Seattle Mariners Franchise History
The entrenchment of the Mariners in Seattle is so deep that younger fans would be surprised to learn that the Mariners were not actually Seattle’s first Major League Baseball team. Between 1970 and 1976, the Pilots actually held the honors of being the city’s first team. Yet, because of financial hardship, the Pilots soon relocated to Milwaukee, leaving Seattle in search for a new team.
It did not take long for Seattle Mariners to gain a new franchise to play at a stadium that was newly built. In 1977, the Mariners began their inaugural season and have been Seattle’s MLB franchise ever since. Yet, the new team was fraught with trouble from the start. In the opening home game against the California Angels, Seattle suffered an embarrassing 7 to 0 defeat against the visiting team.
It took two years for the Mariners to finally get a taste of victory. They closed their inaugural season with the abysmal record of 64 wins and 98 losses. In the following season in 1978, the Mariners took the last place in the division with a record of 58 wins to 104 losses. In just their second season, the team experienced a dramatic downhill slide in comparison to their lackluster opening season. However, 1979 marked a shortly lived turnaround for the Mariners. Though they did not come close to climbing to the top of the division, they managed to boost their standing with a sixth place record of 67 wins to 95 losses. By 1980, the Mariners went back to their tradition of losing and placed last in the entire division.
Since the 1980s, securing top talent became a priority for boosting fan support and improving performance. In 1982, the Mariners saw a spike in attendance when they signed Gaylord Perry. Fans crowded the stadium to see Perry win his 300th game in a surprising victory against the New York Yankees. The same year, Floyd Bannister became the first franchise player to earn the distinction in the league when he led in strikeouts for the season. The energy that Perry and Bannister brought to the franchise carried on to impact the overall performance of the team for the better. That season, the Mariners reversed their last-place slump, placing fourth in the league.
The Ken Griffey Jr. Era
Though these gains were impressive, the team really began to shake up during the Ken Griffey Jr. era. In 1986, the Mariners finished dead last in the division again, allowing the team to make the first pick during the draft. The team took a chance on Ken Griffey Jr., a 17-year old who still needed to develop before he was ready to play in the Major League. Griffey Jr. finally proved his worth in 1989 when he hit .325 within a one-month period and topped the performance of all rookies in the league with a .287 average, 45 RBI, and 13 home runs.
Both Mariners fans and enemies have to admit that Griffey Jr. is the player who made the franchise what it is today. By 1991, the Mariners finally finished the season with a reasonable win-loss margin of 83 to 79. By 1995, the team made it to its first American League Division Series game against the New York Yankees. Though the Indians eventually shut the team out of the World Series, the exceptional performance of the Mariners won over the adoration of fans. To reward the Mariners for a great season and a job well done, Seattle taxpayers paid for a new stadium for the team.
The remaining years of the 1990s were the best years in the franchise’s history. In 1996, offensive player Alex Rodriguez was recipient of the both the American League batting crown and the Silver Slugger Award. The following year, Ken Griffey Jr. led the team to first place in the division. The Mariners also captured the division twice in three years and captured 90 wins for the first time in the history of the franchise.
However, just as the team celebrated the opening of Safeco Field in 1999, the team traded away the most valuable players on its roster. Noting the unsatisfactory condition of Safeco Field, Griffey Jr. demanded the franchise to upgrade the facilities to meet his standards. After the club refused to address Griffey Jr.’s complaints with the new stadium, they were forced to honor his request to be traded. Though Rodriguez performed impressively in 2000, hitting 41 home runs in the season, the Mariners failed to pick up the pace in the absence of Griffey Jr. The Mariners were forced to part with another star when Rodriguez left the team to sign with the Texas Rangers.
Recent Seattle Mariners News
In 2013, the Seattle Mariners made another attempt to match the Griffey Jr. era by seeking a new star player to fill the rosters. They signed former New York Yankee Robinson Cano for $240 million. Matching the Yankee strategy, the team enticed talent with salary, paying Cano the third largest salary or any player in league history.
Yet, despite their staffing woes, the Mariners have faced a crisis in leadership. In 2013, manager Eric Wedge was out for a month after suffering from a stroke. His loss demonstrated just how important management was to the success of the players. The team only won two of its home games at Safeco Field after losing Wedge. While Wedge returned for the remaining season to see the team secure fourth place in the division, he announced that he would not be coming back for the 2014 season.
With new leadership fans aren’t sure what to expect from the team in the upcoming seasons. Since their turning point in 2000, the Seattle Mariners never recovered as a franchise. Each season begins with hope, optimism, and a promising star player, only to be dashed by crushing defeats. Only the future can tell what is in store for this struggling franchise.