Let’s have a look: Randy ‘The Big Unit’ Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar freaking Martinez, King Felix, Ichiro Suzuki. That’s just a few of the great names in recent memory to have worn a Mariners jersey. But that’s not the only thing they have in common. They all wore that jersey and didn’t win a thing.
I got into baseball back in 2006, watching on my laptop in my university dorm room when I couldn’t sleep. What a perfect situation to follow a team on the Pacific coast of the United States. I have still yet to see the Mariners play in the postseason (I mean, I have still yet to see the Mariners play in real life, but never mind that).
Five years before I got into the sport properly and chose Seattle, the Mariners won 116 games. It tied the record for regular-season wins with the 1906 Chicago Cubs and remains the highest wins-total achieved in the 148-year history of the game.
116 wins! But then Joe Torre and the Yankees put an end to that glorious season, showing yet again, that the regular season doesn’t mean jack when it comes to October. At least the Diamondbacks got the better of New York in the Fall Classic.
The Mariners’ best season since I’ve followed them was 2007. They went 88-74 (.543 winning percentage), came second in the AL West but fell short of the playoffs. They’ve only had winning seasons in five of the 14 years that I’ve been following. And now, they hold a dubious record – the longest playoff drought in major US sports. Eighteen years. Let’s celebrate that anniversary, eh.
I don’t worry though, I’m used to a team I follow having this distinction. I’m a Derby fan, and I like to remind people that they set records in their 2007-08 Premier League season. They’re just not the records you want to talk about too often.
Perhaps it’s the hope that kills you. The Mariners opened the 2019 season going 13-2, hitting so many home runs that we started to lose count. And then, that ebbed away, long before Mitch Haniger did himself some rupture-damage of the testicular kind to finish his season early.
It became yet another season watching the Astros, the A’s, the Rangers, the Angels rise above us, leaving the most Northerly team to sit in the most Southerly position (other than the Orioles and Tigers in the American League, thank you!). But for a short while, we were on top.
Another football team I’m fond of, Huddersfield Town, started their first season in the Premier League very close to the top, before it all ended how it should have a season later.
So, what’s it like being a Mariners fan? In spite of the great players that we have on our team and despite of the hope we give ourselves, there is this crushing disappointment each season. But that doesn’t matter, I think. Because the fans in Seattle rally around their players, stars they appreciate, that they know they’re lucky enough to call their own.
Just look at replies below tweets about King Felix leaving the M’s or signing a minor league deal with the Braves. They say he was wasted with the Mariners because while he was there we never got to the playoffs. And yeah, that we didn’t sucks. Not just for Hernandez, but there’s a lot of positive messages there too. Mariner fans are more than grateful because Felix was more than some morsel of greatness thrown up to the Pacific Northwest.
In 2019, Seattle said goodbye to, undoubtedly, two of the best ballplayers of the 21st millennium; Ichiro Suzuki after the second game of the year and Felix Hernandez near the close of the season. Two players who were there when I started watching. I cried with every other fan in the stadium. I say it’s a shame but so what that we never gave either of those players a chance to perform after game 162, but we’re all still so happy to have had them play in our jersey, for our team. They were us, and we loved it.
Just look at King’s Court. How many players have had that amount of adoration thrown upon them?
I don’t want another eighteen years in the wilderness, I’d think no Mariners fan does. With the youngsters we have coming up through the farm system I’ve got a good feeling that we won’t be waiting that much longer for our time to come. But, if that’s how long it takes, as long as baseball remains in that corner of the Pacific Northwest, there will be fans who love those who play for their team.
Photos by Lindsey Wasson, Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Damien Tuffnell is a guest writer at Bat Flips and Nerds. He’s a good follow on Twitter @ExtraBaseBrit
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