Yes, Mariners fans. That dreaded possibility is a reality. The franchise tied for the most single-season wins ever (1906 Cubs) stands alone as the only team of the current 30 to not reach the World Series. 116 wins, and last on the pennant-less list.
This just makes the 116-win banner hanging in T-Mobile Park painful. In one of the most lopsided and ironic statistics ever, one of the “best teams ever” will still be searching for their first pennant.
Would I be lying if this is embarrassing and depressing? No, but it’s the case and we’ll have to just inhale it. Some of your readers may not care about this fact. I’ve talked to people whose head it goes right over. But for someone who takes pride in their city and its’ sports teams, this is devastating.
The weirder thing is that the stars were definitely not aligned to be last on the list. Here’s an interesting history lesson you all should know. For a long time, our Mariners had quite the company on this infamous list.
For those younger fans, the Mariners won 116 games in 2001. At the time, they were one of eight teams to never reach the Fall Classic! This also includes the D’Backs who made their first World Series that same season anyway.
Check them off the list. And in 2002, the division rival Angels made their first World Series appearance (and won). They completely schooled the Mariners. How you may ask? They lost 87 games the year we won 116 games! Yet they got their act together so quickly and did what we should have done, just one year later. Our division rival did what we should have done with way less wins.
So we move to 2005 where six teams including the Mariners hadn’t won the pennant. But the “Killer B” Astros went from fifteen games under .500 to their first franchise pennant. They had several veteran sluggers, a solid pitching staff, and finally reached the promised land.
But after the Astros crossed themselves off and the list shortened, even more, it seemed like it would stay that way a while. The remaining teams were our Mariners, Rays, Rockies, Rangers, and Expos/Nationals. All those teams had only a few combined playoff berths between them and had struggled for years. The only team who had won a playoff series up to that point was the Mariners.
And our payroll was bigger than most of those other teams as well. But three of the remaining pennant-less teams didn’t mess around. As the Mariners continued to miss the playoffs, the list, unfortunately, shrank even more. As a Mariners fan you went, “Are you kidding? We won 116 games with a respectable payroll but the Rockies and Rays beat us to it?”
In the blink of an eye, three of the teams reached their first World Series. But something’s distinct about what those three did. The Rockies, Rays, and Rangers reached the Fall Classic in just a four year period. 2007, 2008, and 2010.
And the surprising thing is that none of those teams messed around. The same seasons that they won the pennant, they had also won their first-ever playoff series.
And what was worse was that the Rays and Rockies were newer franchises than the Mariners. By a few years, too. While we were established in 1977, the Rockies were established in 1993. The Rays won their pennant just 11 seasons after coming into existence! So when the Rangers joined the rest by beating the Yanks in 2010, the Mariners became more exposed.
The only other franchise with them was the Nationals but they have developed a fair share of division winners since. Since 2012, they have mustered up five playoff appearances but they choked every time in the first round.
But the point is that there was a foreshadowing of them beating us to it. And in stunning fashion, these 2019 Nats beat the toughest opponent in their way. This year’s NL champs took it to the defending two-time champs.
And now they leave the Mariners as the only team yearning for baseball’s golden goal. But you know what? As said before, this is the way it is. The only team to blame is the Mariners. And give the Nationals their due, they made multiple playoff appearances and finally got their pennant. So for the Mariners, this is a wake-up call.
Being last on this list is nothing but self-caused. It’s hard to win a pennant when your team misses the playoffs for almost two decades straight. For years, they’ve had one of the more respectable payrolls with a few stacked teams. But they still have nothing to show for it. We’ve had multiple icons and some pretty exciting teams. A few of those teams looked headed to the Fall Classic.
From the comeback kids in 1995 to the 116-win team in 2001. From game-changing stars like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez, we still haven’t found our true mojo. The pieces have been there but the quest for that AL Championship is still in search for 42 years and counting. So who knows, will it be 5 years or 25 years?
Hopefully the former, or sooner! But this in the Mariners’ hands. Hopefully these young Mariners will soon become a contender. Because this list is getting old and not tiresome to be on.