1970s and 1980sEdit
The Mariners were created as a direct result of a lawsuit. In 1970, in the aftermath of the Seattle Pilots purchase and relocation to Milwaukee by future Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, the City of Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington (led by attorney general and future U.S. Senator Slade Gorton) sued the American League for breach of contract. They asserted that the AL invested time and resources into trying to make major league baseball work in Seattle, and reneged on the deal with the sale of the Pilots to Selig. The suit requested $32 million in damages resulting from the loss of the Pilots.
The lawsuit continued until 1976. At trial, the American League offered to give Seattle an expansion baseball franchise in return for dropping the suit. The details were ironed out over the next year. As a result, the Mariners franchise (along with the Toronto Blue Jays) was established in 1976, for play beginning in 1977. Legendary entertainer Danny Kaye was part of the ownership group.
The Kingdome, the Mariners' first stadium, which was originally intended as the home for the Pilots (some of the 1969 Pilots game programs had artist renderings of a domed stadium on the cover), was in large part the result of the "Forward Thrust" bond issue passed by King County voters in 1969,
The Mariners played their first game on April 6 1977 to a sold-out crowd of 57,762 at the Kingdome. They lost 7-0 to the California Angels. The early history of the team during the 1970s and 1980s is characterized by perennial non-achievement. The Mariners finished last or next-to-last in their division in 10 of their first 13 seasons, and did not record a winning season until 1991.
In the team's inaugural season of 1977, pitcher Diego Segui, in his last major league season, became the only player to play for both the Pilots and the Mariners.
Despite having stars such as Gaylord Perry (the famed spitballer, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, spent the final two years of his 20+ season career with Seattle and was given the nickname "The Ancient Mariner"), Alvin Davis (American League Rookie of the Year (1984)), Harold Reynolds (two-time All-Star (1987-88) and three-time Gold-Glover (1988-90)), and Mark Langston (league-leader in strikeouts pitched (1984, 1986-87)), the team gained a reputation for poor performances and losing records. Highlights of the early years included hosting the 1979 All-Star Game, Gaylord Perry's 300th career win in 1982, Jim Presley's 10th inning game-winning grand slam on opening day in 1986 (this coming after he tied the game with a two run homer in the ninth), cannon-blasts from the "USS Mariner" behind the center field wall following home runs by the home team, appearances by Morganna the kissing-bandit, and promotions such as "Funny Nose Glasses Night." One notable lowlight was Roger Clemens's record-setting performance on April 29, 1986, when he struck out 20 Mariners on the way to defeating them 3-1, setting what was then the all-time single-game strikeout record and becoming the first pitcher ever to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
The rookie season (1989) of center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., acquired with the 1st pick in the 1st round of the 1987 amateur draft, gave fans hope that a change of fortunes might be on the horizon. Acclaimed as one of the most talented young athletes in all of baseball, Griffey's combination of charisma, stellar defensive ability, hitting power, and baserunning speed made him one of baseball's preeminent superstars of the 1990s, and helped to steer the Mariners to much greater success during his 11 seasons in Seattle.
After yet another dismal performance in 1990, the Mariners managed their first winning season in 1991, finishing 83-79 under manager Jim Lefebvre. Though it was the team's best season up to that point, it was only good enough for a fifth place finish in their seven-team division, and Lefebvre was fired. Bill Plummer was hired as manager for the 1992 season, but lasted only one year. During the following offseason, the Mariners hired manager Lou Piniella, who had managed the Cincinnati Reds to victory in the 1990 World Series. Mariner fans embraced Piniella, and he would end up managing the team from 1993 through 2002, winning two American League Manager of the Year Awards.
The Mariners' fortunes began to improve in 1994. The team had added a core of strong players built around center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., pitcher Randy Johnson and designated hitter Edgar Martinez. But, ironically, the emergence of the team from the disaster that symbolized their history may have been precipitated by a disaster of a different sort. On July 19, 1994, four 15-pound ceiling tiles crashed down from the Kingdome roof, setting in motion one of the more bizarre chapters in Mariners history, one that, at the time, threatened the future of baseball in Seattle, although it may ultimately have helped to save it. The incident also further inflamed the debate about the Kingdome's suitability as a baseball facility and the Mariners' quest for a new stadium, eventually leading to the construction of Safeco Field. While repairs were being carried out on the Kingdome, the team was forced to play its longest road trip ever — 20 games in 21 days, spanning 10,425 miles. Options such as playing home games at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium and Vancouver's BC Place were explored and dismissed, mostly because the players association decided (after specific complaints by the California Angels) that its members shouldn't play anywhere but at major-league parks. The long trip got off to a terrible start as the Mariners started off 2-8. Suddenly, however, despite the circumstances, the Mariners' young foundation of Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez began to come together. After winning nine of their next ten games, the Mariners were just 2 games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers when a players' strike was called on August 12 that resulted in the cancellation the rest of the season. Many players felt the time together on the road and the overcoming of the adversity faced that season fed directly into the success the team would achieve in the 1995 season.
1995 Miracle season: "Refuse to lose"Edit
Although pitchers Randy Johnson, Bill Risley, and Bobby Ayala combined for an opening-day three-hit shutout, the Mariners' 1995 season started off on a bad note overall, as Griffey sustained a major early-season injury. Despite this loss, the Mariners continued to play fairly well. In mid-August, however, the Mariners appeared to be out of contention, 13 games behind the first-place California Angels.
The tide would turn with a September winning streak marked by late-inning comeback wins, which led to the slogan "Refuse to Lose". Combined with a losing streak by the Angels, this opened the way for the Mariners to tie the Angels for first place on the last day of the season, forcing a one-game playoff. The playoff pitted Johnson against Angels ace Mark Langston, whom, incidentally, the Mariners had traded for Johnson in 1989. The Mariners won the tiebreaker game 9-1 and clinched their first-ever trip to the playoffs. The Mariners, remarkably, had won 25 of their last 36 games.
The Mariners lost the first two games of the ALDS against the New York Yankees, but managed to win the next two at home and force a decisive game 5. Down 5-4 in the bottom of the 11th inning, one of the most memorable moments in Mariners history took place. Edgar Martinez hit a game-winning double off Yankee ace Jack McDowell, scoring Joey Cora and Griffey to win the game 6-5 and advance to the American League Championship Series. "The Double", as Martinez's clutch hit has since been called by Mariners fans, is credited as being the moment that "saved baseball in Seattle" by generating interest in the team and making a new, baseball-only stadium possible.
Many die-hard Mariners fans can still recite commentator Dave Niehaus' call on the play: "The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship! I don't believe it, it just continues, My oh My!!!" Unfortunately, the Mariners' memorable championship run was halted in the ALCS by another up-and-coming club, Mike Hargrove's Cleveland Indians, who won the series 4 games to 2. 1995 is fondly remembered as "The Magical Season" with "The Double" still considered by many the greatest moment in Mariners history.
In 1996, the Mariners, led by Griffey, rookie shortstop Alex Rodriguez, and sluggers Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, won a then-team record 85 games, but missed the playoffs. The juggernaut offense set the all-time record for most home runs by a team in a season, but ultimately the Mariners' inconsistent pitching, exacerbated by a midseason injury to Randy Johnson, doomed the team.
The Mariners won the division title again in 1997, but were defeated in the ALDS 3 games to 1 by the Baltimore Orioles. They were again hurt by a lack of pitching depth to complement the outstanding offense, which was, as usual, led by Griffey, who won the MVP award, a first for both him and the Mariners.
In 1998 and 1999, the Mariners had losing records due primarily to their lack of pitching depth. Randy Johnson was traded at the 1998 July non-waiver trading deadline to the Houston Astros after being inconsistent in the first half of the season; some fans and press thought he was trying to force a trade through malaise. Strong pitching from aces Jeff Fassero and Jamie Moyer was not enough to fully offset the loss, and the bullpen's struggles continued. Midway through the 1999 season, the Mariners moved to SAFECO Field. After the 1999 season, Ken Griffey, Jr. requested and attained a trade to the Cincinnati Reds, leaving Alex Rodriguez as the face of the franchise at the beginning of the SAFECO Field era.
2000 was a return to respectability for the Mariners. They finished half a game behind Oakland Athletics in the AL West, as they played only 161 games. The tiebreaking rules had already awarded the division crown to Oakland, so the rained out 162nd game was not made up, and the Mariners were declared wild card winners. While Ken Griffey, Jr. was no longer patrolling center or lurking in the middle of the batting order, he was adequately replaced by the incredible glovework and solid hitting of new center fielder Mike Cameron. Alex Rodriguez replaced Junior as the face of the franchise and Edgar Martinez provided his usual excellent hitting in the cleanup spot. Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, and Aaron Sele anchored what was easily the best rotation in Seattle since the departure of Randy Johnson. Closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, a star for the Japanese Yokohama BayStars, won the AL Rookie of the Year award. Stolen base king Rickey Henderson was acquired midseason and filled a longtime need in left field. The Mariners swept the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS, but lost to the New York Yankees in six games in the ALCS.
The following offseason was as important as any in Mariners history, as Rodríguez was up for free agency. Ultimately, Rodríguez was lost to the Texas Rangers for what was then the richest contract ever in professional sports. However, the Mariners were able to weather the loss by adding Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki and slick fielding, power hitting second base veteran Bret Boone.
2001: 116 win seasonEdit
In 2001, despite the loss of Rodríguez (He would be greeted on his return to Safeco with Monopoly money dropped by irate Seattle fans, and on subsequent returns by incessant booing), the addition of Ichiro and a career season by Boone helped the Mariners to the most successful regular season on record in the modern era. The 2001 Mariners led the major leagues in winning percentage all season long, easily winning the American League West championship and matching the previous Major League Baseball record for single season wins of 116 set by the Chicago Cubs in 1906. At the end of the season, Ichiro won the AL MVP, AL Rookie of the Year, and one of three outfield Gold Glove Awards, becoming the first player since the 1975 Boston Red Sox's Fred Lynn to win all three in the same season. The Mariners pulled off a come-from-behind 3-2 series win over the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series to advance to the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, but succumbed to the Yankees for the second year in a row in the ALCS, 4 games to 1, in a hard-fought series, which had been postponed due to the terrorist attacks on September 11th. The Mariners also hosted the All-Star Game that year, and had a league-leading and team record eight All-Stars: RF Ichiro Suzuki, DH Edgar Martinez, CF Mike Cameron, 2B Bret Boone, 1B John Olerud, and pitchers Freddy Garcia, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Jeff Nelson.
The Mariners started the 2002 season hot (they were on pace to win 100+ games again well into the summer), but they missed out on the playoffs due to their failure to find a substantial contributor at the trade deadline and hot streaks by the Anaheim Angels and Oakland Athletics in the later months of the season. Ultimately, the Angels won the World Series as the Mariners won 93 games, which was still the second best total in their history. At the end of the season, manager Lou Piniella left the Mariners to manage his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays, reportedly due to his anger with the management policy of investing in low quality free agents and refusing to make late-season trades. The Mariners signed Bob Melvin to be their new manager. The local press speculated that a first year manager (especially one of Melvin's temperament) would be easier for the front office and ownership to control.
The Mariners again got off to an excellent start in the 2003 season. They Mariners contended all season long and reached the same record as in 2002, but were again beat to the playoffs by their division rival Oakland Athletics. Their failure to make the playoffs was again blamed on management's failure to bring in a bat at the trading deadline and the aging roster's decline. General manager Pat Gillick became a consultant midway through the offseason to make room for new GM Bill Bavasi.
2004-Present: Fall from annual contentionEdit
With the exception of the 1998 and 1999 seasons, the Mariners had been annual challengers for the AL West title from 1995 to 2003. The 2004 season, however, saw the fall of the Mariners from contention. Although many of their players were aging, the Mariners continued an apparent practice of "content to contend," starting the 2004 season having not made a major deal in three years. The team lost their first five games and went into the All-Star Break with a 9-game losing streak, a 32-54 season record (.372), and 17 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers. After the All-Star break, unable to ignore the dreadful state of their team, the Mariners gave the team a complete overhaul, moving aging and unproven players away from center stage (the most notable move was trading Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox for Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed, and Mike Morse, all of whom started at some point in 2005) and inserting over a dozen minor league call-ups into the 25-man roster. The season's end was enlivened by Ichiro breaking George Sisler's single season record of 257 hits (finishing with 262) and by events honoring the retirement of Mariner icon Edgar Martinez. Just days after the end of the season, the Mariners fired Melvin. On October 20, 2004, the Mariners announced the signing of their new manager, Mike Hargrove, the manager who had led the Cleveland Indians past the Mariners in the 1995 ALCS. In the offseason, the Mariners and Bavasi surprised fans and the local press by signing two premier free agents, third baseman Adrian Beltre and first baseman Richie Sexson, ending accusations that the organization was only willing to make piecemeal signings and trades.
Despite many changes and large player signings touted by the Mariners ownership after the 2004 season, the team stayed at the bottom of the divisional standings throughout the 2005 season and finished in last place, though they improved their record by six games compared to the previous year. The brightest spot of the season was the emergence of the vaunted 19-year-old Venezuelan pitching prospect "King" Felix Hernandez (it was generally agreed that he was baseball's overall best pitching prospect) who became the youngest major leaguer to debut since Jose Rijo of the New York Yankees entered the league at the age of nineteen in 1984. Unfortunately, stars Ichiro and Beltre failed to match their levels of production from 2004. Sexson, however exceeded expectations with 39 home runs and 121 RBI. Aside from Hernandez, some promising rookie middle infielders became part of the Mariners' long term plans: Cuban defector, shortstop and defensive wizard Yuniesky Betancourt and Venezuelan second baseman and former top prospect Jose Lopez became next season's starters. However, the Mariners' rotation beyond Hernandez and the aging Jamie Moyer was poor, and the Mariners suffered the embarassment of having the most suspendees under MLB's new drug testing policy, notably pitcher Ryan Franklin and Morse. Fan attendance also declined significantly. Being placed on the bottom of the division distorted the harmony in the locker room. During the 2005-06 off-season, Ichiro, despite his well-known calmness, spoke out and criticized the team's attitude, pointing out its lack of leadership and manager Hargrove's failure to harness players. The Mariners realized that, in order to return to respectability and avoid losing money, they had to make a splash in the weak free agent and trade markets in the winter, particularly in regard to the rotation.
The Mariners began the 2005-2006 off-season by signing Japan's top catcher, Kenji Johjima, to a 3-year deal and left-handed starter Jarrod Washburn (formerly of division rival Los Angeles) to a 4-year deal. Designated hitter Carl Everett and Matt Lawton also joined the team. At the All-Star break, the Mariners looked good, only 2 and a half games back in the AL West at the time, and having just achieved a tie for the third-best interleague record in baseball, going 14-4. However, for the season, the Mariners record stood at 43-46, having lost 5 of 6 heading into the All-Star break. The Mariners relative success before the All-Star break does not seem to have continued into the second half, and the Mariners, at 12 games back in mid-August, appear once again not to be in playoff contention, barring a 1995-like finish.
|1977||64-98||.395||6th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1978||56-104||.350||7th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1979||67-95||.414||6th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1980||59-103||.364||7th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1981||44-65||.404||6th/5th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1982||76-86||.469||4th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1983||60-102||.370||7th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1984||74-88||.457||5th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1985||74-88||.457||6th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1986||67-95||.414||7th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1987||78-84||.481||4th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1988||68-93||.422||7th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1989||73-89||.451||6th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1990||77-85||.457||5th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1991||83-79||.512||5th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1992||64-98||.395||7th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1993||82-80||.506||4th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1994||49-63||.438||3rd in AL West||Playoffs not held|
|1995||79-66||.545||1st in AL West||Won ALDS vs New York Yankees, 3-2.|
|1996||85-76||.528||2nd in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1997||90-72||.556||1st in AL West||Lost ALDS to Baltimore Orioles, 1-3.|
|1998||76-85||.472||3rd in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|1999||79-83||.488||3rd in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|2000||91-71||.562||2nd in AL West||Won wild card (AL 4th seed)|
|2001||116-46||.716||1st in AL West||Won ALDS vs Cleveland Indians, 3-2.|
|2002||93-69||.574||3rd in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|2003||93-69||.574||2nd in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|2004||63-99||.389||4th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
|2005||69-93||.426||4th in AL West||Did not make playoffs|
- Founded: 1977 (American League expansion)
- Uniform colors: Navy blue, northwest green (teal), and metallic silver
- Logo design: A baseball on a rose compass. (Original logo: a blue trident-shaped "M")
- Mascot: The Mariner Moose
- Current ownership: Nintendo of America (majority shareholder; represented by Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, reporting to former Nintendo chairman and former majority shareholder Hiroshi Yamauchi)
- Spring Training Facility: Peoria Sports Complex, Peoria, AZ
- Playoff appearances (4): 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001
- Local television: Fox Sports Northwest, KSTW
- TV Fact: During the early years, the Mariners only appeared on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week twice: in 1979 and 1981, both on the road, in Boston and Detroit. NBC never broadcasted a Saturday afternoon game in the Kingdome.
Mariners Hall of FameEdit
The team has a Mariners Hall of Fame, with the following members:
The Seattle Mariners have not retired any uniform numbers. It is stated Mariners policy that only players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played for at least five years with the Mariners, or career Mariners players who narrowly avoid election, will have their numbers officially retired.
As far as unofficial retirement, the team has not reissued the number 24 of Ken Griffey, Jr. to any player since he left the team. Number 51 worn by Randy Johnson was withheld from players for two and a half years until 2001, when it was awarded to Ichiro Suzuki upon his request after wearing it for his entire superstar career in Japan. Alex Rodriguez's number 3 has been worn by manager Bob Melvin (2003-2004), infielder Pokey Reese (2005, although he spent the entire season on the disabled list), and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (2006-present). However, due to the circumstances surrounding his departure, Rodríguez is not nearly as highly respected by Mariner fans as Griffey or Johnson.
Jackie Robinson's number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.
- Seattle Mariners official website
- Seattle Mariners team statistics
- Sports E-Cyclopedia
- History of the Pilots and the lawsuit that resulted in the Mariners