This is the year.
Oh, I know. Trust me, I know. First, I’m not sure why grown men get sentimental and nostalgic about baseball. It’s a sickness that I don’t expect to go away anytime soon.
Second, I hear you. It’s the Seattle Mariners. They don’t just crush your dreams of a World Series. This is more like rooting for a dead animal that’s lying on the side of the road to get up and run again. Red Sox fans have nothing on us. The Cubs fans can at least say they have been to a World Series. We have the memory of a double in one wild card division series. Mariners fans hang onto that memory the way a three year old hangs on to a blanket.
My affliction to root for the hopeless is lifelong. It started on my fourth birthday. My Dad bought me a ticket to the Seattle Pilots-New York Yankees game on August, 3rd 1969. I remember two things: the bat was huge (I still have it!) and we lost.
Then, we lost our baseball team. Bud Selig stole them and took them to Milwaukee. So, I started rooting for the San Francisco Giants. Late at night, they would come in via a shaky signal over KNBR from San Francisco. They had two winning seasons between 1970 and 1977. If I had only thought to root for the Oakland A’s.
Then, the hometown got a baseball team! Here’s what you don’t know when you are twelve: Expansion teams are terrible. Now, no expansion team was quite as bad as the Mariners. In fact, the Mariners did not have a winning season for the first fourteen years. Luckily, this happened to coincide with a time in my life when I had other interests (my teenage and college years). I did go to some games during that period. I saw Gaylord Perry pitch his 300th win. I remember watching Roger Clemons strike out 20 Seattle Mariners to set a major league record. I caught my only foul ball. In 1988, the team slogan was “Anything can happen”. It didn’t.
The glimmers of hope started in 1990. Edgar and his perfect swing came out of nowhere. My friends and I started filling out ballots to get him on the All-Star team. We weren’t even close. I was there when Randy Johnson threw his no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. Then, there was Griffey. He’s the one who made you feel like something could happen. It felt a lot like the Mariners have felt in the last few years. Like we were not quite there yet, but something was building.
Then for a few short years, the M’s put it together. As in they made it to the playoffs. 1995 was incredible. It seemed like the whole town was glued to the television as the Mariners came back from thirteen back to go to a tiebreaker and then go five against the Yankees. The fact that the double is the most important moment in Mariner history tells you what happened after that. We were crushed by the Indians in the championship series. We made the playoffs a handful of times. We had an incredible 116 win season but lost in the division series. Did you know the Mariners are tied with one other team for the most winning season in baseball?
Then, another drought. From 2004 to 2013, the Mariners had two winning season. We really had only one bright spot. Felix.
Felix endured indignity like a pro as he consistently pitched at a Cy Young caliber while his teammates flailed in the batting box. The writers finally gave him a Cy Young in 2009 in what seems a tribute to his stoicism in the face of adversity.
Last year, the hope returned. It was the moment Kyle Seager deposited a home run into the right field bleachers at the end of an 8 game losing streak. I don’t know why that moment felt so critical. We had just lost eight games. But somehow, Kyle Seager with one swing turned that whole season around. He symbolically said we are not doing this anymore. We are going to compete. We are not going to take this lying down. And we didn’t. We came within one game of going to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
So, this is the year. Oh man, the hype! The Washington Post has predicted the Seattle Mariners beat their home team to win the World Series! We have pitching. Tajuan looked incredible in Spring Training. The starters: Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton, Happ and Walker. They could be some of the best starters in baseball. Yes, our offense struggled last year. But, we shored that up bringing in Cruz, Ruggiano, Smith and Weeks.
Zunino looks like he may have found some patience. Jackson should return to form. There is every reason for optimism and hope that this team could win a world series!
This is definitely the year.