Seattle Sports Franchises: Seattle Mariners


World Series Championships: None

Retired Numbers: #42 Jackie Robinson (retired league-wide), Official team policy states that number retirement is reserved for players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played for at least five years with the Mariners, or career Mariners players whose name appears at least once on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Rivals: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Mariners were created as a result of a lawsuit. In 1970, in the aftermath of the Seattle Pilots’ purchase and relocation to Milwaukee (as the Brewers), the City of Seattle and state of Washington sued the American League for breach of contract. Confident that the MLB would return to Seattle in the next few years, King County built the multi-purpose arena, called the Kingdome, which also eventually became home to the NFL expansion team Seahawks later in the decade. The Pilots’ lawsuit continued until 1976. At trial, the American League offered to give Seattle an expansion baseball franchise in return for dropping the suit, and details were ironed out over the next year. To keep the league with an even number of teams, a formal expansion proceeding was held, with a second team, the Blue Jays, being awarded to the city of Toronto.

The team played their first game in 1977, and finished their inaugural season at 64-98, interestingly the same record the Pilots had in their final season in Seattle. Additionally, star pitcher Diego Segui played for Seattle in their first season, and subsequently became the only player to play for both the Pilots and the Mariners.
Despite having stars such as Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry , 1984 American League Rookie of the Year Alvin Davis, two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner Harold Reynolds, three-time American League strikeout leader Mark Langston, and shortstop and team captain Spike Owen on their rosters, the Mariners teams of the late 1970s and the entirety of the 1980s were characterized by perennial non-achievement, gaining a reputation for poor performances, low attendance, and losing records. However, the 1989 rookie season of center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., acquired with the first overall pick of the 1987 amateur draft, gave fans hope that a change of fortunes might be on the horizon.

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 the seven-team American League West in which no team finished under .500, and Lefebvre was fired after 1991. During the 1992-93 offseason, the Mariners hired manager Lou Piniella, who had led the Cincinnati Reds to victory in the 1990 World Series. Mariner fans embraced Piniella, and he would helm the team from 1993 through 2002, winning divisional titles in 1995, 1997, and 2001, as well as two American League Manager of the Year Awards along the way.

In 2001, the Mariners led the majors in winning percentage all season long, easily winning the AL West, breaking the 1998 Yankees’ American League single-season record of 114 wins, and matching the MLB record for single-season wins of 116, as set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. At the close of the season, star Ichiro Suzuki won the AL MVP, Al Rookie of the Year, and one of three outfield Gold Gloves, becoming the first player to do so in the same season since the 1975 Red Sox’s Fred Lynn.

The Mariners started the 2002 season hot (they were on pace to win at least 100 games again well into the summer), but they missed out on the playoffs. This was widely attributed to 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, Piniella left the Mariners to manage his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays, reportedly due to his anger with management. The Mariners signed Bob Melvin to be their new manager.

With the exception of the 1998 and 1999 seasons, the Mariners had been annual challengers for the AL West title from 1995 through 2003. The 2004 season, however, saw the fall of the Mariners from contention. Just days after the end of the season, the Mariners fired manager Bob Melvin. On October 20, 2004, the Mariners announced the signing of Mike Hargrove, who had led the Cleveland Indians past the Mariners in the 1995 ALCS, as their new manager. In the offseason, the Mariners surprised fans and the local press by signing two premier free agents, third baseman Adrián Beltré and first baseman Richie Sexson, ending some accusations from fans that the organization was only willing to make piecemeal signings and trades.

Despite several personnel changes and free-agent signings 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. A return to relevance came for the Mariners finally in the 2007 season, but eventually proved to be too little, too late. With minor league prospect Adam Jones playing well and a fairly consistent offense and pitching staff, the 2007 Mariners were back in contention in the AL West and AL Wild Card races. However, a 3–15 stretch late in the season effectively ended the Mariners’ 2007 playoff hopes. The Mariners were mathematically eliminated from contention on September 24. One highlight during this stretch, however, was the home run that gave Ichiro Suzuki 200 hits for his seventh consecutive 200-hit season; Ichiro is only the third player in MLB history with seven consecutive 200-hit seasons, and the first to do it in his first seven seasons.

On September 1 2008, the Mariners were the first team in the season to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They finished the season with 101 losses, only one fewer than the MLB-worst Washington Nationals. The 2008 Mariners became the first team in major league history to have a payroll of $100 million or more while accumulating 100 or more losses. Despite an Ichiro lead-offense, some powerful acquisitions, and management shifts in the past 3 seasons, the Mariners have remained mediocre within the scope of the AL West. On October 19, 2010 the Mariners hired former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge as their new manager. Stay tuned tomorrow as we discuss the buzz in Seattle with the new season just beginning!


About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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