The Biggest Blunders In Seattle Sports History

There’s always a reason to be disgruntled about what’s going on with sports in the Seattle area. We’re far from burdened with championship squads, unless the MLS or WNBA is your bag (which is fine if they are, but they’re just not mine). I don’t have a good handle on the breakdown, but essentially most sports fans complain about one of two things: something unfortunate happened to our team that’s outside of their control, or our team did something fucking stupid that effectively sabotaged all hope for success.

If we were talking about the former, I’d bring up something like Super Bowl XL (where I’ll go down to my dying breath contending we were jobbed by the refs at every turn), various good-looking trades that just didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons (Percy Harvin, Vin Baker, the deal to bring Cliff Lee in), or the countless injuries to promising young stars/prospects who could’ve been great had their bodies only held together (Franklin Gutierrez, Malik McDowell, Danny Hultzen, our entire secondary right before Super Bowl XL).

But, I’m talking about the blunders! The dumb-looking shit that was dumb-looking at the time and only proceeded to grow ever more mind-boggling with each passing year. It’s a rough sketch, but here are the top ten worst self-inflicted wounds I can think of in Seattle sports history.

#10 – We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score

You gotta have stakes in this thing, so any individual event has to come in the playoffs at a minimum. This one happened in the Wild Card round of the 2003 season. It’s not JUST that the Seahawks won the coin flip heading into overtime and Matt Hasselbeck made that unfortunate guarantee (indeed, I thought it was cool then, and I would gladly welcome such bravado anytime), but combine that with the fateful call.

Let’s go back: remember, this was back when the first score of overtime wins, regardless; so all we needed to do was get into field goal range. We got a first down and had the ball at our own 45 yard line. A stuffed run and an incompletion made it 3rd & 11. And, for some reason, Mike Holmgren decided to call a 5-wide receiver set. For some reason on top of that, Hasselbeck decided to throw the ball to our 5th receiver, Alex Bannister. For some reason on top of THAT, it was an out-pass – the easiest one to undercut and run back for a pick-six – that the receiver didn’t even get beyond the 11 yards needed for the first down! And, of course, not for nothing, but the pass was simply terribly thrown. The rest is history, and so began our continued demise whenever we play a playoff game in Lambeau Field.

#9 – The Deal To Trade Cliff Lee Away

It was supposed to be the epitome of a no-brainer. Cliff Lee was heading into the final year of his deal in 2010. At the time, he already had a Cy Young Award under his belt and was probably the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game. The Mariners traded three nobodies to the Phillies to bring Lee to Seattle and the plan was simple. The M’s were coming off of a winning season in 2009, and Lee – paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez – was going to help push us over the top and back into playoff contention.

Unfortunately, Cliff Lee got injured in Spring Training, and didn’t make his first start until the last day of April. In spite of Lee going 7 shutout innings that day, the Mariners lost 2-0 to drop their record to 11-12 on the season. On July 9th, our record fell to 34-52, and it was clear no playoffs would be forthcoming. That’s okay! We had a backup plan if things fell apart in spectacular fashion (which they did, as we would go on to lose 101 games). Since Cliff Lee was so great – indeed, his numbers after two months with the Mariners were among the best of his entire career – his value should’ve been sky high for a pitching-needy team looking to cement their status as a championship contender.

But, we had Jackie Z at the helm, and our return – Justin Smoak and three other nobodies – was far from inspiring. This was supposed to jumpstart our big rebuild, and Smoak was supposed to be the centerpiece. Instead, we rode his wave of warning track power into mediocre season after mediocre season. You could throw any number of trades Jackie Z made for the Mariners on the list of greatest blunders, but I’m putting this one here because Cliff Lee was amazing, and we BLEW IT.

#8 – Steve Hutchinson Transition Tag

The Seahawks were riding high after their appearance in Super Bowl XL. The only thing we could do to screw it up was dick around with our best players.

Tim Ruskell’s seat in Hell is being kept warm for him by the resentment and hatred of thousands upon thousands of Seahawks fans. What a buffoon! The offensive line was not only the backbone of the Seahawks’ offense, but it was easily the best part of the entire team, anchored on the left side by two Hall of Famers: Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson. Through them, we had an MVP in running back Shaun Alexander. Through them, a sixth-round quarterback was able to play at a Pro Bowl level. We had the money, we had the desire, and indeed we had NO ANSWER for Hutch’s replacement when he eventually signed the Vikings’ Poison Pill contract!

The hit to the Seahawks was immediate and obvious. Bottom line was: the Seahawks were never the same again, and didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl until the 2013 season (with an all-new regime and set of superstars at the helm).

#7 – The Erik Bedard Trade

There’s no need to clarify; we all know which Bedard trade I’m talking about. In February of 2008, we gave up Adam Jones (5-time All Star center fielder; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), Chris Tillman (an All Star starting pitcher who would go on to have a 38-16 record from 2012-2014; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), and George Sherrill (an All Star reliever who would save 52 games from 2008-2009; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), among two other stiffs.

What we got back in return was a starter in Bedard who – like Lee before him – was brought in to be paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez, coming off of a winning 2007 season. Instead, we got a guy who could never really stay healthy, whose style constantly saw his pitch counts inflated early in games, which meant you could only count on him for about 5 innings per start at best. On top of that, there were rumors abound about how he didn’t really give a shit about baseball or winning and was just in it for the paycheck (more power to you, I guess). He sucked so hard, the Mariners couldn’t even flip him for any semblance of value, which meant Bedard had to go down with the sinking ship that is our Mariners existence. On the plus side, this was the final straw to getting Bill Bavasi fired (on the down side, see: Jackie Z)

#6 – The Lowe/Varitek Trade

Woody Woodward stumbled into a lot of success in his tenure as GM of the Mariners. To our dismay, he had no idea what to do with this team once we started reaching those heights.

The 1997 Mariners were a fun bunch. Tons of heavy hitters all up and down the lineup. Led by Randy Johnson, the starting pitching was good enough to take us all the way, assuming the hitters hit and the relievers didn’t totally shit the bed.

As you might have guessed, there was A LOT of bed shitting in 1997; worst year for bed shitting I’ve ever seen, if I’m being honest! Woody Woodward, not knowing what he was doing or how he could rectify the problem, made two of the worst panic-deals for three of the worst relief pitchers I can imagine. The absolute worst was sending Derek Lowe (a 2-time All Star who would go on to win 176 games in his 17-year career) and Jason Varitek (a 3-time All Star catcher for the Red Sox over 15 seasons) for Heathcliff Slocumb (a turd).

Like most of these deals, this one wasn’t helpful in the short term (the M’s would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs) and it was an outright disaster in the long-term (we either could’ve had two great players for the next decade, or at least flipped them for better players/prospects).

#5 – Jim McIlvaine Signing

Really the beginning of the end of the great run of Supersonics teams of the 90’s. Almost immediately following our hard-fought defeat in the NBA Finals to the greatest team of all time in six games, the Sonics looked like a team that could easily run it back and re-join the Bulls the very next year. You could argue center was our weakest spot on a team riddled with strengths all the way up and down the roster. So, enter Jim McIlvaine – a guy who had done NOTHING to that point – on a 7-year, $33.6 million deal (which was a lot at the time, trust me). He had a whopping TWO years under his belt at that point, as a reserve on the Washington Bullets, where his big claim to fame was averaging a hair over 2 blocks per game the year before in just under 15 minutes per.

This ungodly amount of money – for a guy who’d proven nothing in his brief pro career – obviously angered a lot of players on the Sonics, particularly Shawn Kemp, who effectively forced his way off the team in a deal that would bring in Vin Baker. Now, you can argue both Kemp and Baker – particularly after the strike season – did a lot to damage their own careers as we headed into the new Willennium, so who’s to say what would’ve happened to the Sonics had we gone in a different direction?

All I know is, McIlvaine instantly became entrenched in the starting lineup his first year with us, averaging 18 of the most worthless minutes of each and every game he was in, bringing NOTHING to the table. He actively made the team worse with his play alone, regardless of what happened to the chemistry in the locker room (which is exceedingly important in the NBA, with how long the season is, and how many games they have to play). We ended up losing in 7 games to the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals, and that was as good as it got for the rest of the decade.

#4 – Randy Johnson Trade

I did a deep dive on this a few years ago that you can check out (as chance would have it, a lot of these other blunders find their way into this piece!), but the bottom line is this: the Mariners were cheap, and Randy Johnson’s best years were still AHEAD of him.

Moreover, I would argue that while the value looked pretty good at the time – indeed, two starting pitchers and a starting infielder isn’t a bad return – the very best Mariners teams of 2000 & 2001 were in such desperate need for a true #1 ace, that Randy Johnson would’ve been perfect for those teams. I’m sorry, I like Freddy Garcia as much as the next guy, but he’s no Randy. Randy who would go on to win four Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002 (again, the years where the Mariners were playing the very best ball in franchise history); you don’t think he could’ve helped those teams get over the hump, and maybe even win a World Series title?

#3 – Not Drafting Brett Favre

Chuck Knox ran the Seahawks efficiently and to the best of his abilities from 1983-1991. You could argue he got more than anyone could’ve expected him to out of a bunch of ragtag guys, especially with at best a mediocre quarterback in Dave Krieg. When it finally came time to move on, Knox had one man in mind in the 1991 NFL Draft: Brett Favre. Ownership, however, refused to see it, and refused to listen to their legendary head coach, opting to go with Dan McGwire with the 16th overall pick (Favre would fall to the Falcons in the second round).

See, McGwire was 6’8. You know, that insanely crazy height that no NFL teams want, because it’s too damn tall to be an effective quarterback? If you don’t remember McGwire, you’re lucky; he was trash. Knox would leave the Seahawks following the 1991 season, and immediately we’d fall to such lows that we’d have to draft yet another dud in 1993 (Rick Mirer, with the #2 overall pick, after losing an opportunity to draft Drew Bledsoe). That went on to cost us the rest of the 90’s, before Mike Holmgren came to town and properly revived this franchise. Had we had Brett Favre? Who knows?! There’s an alternate universe out there where the Seahawks were one of the great teams of the 1990’s.

By that same token, there’s an alternate universe out there where we had to deal with Favre constantly threatening to retire, then return, then retire, and so on. So, maybe we lucked out in the long run?

#2 – Not Properly Renovating Key Arena

By the early 1990’s, the Seattle Center Coliseum was in shambles. Teams around the league were updating their own arenas and it was time for Seattle to join in. Unfortunately – even though this was set up prior to the Kingdome implosion being a twinkle in any of our eyes – the city and county ultimately went the cheap, tight-ass route in renovating the arena. By the time it re-opened in 1995 – while it was a fine place to enjoy a basketball game, from a fan perspective – it was already out-of-date by NBA standards, and apparently impossible to derive any sort of profit from, again by NBA standards.

Say what you will about the league, or about tax payers funding sports venues, but you can’t deny the fact that the Sonics were the first in this city to start the trend of venue renovations, and they fucking blew it HARD. By the time subsequent ownership groups demanded the funds for a proper NBA facility, the Seahawks and Mariners had already gotten brand new stadia. Considering it had been such a short time since the opening of Key Arena, combined with public fatigue over the matter, it’s not shocking in the slightest that the Sonics were shot down.

You could obviously argue the biggest blunder was selling the Sonics to Howard Schultz, or the Schultz Group buying the load of horseshit from the OKC people. But, all of that stems from the inferior building that was presented to the world ahead of the 1995 season. Had we just gotten THAT right, everything else would’ve fallen into proper order, and we’d still have our fucking basketball team. Instead, 25+ years later, we’re finally getting around to doing what we should’ve done then, and for our troubles we get the NHL instead. An okay consolation prize, but obviously not what I’d prefer.

#1 – Slant At The Goalline

It’s hard to top losing a fucking NBA franchise on the list of biggest sports blunders, but costing your team a championship in the most demoralizing way possible? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

I would hope, by now, that consensus has found its head when it comes to the decision to throw in that scenario. The Seahawks had one time out remaining, it was second down. Run it and fail, and we’ve got zero time outs and they know we’re throwing two consecutive times (considering how that play ended up, you can’t tell me it wasn’t on the docket for at least one of those possible attempts).

Long story short: throwing was the correct call. Throwing a fucking SLANT at the goalline, to a fourth receiver in Ricardo Lockette (shades of the Bannister play up top), was absolutely the biggest blunder in Seattle sports history.

If you’re going to throw a slant, throw it to Baldwin or Kearse! But, no, DON’T THROW A SLANT! Throw literally anything else! Throw a fade to Chris Matthews – who, to that point, had been carving up the Patriots’ defense – or shit, just throw the ball 30 yards out of bounds! Anything but that!

Okay, that’s all. I have to go lay down now. Where’s my fainting couch?!

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.

Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings

Editor’s NoteThis is the original blog post.  If you want to see the comprehensive list, click HERE.  I update the master list semi-regularly, whenever I can find the time.

You don’t become a city that’s gone 32 years (and counting) between professional sports championships without a little help along the way.  I don’t know everything there is to know about all the other cities with pro teams; hell, I don’t even know everything there is to know about Seattle’s sports history … but I have to figure we’re at least in the top two as far as player personnel incompetence is concerned.

The following is a timeline of all the botched trades, busted draft picks, and lousy free agent signings that have befallen this city, at least since I started becoming a sports fan.  I’m gonna throw this thing in the ol’ menu bar at the top and the plan is to update it continuously.  Obviously, it’ll never be complete, so I thoroughly encourage any suggestions.

April 28, 1987 – (Seahawks) – Brian Bosworth, 1st Round Supplemental Draft Pick:  the Seahawks went big on the defensive side of the ball in this draft, highlighted by the pick of Brian Bosworth out of Oklahoma at the end of the 1st round (I don’t know what happened to the Supplemental Round draft picks, so don’t look to me for an explanation here).  I don’t know what it says about Bosworth, but the Seahawks also went after the linebacker position right before and after The Boz, with Tony Woods and David Wyman.  It says all that needs to be said, however, that both of those guys would have better professional careers.  But, did either of those guys star in “Stone Cold“?  I think I rest my case.

April 23, 1988 – (Seahawks) – Undisclosed Draft Picks to Phoenix Cardinals for Kelly Stouffer:  it’s difficult to peg down exactly which picks we gave up to get this stiff, but rest assured that Kelly Stouffer was the beginning of the end for the Seahawks.  We got a taste of glory in the 80s under Chuck Knox, with Dave Krieg at the helm and Steve Largent breaking all the receiving records later to be broken by Jerry Rice.  But, as we looked to a new decade, it was apparent that Quarterback would be a position of need that we needed to fill.  Starting with Stouffer, culminating with Rick Mirer, and still unsettled until Matt Hasselbeck took charge late in the 2002 season, the Seahawks were a blind franchise in an unforgiving wilderness for the entirety of the 1990s.  All you need to know about Kelly Stouffer is that he held out his rookie season with the Cardinals due to a contract dispute.  Then, the Seahawks tried to trade local legend Kenny Easley to get him, except Easley couldn’t pass the physical due to failing kidneys.  We finally got our man, only to find out our man was good for a mere 2,333 yards in 22 games over 4 seasons, with 7 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

April 21, 1991 – (Seahawks) – Dan McGwire, 1st Round Draft Pick:  17 picks later, the Atlanta Falcons would select future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.  Little known fact:  Seahawks head coach Chuck Knox WANTED to draft Brett Favre.  Unfortunately, the Seahawks brass couldn’t be bothered with such matters, instead finding McGwire’s 6 foot 8 inch frame to be simply irresistible.  Our “Quarterback of the Future” ended his Seahawks career after the 1994 season having thrown for 745 yards in 12 games with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

April 25, 1993 – (Seahawks) – Rick Mirer, 1st Round Draft Pick:  we’ll always remember this as our golden opportunity to grab Drew Bledsoe first overall.  Unfortunately, in week 3 of the 1992 season (on our way to a 2-14 finish), the Seahawks just HAD to go into New England and beat the Patriots 10-6 (who would also go on to finish 2-14).  The Pats had the Number 1 pick as a result, and we settled for Rick Mirer.  It should be noted that this was a particularly brutal year for incoming quarterbacks; though if we’d been a little patient, there was a 5th rounder by the name of Mark Brunell who was grabbed by the Packers and went on to bigger and better things with the Jaguars.  Rick Mirer, on the other hand, ended his 4-year Seahawks career with 41 touchdowns and 56 interceptions, getting worse each and every year.  On a positive note, one of the best trades in franchise history involved us unloading Mirer to the Bears for a first round pick we would use to trade up and get Shawn Springs.  So, it’s hard to hate on the guy TOO much.

December 10, 1993 – (Mariners) – Mike Hampton & Mike Felder to Houston Astros for Eric Anthony:  think Mike Hampton would’ve been a nice pitcher to have on all those pitching-starved teams of the late 90s?  No, I don’t remember Eric Anthony either.

December 20, 1993 – (Mariners) – Omar Vizquel to Cleveland Indians for Felix Fermin & Reggie Jefferson:  honestly, I don’t know WHAT we were thinking on this one.  But, just 10 days after we made Mike Hampton a throw-in to a deal, we gave up Little-O for the equivalent of TWO throw-ins.  Neither of whom would ever make a dent.  That’s a bad fortnight for the Seattle Mariners.

February 25, 1994 – (Seahawks) – Nate Odomes signs 4-year, $8.4 million deal:  I know the money doesn’t sound like a lot NOW, but back then that was a hefty price, especially for a cornerback.  But, Odomes was one of the best while he played for the Bills.  He was a Pro Bowler in ’92 and ’93, he had 19 interceptions from ’91-’93, and he was a guy other teams had to throw away from!  Then, a few months later, he blew out his knee in a charity basketball game, missed all of 1994.  THEN, he re-injured the same knee in training camp and missed all of 1995!  We had him for 2 seasons, he never played a down for us, and ended up walking away with $4+ million.  The long, lost, forgotten Seahawk Nate Odomes might go down as the worst free agent signing in team history.

December 7, 1995 – (Mariners) – Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir & Jeff Nelson to New York Yankees for Sterling Hitchcock & Russ Davis:  *sigh*.  So, we traded a first baseman in the beginning of his prime, and one of the best set-up men of the next DECADE for a couple of AAAA guys with huge flaws to their game.  Hitchcock would forever be a disappointment, and Russ Davis would go on to be one of the worst defensive third basemen I’ve ever seen.  I don’t care what anyone says, ultimately for what we gave away, this trade only rivals the Lowe/Varitek debacle for most completely idiotic in team history.

September 13, 1996 – (Mariners) – David Arias to Minnesota Twins for Dave Hollins:  we all know him as David Ortiz, and in 1996 we had him in our farm system.  I guess we all know what the Twins saw in him; too bad we didn’t see the same, otherwise maybe we wouldn’t have had this revolving door at first base and DH ever since Edgar and Olerud retired.

July 31, 1997 – (Mariners) – Derek Lowe & Jason Varitek to Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb:  here we are, the mother of all bad trades.  Now, these two may not have been hall of famers, but they’re legends in Boston since they both helped to bring a world championship to town in 2004.  Meanwhile, Heathcliff Slocumb was the BEST we could do at the time?  We knew he was crap when we got him, yet HE was all we could get???  My fondest memory of Heathcliff Slocumb was when I was in the Kingdome as we clinched the AL West later that season.  My least fond memory of Heathcliff Slocumb was every time I saw a Red Sox game with Derek Lowe & Jason Varitek.

July 31, 1997 – (Mariners) – Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto Blue Jays for Paul Spoljaric & Mike Timlin:  do you know what kind of disaster area the Seattle Mariners bullpen was in 1997?  It single-handedly caused Woody Woodward to lose his fucking mind at the trading deadline.  On the same day he would make the single worst Mariners trade ever, he also shipped off highly-touted prospect (probably the highest touting since A-Rod) for two pieces of dog meat.  On the one hand, could you blame him?  I mean, Norm Charlton and Bobby Ayala led the team in appearances that year with 71(!) apiece.  Of course, on the other hand, Woody Woodward was a huge dope on this day, a day that will live on in infamy.

2000 – (Seahawks) – Ahman Green & 5th Round Pick to Green Bay Packers for Fred Vinson & 6th Round Pick:  can’t seem to lock down an official date for this one, but figure it was sometime before April 16th in the year 2000.  The late-round picks were a wash; neither worked out for either team.  However, Fred Vinson was a total bust while Ahman Green would go on to lead the Packers in rushing.  Granted, we still had Shaun Alexander, but we still should’ve gotten more for such a stud.

July 31, 2000 – (Mariners) – John Mabry & Tom Davey to San Diego Padres for Al Martin:  this trade isn’t necessarily bad for the guys we gave away; neither meant all that much to me personally, nor did they go on to have outstanding careers after they left.  But, this trade was the epitome of the Pat Gillick era in Seattle.  Pat Gillick was a brilliant baseball man who did wonderful things in Toronto in the early 90s (2 World Series championships) and he would go on to do wonderful things in Philly (2008 title).  But, in Seattle, it wasn’t in the cards, and it was because of trades like this.  Or, more accurately, the LACK of trades period.  I don’t hate Al Martin because he sucked.  I hate Al Martin because he wasn’t someone better.  Pat Gillick needed to go out and get us a quality bat, consequences be damned.  Instead, he got Al Martin and in the year 2000, the Seattle Mariners went nowhere.

December 16, 2001 – (Mariners) – Brian Fuentes, Jose Paniagua & Denny Stark to Colorado Rockies for Jeff Cirillo:  a couple months after we finished the regular season with the most wins in the modern era, we felt it necessary to keep on tinkering.  Forget the fact we probably could’ve used a starting pitcher more; we had to go out and get Jeff Cirillo – a guy who had shown he could hit in Coors Field and nowhere else.  A guy who, in spite of playing in such a bandbox, had a career high of only 17 homers the year before he came here.  What happened next?  Well, we stuck him in Safeco Field and he hit .234 over two seasons.  Just one of many National Leaguers we’ve brought to the American League over the years who absolutely fell off the map.

April 20, 2002 – (Seahawks) – Jerramy Stevens, 1st Round Draft Pick:  a loaded draft for the tight end position … and the Seahawks got Public Enemy #1.  Jerramy Stevens was a bust because you could argue he was the biggest reason we lost Super Bowl XL (I know that’s what I would argue, anyway).  But, forget all that.  He’s a bust plain and simple because he probably had more God-given ability than any other tight end in that draft (with Jeremy Shockey and Daniel Graham going before him; Chris Baker and Randy McMichael going after him), yet he squandered it all away because he couldn’t stay out of trouble and had the work-ethic of a wino on skid row.  He’s the only Husky I’ll forever hate, and on this day the Seahawks made a tremendous mistake.

March 4, 2004 – (Seahawks) – Grant Wistrom signs 6-year, $33 million deal:  and out of that we got 3 seasons before biting the bullet and cutting him.  He “earned” $21 million in that time; for our trouble we got back a whopping 11.5 sacks.  Or, just a little under $2 million per sack.  This was a signing you could easily loathe from the beginning.  After it was all said and done, we traded in for a younger version of the white defensive end:  Patrick Kerney.  But, Wistrom was by FAR the worse of the two.

June 27, 2004 – (Mariners) – Freddy Garcia & Ben Davis to Chicago White Sox for Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse & Miguel Olivo:  it was the right time to trade the Chief, his stock would never be higher again and we were in the midst of a total organizational meltdown.  2004 was the beginning of a long slide into futility for the Mariners; what we needed at the time were some prospects who could come in and lift us back to prominence.  Olivo was supposed to be our catcher of the future, Reed was supposed to lock down left field for the next decade, and Mike Morse should’ve been a solid utility guy.  Instead, Olivo was (and still is) a dud, Reed never panned out, and Morse has always turned into a pumpkin whenever the calendar flips to April.

February 23, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Steve Hutchinson assigned Transition Tag:  this was the beginning of the end for Tim Ruskell.  The Seahawks saved a little less than $600,000 in cap room, but in the process initiated one of the most notorious swindles in recent memory.  One month later, Hutchinson would be a Minnesota Viking thanks to their Poison Pill-laced contract, and the Seahawks would descend into the abyss thanks to a below-average offensive line.  For a team that had just made its first Super Bowl thanks to that very amazing offensive line, losing Hutch would be heartbreaking.  And it would also lead to one of the more hilarious retaliatory signings ever.

March 20, 2006 – (Mariners) – Matt Thornton to Chicago White Sox for Joe Borchard:  an eye for talent:  Bill Bavasi lacked it.  Joe Borchard sounds like a name that would suck at baseball.  Matt Thornton, meanwhile, has been a pretty lockdown reliever for the Sox ever since.  Too bad he never made good on any of his promise while a Mariner.

March 24, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Nate Burleson signs 7-year, $49 million deal:  granted, it would turn out that Burleson never got anything approaching $49 million (that was the Poison Pill number we put on to rub it in Minnesota’s face), but essentially Burleson was a huge trade-down compared to what we lost in Steve Hutchinson.  It’s not an unforgivable signing; Nate was a highly productive return man and a moderately productive receiver.  But, we’ll never be able to separate Nate’s signing from Hutch’s loss.

June 30, 2006 – (Mariners) – Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland Indians for Eduardo Perez:  BAVASI!!!!  Hold on, it gets better …

July 26, 2006 – (Mariners) – Shin-Soo Choo to Cleveland Indians for Ben Broussard:  my best guess is that Bavasi was secretly on the Indians’ payroll in 2006.

September 11, 2006 – (Seahawks) – 1st Round Pick in 2007 to New England Patriots for Deion Branch:  the draft pick turned into Brandon Meriweather, who made two Pro Bowls.  Deion Branch signed a lucrative 6-year, $39 million contract with the Seahawks and proceeded to be a collosal disappointment until he was finally traded back to the Patriots in 2010 and everyone in Seattle rejoiced.  End result:  a 1st round pick for a 4th round pick, ye gods!

December 7, 2006 – (Mariners) – Rafael Soriano to Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez:  just a stellar cap to a 2006 calendar year for Bill Bavasi.  Why he was allowed to run the club for the next season and a half is beyond me.

February 8, 2008 – (Mariners) – Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio & Tony Butler to Baltimore Orioles for Erik Bedard:  at the time, I could defend this one; then we realized what we got in Erik Bedard.  So many injuries.  So many millions for nary a game played.  Somehow, Bedard is still here, but he’ll never be the guy who was worth five prospects.  Meanwhile, Adam Jones looks like he’s got a long, successful career in him.  Still, this isn’t the worst trade ever – as it’s said to be in many circles.  But, it’s pretty bad.

March 2, 2009 – (Seahawks) – T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs 5-year, $40 million deal:  and by September of 2010, T.J. Houshmandzadeh was cut.  What we’ll always remember about Housh are his 3 touchdowns over his lone season with the team, and of course, his tantrums and tirades over not getting the ball thrown his way enough.  Of course, there’s the $6+ million we paid him just to go away.  We signed him in hopes of getting a Number 1 receiver, failing to recognize his declining skills and utter inability to go down and catch the deep ball.  Live and learn, I guess.