to not wake up a sleeping uncle laying on the couch.  An animated Dan Wilson must sound like a librarian engrossed in a good book.  I like the guy, but he’s got all the charisma of a conference on technical writing.

An error and a hit!  The Mariners are absolutely WORKING OVER Hellickson!  You don’t stand a chance, ass-eyes!

Top Third, One Out:

Being able to fast-forward Root Sports commercials is like some wonderful drug!  I never want to come down!

Towering pop-up to right, another quick out for Felix.

Top Third, Two Out:

I certainly would have considered the white Felix jersey when I was looking for one, but keeping it that gleaming white would be more than my washing machine could handle.

Hmm, very nearly hit Johnson in the ankle before a strikeout on a breaking ball in the dirt.  Ass sticking out, swinging it like a golf club.  Looks like he hasn’t played baseball a day in his life.

Top Third, Three Out:

Another first-pitch pop-out to left.  10 pitches in the first, 7 in the second, 7 in the third.

Bottom Third:

Brendan Ryan is generally a better hitter than his batting average gives him credit for.  If he could just get that average up over .220, he’d damn near be the MVP of the team!  Nice single to lead off the third.

I know Dustin Ackley is going to be a good hitter, but this season has been more than a little discouraging.  Sophomore slump?  Good God, let’s hope so.  Even if he’s just another John Olerud, I’d take it!

That’s a huge hole between first and second, Ackley.  Come on, let’s do this!

… AND … he’s gone!  One out.

Michael Saunders walks up to the plate with Hypnotize by the Notorious B.I.G.  Still a better rapper than Tupac …

Joe Maddon looks like a tool with those white sunglasses.  Here’s a photo I found, take a look.  Who IS this guy???

He looks like someone you’d find standing on a front porch in only his dirty, ill-fitting tidy-whiteys with a shotgun in one hand and a Hamm’s in the other.  If any image has ever screamed “Tampa” any more, I’ve never seen it.

With two outs, Brendan Ryan steals second and advances to third on a wild pitch.  Then, “You Don’t Mess With The Jesus” Montero knocks a clean single into left to bring in the run!  Hellickson really just gave that to us.  He had no idea what Ryan was doing as he started for second, then really mangled that wild pitch.  Holy shit, I never realized how close this game was to being 0-0 for all of eternity.

You know, if Felix went 27-up and 27-down and it was still 0-0, I’m pretty sure I would have gangland executed each and every one of these Mariners hitters.

Top Fourth, One Out:

Hey, Fleece Blanket Night this Friday (yesterday)!  What better give-away on the hottest day of the year in the Pacific Northwest?  It’s not like we could’ve used that blanket in any April, May, or June game …

Another near hit-batsman with a curve way inside to a left-handed hitter.  And now a full count to Fuld … leads to a 93 mph fastball.  Fuld went the other way – as he should have – but luckily it was hit right at Seager.  Nothing spectacular defensively, but still very, very lucky.

Top Fourth, Two Out:

2-0 count, Upton swung at ball 3, a high fastball.  Then, he swung at ball 4, a curve in the dirt.  THEN, he swung at ball 5, another curve in the dirt!  Thanks, Upton!  You shouldn’t have!  (you really shouldn’t have; I thought we promised we weren’t giving each other gifts this year …)

Top Fourth, Three Out:

Strike out, 12-up and 12-down!  But, more importantly, Dan Wilson called his curveball a “dandy”.  Dan Wilson said “dandy”.  I know that’s not funny, you’ve got to enjoy the little things.

Bottom Fourth:

Hey, Melky Cabrera is in the news, have you seen this, have you heard about this?  He was my 28th round pick in my fantasy baseball draft; he was my best position player.  And now he’s gone.  It’s a killer to the Giants offense and it’s a killer to me.

Tie goes to the runner, bitch!  #KyleSeagerCalledOutAtFirst.

Smoak is not ready to be back in the Majors yet.  Fucking Carp, why can’t you stay healthy so I can love you?

I want to like Trayvon Robinson, but the kid will probably never be any better than a reserve.  You’d think one of these Quad-A outfielders would bust out, but you’d be sorely mistaken.

Top Fifth, One Out:

The first batter of any inning when you’ve got some form of no-no going is the scariest batter you’ll face.  This inning is no different, with Longoria hitting a soft-liner up the middle that landed squarely in Ackley’s glove.

Top Fifth, Two Out:

That fastball has such crazy sink.  How does anyone hit Felix ever?

Deep fly to left-center on a hanging curve; first mistake pitch I’ve seen thus far.  Looks like Robinson fought the sun a little bit, but made the catch.  One thing no one mentioned in the aftermath:  that sun looked pretty brutal; how were there no “Sun Doubles” in this game?

Top Fifth, Three Out:

The fastball is slowly but surely increasing in velocity.  Started out the game in the 90 mph range.  Just hit 94 on the gun a little after 50 pitches.

Pena, breaking ball, dribbled out in front of Jaso.  Easy put-out.

Bottom Fifth:

You know, Root Sports, no one – and I mean NO ONE – likes the behind-the-plate camera angle.  It brings nothing to the table and makes it so you can’t tell if the ball was actually a ball or a strike.  We’ve asked you nicely, but you just won’t listen.  Don’t make me skull-fuck the stupid out of you!

Top Sixth, One Out:

Felix getting some generous outside fastball calls from the Ump against lefties.  I’m not saying what Joe Maddon’s about to do is right, but it might be justified.

Strike three on a 90 mph change.  A 90 mph change.  It’s not necessarily the the difference in speed, but the subtle shift in movement.  Just 3-4 miles per hour difference can make a hitter look absolutely silly.

Top Sixth, Two Out:

Strike one, strike two, strike three, see you later.

Top Sixth, Three Out:

Holy shit, I want to dress this sixth inning up in a pretty little skirt and finger her underneath the bleachers!  You’re a dirty girl, yes you are sixth inning!  A dirty girl!

That’s sort of my way of saying that Felix just struck out the side.  Interesting how little emotion Felix has shown thus far.  He’s really dialed in.

Bottom Sixth:

Starting to get bored with these Mariners hitters.  Good thing they’re being considerate and not putting up much of a fight.

John Jaso is easily my favorite non-pitcher on this team.  Can we lock him up and give him a 50/50 split between catching and DH’ing with Montero next year?  I want him batting in every single game, is what I’m trying to say.

Top Seventh, One Out:

Fuld has easily had the best hacks in this game, but that was a weak-ass grounder to Ackley.  Lots of changeups in this AB; might be an adjustment to go away from the curve, which has been so dominant thus far.

Top Seventh, Two Out:

Wow.  Just, wow.  Upton hit a ball.  It bounced once just in front of the plate.  Came up about 10 feet in the air, landed JUST underneath Seager’s glove as he fell to the ground.  Fortunately, we have Brendan Ryan on our team.  He’s always in the right position and this play was no different.  The ball bounced to about eye-level, right into Ryan’s glove for the easy put-out.  Had Seager come up with that ball, I have no doubt he has enough arm-strength to throw out the speedy Upton, but that right there was the play of the game.

Want to know why Brendan Ryan is the best defender in baseball?  Check out this interview, it’s more than a little enlightening.  Particularly, this quote right here:

Most of the time, I’m moving one way or the other on the pitch.  Say that Vargas is pitching and it’s a cutter in to a righty.  I can kind of shuffle to the right and get a head start.  It’s almost like cheating.  You can’t move so early that you’re giving something away, but even so, there are times where I’m almost running, because I know where that ball is going to be hit.

This play, this out right here, a little of that “cheating” was definitely going on.  I mean, that’s the only way you can explain how he was so far over – almost where the third baseman would normally be positioned before the pitch – without having to completely dive to his right.  Outstanding!

Top Seventh, Three Out:

95 on the gun, regularly, this inning.  Fastball on the outside corner called for a strike.  Close, MAYBE questionable, but looked good to me.  Regardless, it wasn’t this as far as umpire blindness is concerned.  Either way, here comes Joe Maddon!

Had I been watching this live, I would’ve been pissed beyond belief with Maddon trying to put the freeze on our pitcher.  It’s a whole different ballgame when you already know the results of a game.

BOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

“K!  K!  K!  K!  K!  K!  K!” – I love the King’s Court.

96 on the gun.

3-2 ground ball to first, unassisted.

Bottom Seventh:

Seven strikeouts through seven for Felix.  He will go on to strike out five of the final six.  I have a feeling the next inning is going to have herself deflowered …

Top Eighth, One Out:

That curve is still dy-no-mite!  Down goes Longoria!

Top Eighth, Two Out:

Ben Zobrist, down swinging on a change.  Fans are finally starting to make a little noise outside of the King’s Court.

Top Eighth, Three Out:

Just a nasty, nasty curve.  Mecha-Felix is laying these Rays to waste!  He’s an unstoppable killing machine!  To hell with 9, he could throw 30 perfect innings today!

Felix strikes out the side!  And still, no emotion.  We would normally be seeing some hoots and hollers out of him after an inning like that.  On this day?  Steely.

Bottom Eighth:

The big thing is that the Mariners have never faced David Price since he’s been called up to the Majors.  We’ve played the Rays about a million times and it still hasn’t happened; what are the odds of that?  I have a feeling he would just annihilate us.

With Montero at the plate, this is about where I came in.  If it wasn’t 10:37am (and if I wasn’t planning on getting drunk tonight), I’d crack open a cold one and pretend it’s last Wednesday.

Top Ninth, One Out:

Jennings pinch hitting.  Got a favorable second strike to get ahead in the count.  95 on the radar gun, well over 100 pitches.  And a 92 mph change up knocks him out!

Top Ninth, Two Out:

Keppinger also pinch hitting.  Grounder to Ryan on the 4th pitch of the at-bat.

Top Ninth, Three Out:

Sean Rodriguez, the 27th out.  Felix falls behind 2-0, both outside.  At this point, I read somewhere that he was considering – for a brief moment – bunting to get on base.  Look, I’m usually not one for these “unwritten rules” that people like to trot out, and in my younger days I would have commended a guy like Ben Davis for doing whatever it takes to keep your team out of the record books (and, because I think Curt Schilling is a douche and I’m glad he’s out of baseball without ever having thrown a no-hitter or a perfect game).  But, I mean, bunting with 2 outs in the 9th inning would be a pretty chickenshit thing to do.  At that point, you just have to take your medicine and beat him fair and square.  Had he bunted against Felix, I don’t think he would have made it out of Seattle alive.

Still, from what I read, once the count got to 2-0, Rodriguez decided he was likely going to get something worthwhile to hit with the next pitch.  Something he could take to the gap or even over the fence.  Pretty gaudy optimism for a guy batting 9th in the order.  For a guy batting .206 with only 12 doubles and 6 homers at that point in his season.  Really?  You’re going to hit an extra-base hit off of Felix in the bottom of the 9th, 26 outs into a perfect game?  Really?!

That’s when he saw a 2-0 slider, low and to the outside corner of the plate.  That’s when he swung right over it.  He still had the count somewhat in his favor, but he might as well have just turned around and walked back to the dugout right then and there.

Major storyline after the game was Jaso and his gameplan.  Coming from the Rays’ organization, he knew their strategy on Felix:  be aggressive early, go after the fastball.  So, what did he do?  He flipped it on them.  Calling for off-speed pitches in fastball counts.  Most pitchers couldn’t do that.  But, Felix isn’t most pitchers.

Curveball, a yacker, on the outside edge of the plate.  I’m telling you S-Rod, go sit down now!  Save yourself the embarrassment!

92 mile per hour change-up on the inside corner.  Felix turned around, let out a scream, and looked to the sky before the umpire had even moved a muscle.  Then, he gave us this:

Where The Felix Things Are ...

Felix gave us so much with his performance, but to tack on what would become a photo like this is just too much, really.

23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball.  Felix Hernandez, you are truly one of the greatest.

Running Diary of My First Mariners No-Hitter (Replay)

Because I wasn’t around a TV when it was broadcast live.  Also, with apologies to Bill Simmons (or whoever invented this format of Internet writing).

11pm – Just pulled into Tacoma.  I left Seattle pretty much RIGHT after the game ended.  I’ve been up since 6am, I’m on a hella diet right now, so I’m bound to be a little punchy.  Efforts were futile to get my dad or brother up in time to DVR the replay, so here I am.  Efforts were also futile to watch the TV in our apartment’s gym because the cable was broken.

11:03 – Great.  Dan Patrick Show is on.  This is awful.

11:07 – Insta-Slim T-Shirt commercial is on.  Yeah, I like to get my Insta-Slim T’s in XXXL so I can wear ’em loose.

11:12 – Flipping around now.  Joe Mande is doing stand up on Comedy Central.  I know this is supposed to be funny, but for the life of me I wish Aziz Ansari’s special was on right now.

11:15 – So, I was watching some old episodes of Parks & Rec on my computer at home after leaving the gym earlier this evening.  After each episode, I’d go online to check the M’s score because, seriously, I’m not going to follow the M’s and the Dodgers all that closely when Millwood is pitching.  Anyway, in the middle of the 4th inning, I see there are no runs scored and no hits for the Dodgers.  I nod my head approvingly and watch another episode (or two, I can’t remember at this point).  I check back in the middle of the sixth and see we’re 9 outs away.  I say aloud to absolutely no one, “Really?  Are we REALLY doing this tonight?”  Then, I turn on my radio and slog through the final three innings of what turned out to be an exciting yet constant stream of pitching changes.

11:20 – Seriously, Joe Mande … hilarious?

11:27 – What is John Waters doing on Bill Maher?  He figuratively has nothing to say!

11:30 – Crap, it looks like Dan Patrick is going into overtime … M’s replay is supposed to start now!  And, for Christ’s sake, he’s interviewing E from Entourage … you are God damned killing me.

11:33 – And now they’re making me wait even longer because some fucking horse has a bum wheel … this sucks shit.  Cut Dan Patrick off and let’s do this bitch!

11:36 – Ahh, Garfunkel & Oates, bring me back to laughter while I wait!

11:39 – Can someone explain to me why they replay the Dan Patrick Show at 11pm at night?  Can someone also explain why they televise the Dan Patrick Show to begin with?  I don’t know who is actually at fault, but I blame those insipid morons Mike & Mike on ESPN.

11:42 – See, once I realized everyone at home was asleep, my second idea was to have them DVR the M’s replay tomorrow.  Because SURELY the M’s game would be replayed … such an historic event … checking TVGuide.com … oh, sorry.  Root Sports is too busy showing Paid Programming and fishing shows.  Fucking A …

11:48 – FINALLY!

11:49 – Good start for Kevin Millwood.  Strikeout to lead off the game.  Dee Gordon, I have a feeling you can eat my ass cheese …

11:51 – Millwood’s face looks fucking WEIRD with that goatee.

11:52 – That’s a catch for Mike Carp.  Even the laziest of fly balls look like a challenge for Carp.  Who puts this defense behind a pitcher and expects a no-no?

11:53 – Kawasaki gobbles up the grounder at short for the final out in the first.  Let’s get ready for a lot of futile bats tonight!  Only … three more hours to go!

11:54 – Twitter still going strong.  Local media absolutely giddy.

11:55 – Nathan Eovaldi.  That will be the first and last time I ever write that name on this website.  For you trivia buffs, he’s the starter who went against the third M’s no-no.

11:56 – Boy have people been killing Ichiro lately.  And by “people” I mean talk radio people.  It’s funny how they like to tear down our biggest superstars because they don’t go on the radio every other week giving them interviews.  Same deal with Shaun Alexander and Ken Griffey Jr.  You’ll notice they LOVED Hasselbeck until his last day, even though he wore down just like every other athlete eventually does.  Apparently, if you don’t constantly kiss ass, and you start to struggle at the end of a Hall of Fame career, you get the bum’s rush out the door.

12:04 – Can’t help but think about how much I would prefer to be listening to this game with Dave Niehaus on the call …

12:07 – Dan Wilson in the booth!  I thought the M’s reserved all their most exciting games for when Bone sat in.

12:08 – Fly out to Ichiro.  Can’t tell if Millwood looks good or if the Dodgers look bad.  At the very least, Millwood doesn’t look bad.

12:08 – Really Abreu?  Bunting?  Did you forget what size your jersey is?  Gotta be pushing 3 bills at this point …

12:09 – And a weak grounder to 3rd for Abreu.  I can’t believe he’s still playing.  And is still effective?  Damn.  .817 OPS.  Doesn’t that lead the M’s right now?  I’m too tired to go check.

12:10 – Memo to Mariners executives:  I have yet to meet a single M’s fan who likes the teal jerseys.  Just something to think about.

12:11 – Fly out to deep center.  6 up and 6 down.

12:12 – Root Sports broadcasts have the worst commercials.  Banner Bank and Emerald Queen Casino concerts back-to-back is my Holocaust.

12:17 – M’s went down easily in the 2nd.  This Dodgers pitcher looks NASTY

12:19 – Edgar throwing the first pitch … why wasn’t I at this game?

12:20 – First out in the third hit right at Carp.  That’s the way I like it; the less Carp has to move the better.

12:21 – Jesus, it’s like these Dodgers hitters have somewhere else to be!  Strikeout on a ridiculously out-of-the-zone pitch.

12:22 – Tony Gwynn Jr. looks nothing like his father.  Doesn’t hit much like him either.  Nice catch by Montero in foul territory.

12:25 – Holy Hell does Mike Carp have a lot of weird tattoos on his right arm.

12:33 – Totally called the A-Rod answer on the Trivia Question for who hit the most doubles in a single season by the Mariners.  Edgar was the obvious choice.  Olerud was a moron’s choice.  Ibanez was the only one throwing me for a moment.  But, yeah, A-Rod’s 1996 season was ridiculous.

12:35 – I’m now that kind of tired where you can’t bring yourself to blink lest you risk passing out … six more innings to go.

12:39 – Holy shit, Dee Gordon bunts down to Seager and he bare-hand throws to first.  Amazing.  Every no-no has at least one or two defensive plays that make you say, “Wow.”

12:41 – Strikeout swinging!  How does Millwood do it?

12:44 – Pop-out to Seager.  12 up & 12 down.

12:45 – 5-Hour Energy is full of SHIT!  Try drinking that when you’re pulling an all-nighter driving back to San Francisco from Coachella in the middle of the night and see if you don’t die in a fiery car crash!

12:48 – If I could, I would fast forward through all of these useless Mariners at-bats.  They’re about as entertaining as watching old people fuck.

12:51 – Saunders broken-bat single up the middle!  God damn is this guy on a tear!  Couldn’t happen to a more-deserving guy, in my book.  Saunders has taken a LOT of lumps in his Major League career to date.

12:55 – Jaso might be 0 for 2, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look like one of the more competent hitters on this team.  Love watching him at the plate.

12:59 – Very audible “FUCK!” out of Millwood after walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth.  Now comes Abreu.

12:59 – First pitch:  3-6-3 double play hit right at Smoak.

1:01 – Ooo, Hairston was on that fastball down the middle.  Fouled it straight back.  That one could have been trouble.  As it stands, he took a meatball down the pipe for strike three.  15 up and 15 down (thanks to the DP).

1:03 – All those D-Bags in the beer garden not paying attention to what would be a no-hitter.  How does it feel?  If I were there, I would’ve appreciated the SHIT out of this game!

1:06 – Why would you EVER start out going back before coming in on an Ichiro line drive hit right at you in Center Field?  Isn’t that something you just assume is in front of you, no questions asked?  Tsk tsk, Tony Gwynn Jr.

1:07 – Nice little squeaker of a base hit through the hole between third & short for Ackley.  Runners on first & second.

1:08 – Seager hot shot up the middle, but they played him perfectly.  Scoring threat over.  It’s still hard for me not to put quotes around “threat”, but the M’s offense not being totally worthless anymore is still somewhat of a new phenomenon.

1:10 – Class Action lawyers are the scum of all scum.  Join us in this lawsuit where millions of dollars will change hands!  And, here are a few pennies for your trouble …

1:12 – Shallow fly to center.  Millwood still going strong.

1:13 – Swing and a miss!  Not for nothing, but I’m still trying to figure out where Millwood injured himself.  He’s down to his final batter here …

1:14 – He adjusted his cup just now … or does he feel a pull?  OK, that sounded dirtier than I intended.

1:15 – Wow, that curve was SICK!  Strike three for Gwynn.  I see a hint of a limp as he’s walking off the field.  Maybe that curve did it.

1:16 – This weird cowboy guy hawking 5-Hour Energy is creepy to say the least.  He deserves to die and I hope he burns in hell, to say the most.

1:21 – 8 innings of 2-hit ball for Danny Hultzen tonight.  I love those Building To The Future updates … always makes me happy.

1:22 – Doesn’t seem like we’ve done much of anything in these 5+ innings on offense, but their pitcher is already nearing 100 pitches.  Go figure.

1:25 – End of 6th.  FINALLY, things are going to get interesting.  The next three innings should take approximately 57 hours to finish.

1:26 – If no company can pay to be on Angie’s List, then how does she make money for these crappy commercials?  It can’t all be online ad revenue, it just fucking can’t Angie, you whore!

1:27 – Kevin Millwood walks off the field after standing out on the mound for a second.  Spoiler Alert:  minor groin injury.  On the radio, they were convinced it was a blister on his throwing hand.

1:29 – In comes Furbush.  Pitcher #2 … and more commercials.  Great.

1:33 – No more bunting for Dee Gordon.  First pitch by Furbush is a flyout to Center.

1:34 – What’s with this team and crappy beards?  Say it ain’t so, Furbush!

1:35 – Chopper to Furbush, terrible throw to first base.  Should’ve had him out.  E-1 sends the runner to second base with one out.

1:37 – Strikeout!  Furbush!  In spite of his error, he looks like he could go the rest of this game without giving up a hit.  But, Wedge wants to play Mr. Manager, so in comes Stephen Pryor.  Two outs.

1:38 – Well … manager.  We just say manager.

1:43 – Strikeout!  Heater!  Wild Thing!  You Make My Heart Sing!

1:44 – My first time watching Stephen Pryor pitch and I spend half the at-bat looking up Arrested Development clips … priorities!

1:45 – New pitcher for the Dodgers.  I will not name him because I don’t want to add another useless tag to this post.

1:46 – Strained Right Groin.  Word just came down.

1:47 – Strikeout for Carp.  One out in the seventh.  Will anyone EVER score?

1:48 – Kawasaki kinda looks like Ichiro’s kid brother who is only on the team because Ichiro’s mom made him drag him along.  Also, strike three Kawasaki.

1:50 – With two strikes on him, Ichiro shatters his bat, dribbles the ball to second, and beats the throw.  Two outs, so what?!

1:51 – I could get lost in Ackley’s eyes.  OK, now I’m getting punchy …

1:52 – I could get lost in Ackley’s crappy beard, but that’s neither here nor there.

1:53 – It’s hard to steal off of a left-handed pitcher, but there went Ichiro!  Great success!

1:54 – Big walk by Ackley.  Didn’t look like he was going to be able to do much of anything with this guy.

1:57 – Seager!  Just over the glove of the short stop!  1-0!  See, this is why Ichiro bats first and not third.  Infield single, stolen base, scores on Seager’s RBI.  All you fuckheads who wanted Ichiro batting 9th in the lineup can eat a bag of dicks.  Although, to be fair, had he been batting 9th in this game, maybe we still score anyway.  Who’s to say?

1:58 – Another pitching change.  Ye gods.

2:01 – End of 7th.  Two more innings.  I can hardly keep my eyes open.  Can I power nap during these commercial breaks?

2:02 – Why do people on diabetes commercials look like some of the most fit people in the world?  Where are your 400 pound Walmart patrons and their bags upon empty bags of Cheez Doodles?

2:05 – Something tells me Mr. Manager shouldn’t have had Pryor go back out there for the 8th inning.  He’s still a little green, Mr. M.  That’s asking a little much at this point in his career.

2:06 – Back to back walks for Pryor.  Mr. Manager sees the folly of his ways.  Lucas Luetge enters, no outs.

2:11 – Sac bunt to first base.  Runners on 2nd & 3rd, one out.  And, Mr. Manager is back out of the dugout.  Here comes thwarted closer turned set-up man Brandon League, in the biggest appearance of his life.

2:16 – Shallow line drive to Figgins in left (having taken over for Carp this inning).  He catches it, heaves towards home (and falls down in the process), and the runner at third holds!  Wow!

2:19 – Strike three swinging on a nasty split!  Three outs to go!  What a gutty, gutty performance by League right there!  Is it possible to rebuild a guy’s trade value as a set-up man?  Looks like we’re going to find out.

2:23 – At this point in the live radio broadcast, I was debating whether I wanted to drive all the way down to Tacoma, or hope that a member of my family would save me with the DVR.  I told myself that I would HAVE to come down here if the Mariners actually did it.  You can’t risk not seeing history.  Highlights or .gifs on the Internet just won’t cut it!

2:27 – Twitter was all over the story of the near no-no down in Tacoma by Erasmo Ramirez.  They have yet to mention it on the TV broadcast.  Could have been quite a night had Ramirez held onto it.  Of note:  he might be the guy called back up if Millwood goes on the DL with this groin strain.

2:29 – Jaso, was that hit REALLY necessary?  I’m trying to get some sleep here!

2:30 – Atta boy, Figgins!  The one time I applaud your first-pitch swinging ground out pulled to the first baseman!

2:32 – Tom Wilhelmsen, our new closer.  Brendan Ryan, defensive replacement at short stop.

2:33 – Grounder to short!  Dee Gordon blazing up the line!  Bang-bang play!  Out at first!  Umps aren’t taking away any more no-hitters on questionable calls.  You gotta earn your hits.

2:34 – Even the Super-Mo camera can’t definitively show whether he was out or safe!

2:35 – Line out to short stop!  Brendan Ryan getting a workout!

2:36 – Ackley to Smoak!  No hitter!  Very odd celebration on the field!  I can’t stop using exclamation points!

2:37 – 10th combined no hitter in MLB history.  6 pitchers.  1 catcher, Jesus Montero, one of the youngest catchers all time to catch a no-no.

2:38 – Kevin Millwood – 6 IP, Charlie Furbush – .2 IP, Stephen Pryor – .1 IP, Lucas Luetge – .1 IP, Brandon League – .2 IP, Tom Wilhelmsen – 1 IP.

2:39 – No hits, 3 walks, 114 pitches.  Against the best team in baseball right now.  Incredible.  Seattle Mariners over the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0.

2:41 – 6 pitchers, 11 position players.  17 of our 25 guys.  17 of our 21 available players (not counting the other starting pitchers).  The only guys who didn’t get in this game were Miguel Olivo, Alex Liddi, Shawn Kelley, and Hisashi Iwakuma (obv.).

2:45 – OK, that’s it.  Time to proofread this bitch and go to sleep.

2000 Seattle Mariners: The Team That Time Forgot

Is it just me, or is this 2000 team one of the more forgettable Mariners teams?  Considering this is only one of FOUR Mariners teams to make the playoffs, I would say that’s a ridiculous statement.  But, you have to admit, it’s easily overshadowed by the other three.  The 1995 team is, of course, the be-all end-all of baseball teams.  The 1997 team still had all that star power (and all of that unresolved promise).  And the 2001 team CLEARLY overshadows the 2000 squad because of its 116 regular season wins (and its 4 post-season wins).

The 2000 team actually had better success than the 2001 team; it lost to the Yankees in 6 games while the 2001 Mariners lost in 5.  But, for whatever reason, the 2000 Mariners feels like a poorly-written, unfunny sequel to a movie that didn’t need to be made in the first place (and the 2000 team came FIRST!).

For those of you who have trouble remembering the 2000 Mariners, I’ll give you a couple of names that will hopefully jog your memory:  Al Martin and Arthur Rhodes (it would be a LONG couple of post-seasons for Mr. Rhodes).

You can’t talk about the 2000 Mariners without first talking about the Oakland A’s.  They were a team on the rise, thanks to Billy Beane and his bullshit.  In 1998, they were a bottom-feeder in the AL West.  In 1999, they leap-frogged the Angels and Mariners to nab a winning record and 2nd place in the AL West.  Maybe we should’ve suspected something there; sure, those ’99 A’s missed out on the Wild Card by 7 games, but clearly they were doing something special down there.  Those 2000 A’s finally figured it all out; not-so-coincidentally, this was Barry Zito’s first Major League season.  And the reign of The Big Three was born.

The 2000 Mariners, much like the 2001 Mariners, were built for the regular season.  We had A-Rod & Edgar in their primes, we had a very-productive John Olerud locking down first base, we had Jay Buhner in the downswing of his career, and we had a nice glut of complementary players to round out our roster.  On the pitching side of things, I don’t think I can say anything about Aaron Sele, Jamie Moyer, Paul Abbott, or John Halama that you don’t already know.  Those were nice players at the time, but there wasn’t an ace amongst ’em.  Freddy Garcia – in his 2nd Major League season after the Randy Johnson trade – could’ve been that guy for us (and, indeed he was in the post-season), but he was still quite young and he ended up missing two months to injury in May & June which had to have set him back some.  We also could’ve had Gil Meche – also in his 2nd Major League season, and starting for us out of Spring Training – be that guy for us, but he ended up losing his season to an arm injury at the end of June.

So, there we were.  Four months of Freddy Garcia and full seasons out of four soft-tossing righties & lefties.  That could easily be made up by a quality bullpen, right?

Well, as chance would have it, there was this 32 year old rookie out of Japan named Kazuhiro Sasaki who – if I’m not mistaken – was Japan’s saves leader at the time of his signing.  Boy did HE show up in the nick of time!  Because the rest of this ‘pen was an absolute BALLSACK!  Of course, it didn’t require much to steal the closer job from Jose Mesa (chickenfucker), but since this was the Mariners, it’s not like we could just cut Joe Table free (not the Mariners:  the cheapest winning franchise in Major League Baseball).  So, of course Mesa got his 66 appearances.  As did Jose Paniagua (who actually wasn’t totally worthless this season), and Arthur Rhodes (who pretty much did what he was supposed to do until the ALCS).

This bullpen was by no means stellar, but they did help us to 91 wins.  91 wins, by the by, was the same number of wins as the Oakland A’s, but apparently they had this crazy tiebreaker known as “Head-to-Head Matchup”.  Since the A’s were 9-4 against the Mariners in the regular season, the A’s never had to play their make-up game, and thus were awarded the AL West title (while the Mariners were awarded the Wild Card).

It could’ve been different!  The Mariners were leading in the AL West by a season-high 7 games after the game on August 11th.  We were 69-47, then proceeded to lose our next 8 games, clinging to a 2-game advantage over the A’s.  In fact, during that stretch, we went 3-15 before we sort of levelled off.  However, never at any point did we lose our lead in the AL West, which is God damned mind-boggling.

We had a 3-game lead over the A’s going into a 4-game series starting on September 21st.  We were 10 games away from clinching!  So, of course the A’s won the first three games to pull to a tie, before the Mariners somehow took that fourth game 3-2.  The A’s had 7 games remaining (against the Angels & Rangers) and went 6-1.  The Mariners had 6 games remaining (against the same teams, in reverse order) and went 4-2.

And THAT, my friends, is how you go from a 3-game lead with 10 games to play, to losing your division by 0.5 games.

The Big, Bad Yankees, meanwhile, had the regular season’s 5th best record (losing 15 of their final 18 regular season games, if you can believe that).  But, they won the AL East and you could easily make the case that, while the Mariners were built for the Regular Season, the Yankees were built for the post-season and were just trying anything in their power to make it in.  The Chicago White Sox ended up having the BEST record in the American League.  One would think, if you were going by record, that the best team would play the worst team in the first round of the playoffs, but MLB has always had this rule about teams in the same division not playing one another.  Ergo, the White Sox were forced to play the Mariners and the A’s had to play the Yankees.

You gotta wonder how things would’ve been different.  For instance, Orlando Hernandez was fucking Mariner kryptonite (as Freddy Garcia was Yankee kryptonite) in that ALCS.  What would’ve happened if we won the AL West, faced the Yankees in the first round, and DIDN’T have to face El Duque twice in the same series?  Hell, what would’ve happened had we won the AL West and actually had Home Field Advantage EVER?  Maybe some of those David Justice extra-base hits would’ve been long flyball outs.

Of course, it could’ve ended with a similar amount of heartbreak.  I don’t think the White Sox were very good in 2000; the A’s would’ve made mincemeat with ’em in a 5-game series.  Remember that 9-4 record the A’s were lording over us; I could’ve easily seen them sweeping us away in that ALCS.

Anyway, as I alluded to, the Mariners beat the White Sox pretty handily in the ALDS, 3 games to 0.

The first game was damned exciting, though.  Freddy Garcia could seemingly do no right, but he left in that 4th inning with the Mariners only down 4-3.  The bullpen put things on lockdown while the Mariner bats finally came alive in the 7th inning.  Bone started us off with a walk, followed by a David Bell double (Bone to third).  Al Martin promptly came up to pinch hit and was worthless.  Mark McLemore, however, walked to load the bases with only one out.  Stan Javier – a solid contributer off the bench – ended up striking out looking.  But, that just meant White Sox Killer Mike Cameron could come in to save the day!

Actually, he just got a single to tie it (David Bell was thrown out at home, but who could fault him for aggressiveness in such a situation), but that carried us into extra innings where in the 10th, back-to-back homers by Edgar and Olerud gave us a 3-run advantage that would seal the deal.

Game 2 was also in Comiskey as the Seattle Mariners Seattle Mariners’d their way to another 3-run victory.  This time, Paul Abbott got the best of Mike Sirotka, and the Mariners’ bullpen was again flawless over 3.1 innings.  As the game was tied 2-2, Buhner hit a solo homer in the 4th, A-Rod scored Rickey Henderson on a groundout (thanks to Rickey’s walk, his sacrifice to 2nd, and his steal of 3rd … just what we brought him onto this team to do) in the 5th, and Cammy hit an RBI single in the 9th.

With Games 3 & potentially 4 in Safeco, and the Mariners having a 2-0 series lead, things never felt better for Mariners fans.  The A’s and Yankees were locked into a grudge match that would surely go all 5 games … what more could you ask for?  Ordinarily, this would be the point where the Mariners would lose their final three games to really twist the knife into the hearts of Mariners fans everywhere.  But, as chance would have it, NOT THIS TIME!

Game 3 was an absolute BEAUT!  That is, if you like low-scoring pitchers’ duels.  Aaron Sele vs. James Baldwin.  Sele went 7.1 innings of 1-run ball, Baldwin went 6 innings of 1-run ball.  Neither were all that impressive, but they managed – for the most part – to keep the offenses off the bases.  It was 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th when Olerud led us off with an infield single that was poorly thrown by the pitcher, which allowed Olerud to scamper over to 2nd base.  Mr. Henderson promptly pinch-ran as Stan Javier bunted him over to third base with 1 out.  David Bell was walked (I want to say intentionally, to set up the double play), which led to Carlos Guillen’s iconic bunt single to score a hard-charging Henderson from third.  Game over!  M’s win!  M’s win!

Granted, it’s not The Double or anything, but don’t forget:  this was only the second time in team history where the Mariners won a playoff series.  Watching that M’s team jump around the field in triumph still gives me chills to this day.

That was October 6th.  The A’s & Yankees did indeed go the full five games, so their series ended on October 8th.  It was truly a back-and-forth affair:  the A’s took Game 1, handling Roger Clemens; the Yankees took the next two, with El Duque continuing his fucking mastery of all things holding bats; the A’s came back to absolutely CRUSH Roger Clemens in Game 4; but it was not to be as the Yankees thumped the A’s in the final game to take the series.

Where did that leave things?  The ALCS started on October 10th.  On the one hand:  fuck, the Yankees have been playing this whole time while the Mariners have been sitting around tugging at their own wieners for four days.  On the other hand:  the Mariners were “rested” while the Yankees were “tired”.  I tend to not buy that crap, because look at it logistically:  both teams have played nearly 170 games that matter (not taking into account a month’s worth of Spring Training games).  “Rested” and “Tired” are the most relative terms you’re ever going to see in the realm of sports.

One thing, in theory, the Mariners had going for them is that they had their starters lined up exactly how they wanted them.  Garcia, Halama (because Moyer was lost for the rest of the post-season to injury), Sele, and if necessary, Abbott.  Meanwhile, the Yankees had to run Denny Neagle out there in Game 1.

Let me just say this about Game 1:  Neagle wasn’t terrible!  He did give up 2 runs and take the loss, but he still got his team into the 6th inning with a chance to win.  Freddy was just that much better, going 6.2 innings of shutout ball.  Our bullpen remained on lockdown, and that was the end of that:  a 2-0 victory in Game 1.

At this point in our Mariners post-season, our bullpen had thrown 14.0 innings across 4 games.  They gave up 0 runs in those four games, all victories.  I would like to keep that in mind as we go forward:  it LOOKED like not only was this team unstoppable, but that this bullpen was getting hot at the right time.

I would also like to point out that while we were working our magic, Ken Griffey Jr. was sitting at his home in Orlando watching us on television.  His Reds ended the season 10 games behind division-winning St. Louis.  Also, Randy Johnson was on his ass in his home, as his Arizona Diamondbacks ended their season 12 games behind the San Francisco Giants.  We were doing ALL of this with smoke & mirrors & A-Rod & Edgar!  This 2000 Mariners team was truly a blessing in disguise.

But, oh how much better they could’ve been.

Remember those two names I told you should jog your memory?  Al Martin was a lot of things – a reserve outfielder, a left-handed bat, a worthless pile of crap – but he was NOTHING if he wasn’t our little Scapegoat.

It wasn’t his fault.  First of all, it’s not like we gave up some studs to bring him in here (in other words, this wasn’t Woody Woodward in the 1997 season trying to bolster a nothing bullpen).  We traded John Mabry (who I hated anyway) and Tom Davey (who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup if you offered me a million dollars) at the Trade Deadline to the Padres to get him.  For the Padres, in 93 games, he hit .306 with decent power (13 doubles, 11 homers).  Could a guy like that help us out from the left side of the plate in Safeco?  Sure, why not?  Did he?  His numbers with the Mariners:

42 games, .231 average, 2 doubles, 4 homers, 31 strikeouts, .678 OPS.

Those are GREAT numbers, if you’re talking about the 2010 and 2011 Mariners (well, not great, but at least they blend in nicely), but not for the 2000 Mariners who REALLY needed a big bat to pull them through the dog days and into the playoffs.

So, yeah, Al Martin was a scapegoat because he was terrible in a Mariners uniform, but he was also a scapegoat for the organization’s front office shortcomings.

It’s difficult to say who’s more at fault:  the owners for not opening up their wallets at the trade deadline to let Gillick trade for someone of quality; or Gillick himself for being so God damned unwilling to trade any of our top-tier prospect talent.  I’ll tell you this much:  we could’ve gotten a fucking king’s ransom had we traded guys like Gil Meche (before he went down with injury), Joel Pineiro, or Ryan Anderson.

Now, would the 2000 Steven A. Taylor have flipped his shit at the thought of trading our future like that?  Abso-fucking-lutely!  That’s simply because I saw how our trades back in 1997 were working out so well for other teams!  If we didn’t screw the damn pooch back then, maybe we would’ve been more willing in 2000 to trade top prospects for top talent!  The Steven A. Taylor with hindsight on his side can clearly see we were a few pieces away from winning it all in both 2000 and 2001.  Maybe one of those guys nets us a bonafide Number 1 starter to go along with Garcia.  Maybe another one of those guys gets us the kind of bat we needed down the stretch to put us over the top.  MAYBE we also get some bullpen relief in the form of a left-hander who won’t implode at the first sight of pinstripes!

Of course, while we’re playing the What If game, what if this team hadn’t been so stingy and had decided to keep Randy Johnson as he was entering the Cy Young bonanza phase of his career with the Diamondbacks?  What if by this small gesture, Ken Griffey Jr. wouldn’t have thought so poorly of the organization that he forced his trade to the Reds (because, I’m telling you, don’t believe that crap about him wanting to be closer to his family; he saw this team selling off its best assets – Randy, Tino, Jeff Nelson, etc. – and getting next-to-nothing back in return)?  Wouldn’t Randy and Griffey (and Tino and Nelson) have been AMAZING on this 2000 team?

Everyone likes to look back on the 2000 & 2001 teams as the embodiment of “Fuck You” to greedy assholes like Griffey, Randy & A-Rod.  But, if this Mariners team had been willing to take care of its stars, maybe these 2000 & 2001 teams would’ve been championship-winning.

But, whatever.  You can’t change the past.  And, as of October 11, 2000, the Mariners had a 1-0 ALCS lead over the Yankees.  And, in Game 2, these same Mariners had a 1-0 lead over those Yankees going into the bottom of the 8th inning.  This was 1995 all over again!  The Yankees couldn’t break the spell we had over them!  A 2-0 series lead going back to Safeco was 6 outs away!

Enter Arthur Rhodes.  David Justice leads off with a double.  Bernie Williams follows with a game-tying RBI single.  It might as well have been two pitches; before we could blink, the game was tied.  And it was all downhill from there.  Tino Martinez singles, Jorge Posada singles in Williams for the 2-1 lead.  Paul O’Neill hits a deep fly to score Tino.  1 out.  3-1 Yankees.

Enter Jose Mesa.  Luis Sojo singles, Posada is thrown out trying to steal home.  2 outs, still 3-1 Yankees.  Jose Vizcaino then doubled to score Sojo.  Then, a passed ball moves Vizcaino over to 3rd before he’s scored by a Chuck Knoblauch single.  Derek Jeter jacks a home run to make it 7-1 Yankees before David Justice – who led off the inning – mercifully flew out to center.

Just like that, the demons had been slain.  The Yankees – behind 8 strong innings from El Duque (who would’ve been their third or fourth starter had their rotation been set properly) – took back control of the series.  Yes, it was still tied 1-1, but you couldn’t help but think that this 8th inning implosion was the straw breaking the camel’s back on our season.

Game 3 was just a crusher.  An 8-2 defeat behind Aaron Sele’s Turning Back Into A Pumpkin Act.  He went 4 innings, gave up 4 runs (off of 9 hits, two of which were home runs), and our bullpen gave up the other 4 runs as it too found the clock had struck midnight.

Game 4 is where we needed to right the ship.  Unfortunately, we ran into the buzzsaw that was Roger Clemens at the height of his alleged steroids prime.  He tossed what has stood as one of the very finest post-season performances of any pitcher in Major League Baseball history.  9 innings, 1 hit (thank you Al Martin … ow, my pride), 2 walks, and 15 strikeouts.

I don’t even know what to say.  As I sit here right now, I’m impossibly angry and depressed all at the same time, and this was over 11 years ago!  Fucking Roger Piece Of Shit Clemens.  I’ll never forget how I felt on that night because I still feel that way to this day.  This was the same feeling I had back in 1996 when the Sonics lost Game 3 in the Finals to the Bulls to go down 0-3 in the series.  You’re SO CLOSE to what you want more than anything else in the world, but there’s this thing called Mount Everest standing there in your way.

The Mariners were down 3-1 in the series, losers of three straight including two at home.  The final home game took place the very next day and all I can say is thank Christ for Freddy Garcia (or, more accurately, thank Christ for Denny Neagle).  We won that game 5-2 in a very Mariners-type of fashion.  Our bullpen returned to fight the good fight, giving up 0 runs over the final 4 innings.  And we got some timely hitting out of our best hitters (A-Rod, Edgar & Olerud).  Nevertheless, you couldn’t help but feel that doom was right around the corner.

Game 6, two days later, in Yankee Stadium.  Once again, we had to face El Duque.  THIS time, however, our bats came to play.  Unfortunately, this time, so did theirs.

We jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to back-to-back RBI doubles in the first inning by A-Rod & Edgar.  The lead was extended to 4-0 thanks to a 2-run bomb off the bat of Carlos Guillen in the 4th.  Hey HEY!  This isn’t so bad!  Maybe we WILL see a 7th game!  Halama is coasting, our offense is on fire, El Duque is showing his age (what was it, like 50?).

Of course, promptly in the bottom of the 4th, Halama gave them three runs right back before he was relieved by Brett Tomko (he thinks he’s people).  This score stood for a while.  It was nail-biting time, to be sure, but there was still a chance.  9 outs away from a Game 7.

Bottom of the 7th inning.  Jose Paniagua relieves a surprisingly-effective Tomko.  He immediately gives up a single, then a sacrifice bunt, then another single.  1 out, runners on the corners, Mariners hanging onto a 4-3 lead.  Lou Pinella comes out of the dugout & points towards the bullpen with his left arm.

Enter Arthur Rhodes.  Boy, doesn’t THIS sound familiar?

Annnnnnnd:  David Justice, 3-run homer.  Fuck.  A single, double, intentional walk, and 2-RBI single later, he’s replaced by Jose Mesa (is this a re-run?  Where’s the TV Guide?!).  Joe Table let another run slide across home plate and there you have it.  A tailor-made 6-run inning late in the game for the fucking Yankees.

The Mariners managed to make it a little interesting in the top of the 8th with a solo homer by A-Rod, followed by a 2-RBI double by McLemore, but Mariano Rivera was in there, and it was shut-down time.  In the top of the 9th, the Mariners had a single by A-Rod to put the tying run at the plate in Edgar Martinez, but this wasn’t 1995 and this wasn’t Jack McDowell on the mound.  A 6-3 put-out ended the game in regulation.

A 6-3 put-out ended our season.

We’d come so far, we played so well, but a couple of monster innings punctuated by David Justice facing Arthur Rhodes sealed our fate.  That’s all it takes.  Sometimes, it’s just that one small factor that dictates your entire season.

The Mariners would come back bigger and beefier than ever the following season, but as both you and I know, the results were ultimately the same.  Ending in humiliating defeat, as so many other Seattle playoff seasons have ended.

List of Seattle Sports Award Winners

Because it’s not all ‘Doom & Gloom’, ‘Woe Is Me’, ‘Seattle Is Sports Hell’ ALL the time around here, I thought I’d lighten our collective loads by making a list of all the major (and not-so-major) award winners we’ve had grace us in our great city.

Don’t ask my rationale on this thing, just go with me here.  YES, I included All Star Game (and Pro Bowl) MVPs.  YES, I included all of the “good citizenship” awards for the respective pro sports.  NO, I didn’t list every “best offensive lineman” or every “best defensive lineman” award for college football.  As far as college football players are concerned, it’s Heisman or bust in my book!

By the way, did you know the Seahawks are one of only three teams without an offensive OR a defensive rookie of the year?  You do now!

This post, once it’s cleaned up and finalized, will be found in the “Featured Articles” section on the above menu bar.  For now, it’s just a small, time-consuming post to get me through the weekend because I’m going out of town (to a city that’s tasted a bit of success in its day, San Francisco).  Enjoy.

Husky Basketball

Pac-10 Player of the Year:

1986 – Christian Welp
2006 – Brandon Roy

Pac-10 Freshman of the Year:

1984 – Christian Welp
1988 – Mike Hayward
1992 – Mark Pope
2009 – Isaiah Thomas

Pac-10 Coach of the Year:

1982 – Marv Harshman
1996 – Bob Bender
2005 – Lorenzo Romar
2009 – Lorenzo Romar

Husky Football

College Football National Coach of the Year (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award):

1991 – Don James

Seattle Mariners

AL Most Valuable Player:

1997 – Ken Griffey Jr.
2001 – Ichiro

AL Cy Young Award:

1995 – Randy Johnson
2010 – Felix Hernandez

AL Rookie of the Year:

1984 – Alvin Davis
2000 – Kazuhiro Sasaki
2001 – Ichiro

AL Manager of the Year:

1995 – Lou Piniella
2001 – Lou Piniella

Gold Glove Award:

1987, 1988 – Mark Langston (P)
1988, 1989, 1990 – Harold Reynolds (2B)
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 – Ken Griffey Jr. (OF)
1993 – Omar Vizquel (SS)
1996 – Jay Buhner (OF)
2000, 2002, 2003 – John Olerud (1B)
2001, 2003 – Mike Cameron (OF)
2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 – Ichiro (OF)
2002, 2003, 2004 – Bret Boone (2B)
2007, 2008 – Adrian Beltre (3B)

Silver Slugger Award:

1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 – Ken Griffey Jr. (OF)
1992 – Edgar Martinez (3B)
1995, 1997, 2001, 2003 – Edgar Martinez (DH)
1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 – Alex Rodriguez (SS)
2001, 2003 – Bret Boone (2B)
2001, 2007, 2009 – Ichiro (OF)

All Star Game MVP:

1992 – Ken Griffey Jr.
2007 – Ichiro

Roberto Clemente Award:

1991 – Harold Reynolds
2003 – Jamie Moyer
2004 – Edgar Martinez

Seattle Seahawks

George S. Halas Trophy:

2005 Seattle Seahawks

NFL Most Valuable Player:

2005 – Shaun Alexander

Defensive Player of the Year:

1984 – Kenny Easley
1992 – Cortez Kennedy

NFL Coach of the Year:

1978 – Jack Patera
1984 – Chuck Knox

Walter Payton Man of the Year:

1988 – Steve Largent

Pro Bowl MVP:

1997 – Warren Moon

Seattle Supersonics

Walter A. Brown Trophy (renamed Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in 1984):

1979 – Seattle Supersonics

NBA Finals Most Valuable Player:

1979 – Dennis Johnson

NBA Rookie of the Year:

2007-2008 – Kevin Durant

Defensive Player of the Year:

1995-1996 – Gary Payton

Most Improved Player:

1986-1987 – Dale Ellis

All Star Game MVP:

1971 – Lenny Wilkens
1987 – Tom Chambers

Executive of the Year:

1982-1983 – Zollie Volchok
1993-1994 – Bob Whitsitt

J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award:

1975-1976 – Slick Watts

Sportsmanship Award (Joe Dumars Trophy):

1998-1999 – Hersey Hawkins
2002-2003 – Ray Allen

The 2001 Seattle Mariners Were A Joy To Behold

116-46.

First of all, let’s get the 105 year old elephant in the room out of the way:  the Chicago Cubs originally owned the all-time wins record of 116, doing it in 10 fewer ballgames (their record:  116-36).  Of course, in my attempt to diminish their achievement, I’ll say that they were in an 8-team National League, with 5 of those 8 teams having sub-.500 records (including the Boston Beaneaters who were a lowly 49-102).

Since we all know how this 2001 season ends, I’ll also point out to the Cubs defenders out there that they too failed in their ultimate goal; the 1906 Cubs lost in 6 games to the Chicago White Sox in the World Series (back before they had things like “playoffs”; this was just a straight up winner of the AL playing the winner of the NL).

Anyway, while I’m on the subject, I guess I’ll go ahead and get the tragic, steroids-fuelled ending out of the way.

The Seattle Mariners, with their 116 wins, were the Number 1 seed in all of the AL.  The Oakland Athletics were the Wild Card winner that year, posting a 102-60 record (as usual for the A’s around this time, they came screaming down the stretch in September; fortunately, the Mariners had too big a lead to collapse like they would in the two seasons to follow).  Due to some dumb rule baseball invented, the top seed isn’t allowed to play the Wild Card team if they’re both in the same division.  For the record, the only reason this rule exists is because Major League Baseball doesn’t want to waste a first-round series on the Red Sox & Yankees when they could force them into the ALCS by not allowing them to play in the first round; you know it’s true.  The potential for two more games is too desirable for their bottom line.

As such, the Mariners played the Central Division winner in the Cleveland Indians, while the Athletics had to go out and play the Yankees.  At the time, I was happy.  I figured, what with the A’s being such a well-maintained team, it might be best not to face them in the first round.  Honestly, I thought we’d lose.  As it turned out, we almost did.

Cleveland stole Game 1 in Safeco behind a Bartolo Colon gem, winning 5-0.  Jamie Moyer came back in Game 2 to at least bring a 1-1 series back to Cleveland.  Of course, with Aaron Sele taking the hill as our 3rd best starter (supposedly), we got absolutely killed in Game 3 by a score of 17-2.  But, then the Chief came right back in a rematch of the first game, taking down Colon 6-2 to force a Game 5.  Here, Moyer did what he does best:  win.  Series.

Meanwhile, I can’t believe I’m re-living this all over again … Oakland had a 2-0 series lead over the Yankees, having won BOTH in New York.  They went on to lose a 1-0 Game 3, then absolutely fell apart in Game 4, and finally gagging it all away in Game 5.  At this point, I was legitimately worried.  This had the look of fate.  9/11, New York makes a miraculous comeback, the sporting gods hate Seattle … it was almost too perfect.

Look, the bottom line is this:  we just didn’t have the pitching that year.  Freddy Garcia was pretty good at the time – as close to a Number 1 starter as we had – but he wasn’t NEARLY on par with some of the other guys these playoff teams were running out there.  The three-headed monster down in Oakland; an In-His-Prime Bartolo Colon over in Cleveland; and a supremely awe-inspiring foursome of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina, and El Duque.  I mean, let’s get serious, you would have to feel confident in ANY of those guys taking the hill in a do-or-die situation (sure, some more than others, but all more than what the Mariners had).

Following The Chief, we had Jamie Moyer:  a solid pro who was durable and a winner, but not necessarily a shutdown starter.  Then, there was Aaron Sele, a free agent pickup from Texas whose record & ERA were always better than his actual abilities.  He had a nasty 12-6 curveball, but that was pretty much his only secondary pitch to a fastball that wasn’t all that fast.  After that, you’ve got Paul Abbott (a reliever-turned-starter with a sterling 17-4 record thanks mostly to the fact that he had the most run-support in the league that year).

The 2001 Mariners were all about scoring runs, plain & simple.  But, even then, I dunno, it seems like we never had that guy who could get the big hit when it mattered most.  Not like the Yankees had.  Sure, we hit homers in bunches, but they were from guys not traditionally known to be big home run guys.  Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Mike Cameron … all of them have flaws in some way (strike outs, lack of speed, a tendancy to always swing for the fences Ka-Boone, etc.).

Anyway, let’s just get this over with because I’m making myself sick with these playoffs.  The one thing I figured we had going in our favor (or, at least, not necessarily AGAINST us) was that the Yankees too had to go five games in their series.  So, both teams would have their rotations all screwed up (meaning, as it turned out, we’d only have to see Roger Clemens once).

Of course, I ended up being sorely mistaken in thinking this could be a positive for us, because what it all meant was that Aaron Sele was kicking off the series for us.  Already 0-1 in the playoffs (with that 15-run drubbing against the Indians), Sele didn’t have enough in the tank and we lost Game 1 at home.  In a closer Game 2, the Mariners still managed to lose, giving up all 3 runs in the second inning.  Over in Yankee Stadium, we put the beatdown on El Duque in Game 3, leading to a Game 4 set up with Clemens going against Paul Abbott.

If you want to point to a single game when Paul Abbott endeared himself to all Mariners fans for all of eternity, this was it.  He matched the great, roided out Roger Clemens zero for zero through seven innings before giving way to the bullpen.  We actually had a 1-0 lead in this one until Arthur Rhodes (the absolute best Mariners failure we’ve ever had to endure) gave up the tying home run to Bernie Williams.  Kaz Sasaki ended up blowing it in the ninth, thus sending us spiraling with a 3-1 series deficit.

And, because Aaron Sele sucks dick, we got manhandled in Game 5.  Season over.

Granted, we didn’t have the kind of top-flight pitching these other teams had; but it was our hitting – our hitting that gave us 927 regular season runs – that fell apart in these playoffs and especially against these Yankees.  In our losses to the Bronx Bombers, we averaged 2 runs per game.  That’s just not going to get it done.

But, you know what?  In spite of all that negativity to finish the season, these Mariners were still fun as all hell.

The Mariners played 52 series of baseball in 2001.  Here’s how it broke down:

  • Series Wins:  42
  • Series Sweeps:  15
  • Series Ties:  4
  • Series Losses:  6 (with 1 sweep)

Can you even comprehend only losing 6 series all season?  That’s absolutely incredible!  Our longest winning streak was 15, our longest losing streak was only 4.  FOUR.  And that didn’t happen until late in the season, when you could forgive a little lack of focus, what with our massive lead over everyone else in baseball.

Here’s how the months broke down:

  • April:  20-5
  • May:  20-7
  • June:  18-9
  • July:  18-9
  • August:  20-9
  • Sept/Oct:  20-7

Again, simply unbelievable!  Four of the six months had 20 wins!  As far as regular season dominance is concerned, this Seattle Mariners team is the exact blueprint you’d use.  Take a look at the lineup:

  1. Ichiro (RF)
  2. Carlos Guillen (SS)
  3. Bret Boone (2B)
  4. Edgar Martinez (DH)
  5. Mike Cameron (CF)
  6. John Olerud (1B)
  7. Mark McLemore (LF)
  8. Dan Wilson (C)
  9. David Bell (3B)

I mean, there really wasn’t a black hole anywhere to be found (especially when they stopped playing Al Martin).  McLemore could play just about every position, to give guys the proper rest they needed.  Our bench was a solid collective of veterans (chief among them Stan Javier & Jay Buhner).  This was the team you wanted, if you wanted sustained success!

It’s just too bad it had to end the way it did.  We can all take solace in the fact that the Yankees would go on to lose the World Series, with the greatest closer of all time biffing it all away to the Diamondbacks … but that’s still a shallow victory.  Because destiny was supposed to be on the side of the Mariners!

We were a team on the rise, from that shocking 1995 run, through losing Randy Johnson in trade, through losing Griffey in trade, through losing A-Rod in free agency (and only getting Freddy Garcia & Mike Cameron in return for the whole lot of our former All Stars).  We’d paid our dues, losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Yankees in the 2000 ALCS, we came back even stronger during the regular season, never having a lapse (except for that Cleveland game in August, blowing a 12-run lead to tie the Major League record), being the epitome of consistent excellence.  We even dodged a bullet by missing the A’s and taking those Indians down in 5 games in the playoffs.

But, none of that was enough.  Destiny is a funny thing.  You always think it’s on your side until it’s ripped away from you.  These 2001 Mariners deserved better than to lose in 5 games to the Yankees.  These 2001 Mariners should’ve gone down as the single greatest team of all time.

Instead, we have to settle for (one of) the greatest regular season team(s) of all time.  Around the rest of the country, that status is meaningless.  But, in Seattle, it’s all we’ve got.  Therefore, it’s important for us to cherish it.  Cherish it until something better comes along.