Same Ol’ Mariners: Why the 2018 Mariners aren’t the “Same Ol’ Mariners”

6 Oct 1995: Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners stands at the plate looking up during a game against the New York Yankees at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 11-8. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
6 Oct 1995: Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners stands at the plate looking up during a game against the New York Yankees at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 11-8. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport /

I wasn’t even a year old yet.  I made no decision, I gave it no thought, and I had no idea the ramifications of being born into the fandom of the Seattle Mariners.  My parents were attending The Seattle Seahawks vs. San Diego Chargers game in the Kingdome in 1989 and the Kingdome was buzzing.

Not buzzing because of the Seahawks, who would go on to finish 4th in the AFC West, but buzzing about the young, soon-to-be Mariners baseball icon, Ken Griffey Jr.  It was rumored through the stands that “the Kid”, was there that day. My dad, looking down to the sidelines, saw a crowd swarming around someone, so he nudged my mom and told her, “That’s him, that’s Ken Griffey Jr.!”

My mom, who I guarantee had no idea who Ken Griffey Jr. was, responded by rifling through all of her belongings to try and find something for him to sign.  She pulled out a 4×6 picture. The picture was of me, and this picture was nothing special, it was just a picture of a baby. My mom then pushed and wiggled her way through the crowd and ask Griffey to sign her son’s picture.  He obliged and the rest is history.

There was something about that signature over my chubby infant face that meant something.  It was almost as if at that moment the universe had etched my fate as a Seattle Mariners fan.  My entire life became centered around this team as I began elementary school. The ensemble of Griffey, A-Rod, Edgar, Randy, Buhner, and the rest of the crew were fun, talented, and made you truly believe that a world series was on its way.  

The mid-late 90’s were my first real memories as a Mariners fan. I had no recollection of what came before my birth. I had no idea about the terrible 70’s and 80’s Mariners, no, I only knew the Mariners as “My Oh My”, “The Comeback Kids”, and “You Gotta Love These Guys”.  It was easy, it was fun, and it all made sense.

As I moved to middle school in 2000, the team looked different, but by God, they were still fun and they still won.  Ichiro had officially taken over Seattle, Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson tied this team to the 90’s, and Mike Cameron was helping ease the pain of seeing Griffey in a Reds uniform.  This team was amazing and everyone in the state of Washington continued to be a Mariners fan. 

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Amazingly, the temple, that is Safeco Field, was packed to the brim every game. It’s almost unfathomable to look at the MLB Attendance in 2001 and 2002 and see that the Seattle Mariners were in the top spot.  Better attendance than the New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and every other MLB team. All was good in the Mariners’ world, and even without a World Series, this team was a winning team and it reinforced all I’ve ever known about the Mariners.

Then came high school.  As is true for most people, high school is a time of change, and this was also true about everything I knew about being a Seattle Mariners fan. The Mariners began to come undone.  All my friends that once wore their M’s hats backward when we played wiffleball in the backyard, turned them forward and their hats no longer were Mariners, but Red Sox and Yankees hats.  

M’s jerseys disappeared as the fashion choice in high school, Safeco Field began to show her sadness as the seats became used less and less, and being a Mariners fan for the first time in my life became hard.  This was foreign territory for me. It was strange, it was wrong, and how was I ever to think the drought would last 17, or maybe more, years.

Don’t get me wrong, there was the excitement of 2007, 2009, 2014, and 2016, there was that phenomenal pitching of our King, Felix Hernandez, and there were glimpses of hopes with new manager after manager, but it all came down to the overwhelming ringing and noise of “Same ol’ Mariners”.  

“Same Ol’ Mariners”

“Same Ol’ Mariners”

“Same Ol’ Mariners”  

Since the Mariners last playoff appearance, I’ve graduated high school, got married, earned a bachelor’s degree, became a high school teacher, had a daughter, and earned my master’s degree.  A lot of my life has been lived during this drought, and every year by some force of that Ken Griffey Jr. signed picture, I continue to stay true. I watch the games, go to Safeco a dozen times, unabashedly wear my Mariners apparel, and every year have the hope that this could be the year the drought ends.  

At the end of the season, or during a losing streak, or when injuries pile up, I keep hearing over and over, “Same Ol’ Mariners”. The problem is whenever someone tells me “Same Ol’ Mariners”, I tell them this story of a signed baby picture, of a childhood of baseball jubilee, and then of the perseverance of a fan through the drought. That’s my “Same Ol’ Mariners”.

Sure, maybe to you 2018 is the “Same Ol’ Mariners”, but from a fan that knows of a time where Seattle was a baseball city, where the Mariners were the best thing on T.V. every night they played, when the Mariners won, “Same Ol’ Mariners” to me invokes memories of Griffey hitting homers and making iconic catches, Randy throwing heat, and Edgar hitting doubles.  Most importantly it invokes some of my first memories as a Mariners fan. “Same Ol’ Mariners” means Dave Niehaus, “Same Ol’ Mariners” means ‘95, “Same Ol’ Mariners” means this call:

“Right now, the Mariners looking for the tie. They would take a fly ball; they would love a base hit into the gap and they could win it with Junior’s speed. The stretch and the 0–1 pitch on the way to Edgar Martínez; swung on and lined down the left field line for a base hit! Here comes Joey! Here is Junior to third base, they’re going to wave him in! The throw to the plate will be…LATE! The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship! I don’t believe it! It just continues! My oh My! Edgar Martínez with a double ripped down the left field line and they are going crazy at the Kingdome!”

The 2018 Seattle Mariners being eliminated from postseason contention was heartbreaking.  I’d be lying if I were to say that I’m okay with it. The double-digit game lead the Mariners had on the Athletics, that disappeared faster than an Edwin Diaz fastball, makes my stomach turn every time I think about it.  The season that once seemed so promising, ended like so many before, in September. The grumblings of “Same Ol’ Mariners” is currently in full swing. Social media, family dinners, and the watercooler all ooze with talks of “Same Ol’ Mariners”.  

“Well, they figured out a way to mess it up again!”

“Why am I even a fan?”

“You truly thought that this team was going to make the playoffs?

“At least they got us to football season!”

“Same Ol’ Mariners”

“Same Ol’ disappointing Seattle Mariners”

I’m disappointed, a little angry, but all in all, 2018 provided great baseball and a playoff race all the way until September.  This was a great year of baseball in Seattle, but it wasn’t the year that ended the drought. Even though 2018 wasn’t the season that ended the drought, that season will come someday.  There will be a time in the future where all we will talk about is Seattle Mariners baseball in October. Someday the drought will end and someday we will have playoff baseball in Seattle again.

dark. Next. Mariners not as close as you think?

All I know is that until “someday” is actually here, I will still be a Mariners fan because ultimately, I had no say in the matter.  When Ken Griffey Jr. signed my picture, I became a Mariners fan. Which meant through thick, thin, and the very thin, I will still be a fan, and I’d have it no other way.  Here’s to hoping that the 2019 Seattle Mariners will be the “Same Ol’ Mariners”.