1970s and 1980s
The Mariners were added to the American League in 1977 as an expansion team, bringing Major League Baseball back to Seattle for the first time since the departure (after their one and only season of existence) of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in 1970.
The Mariners played their first game on April 6, 1977 to a sold-out crowd of 58,000 at the Kingdome (they lost 7-0 to the California Angels). The early history of the team during the 1970s and 80s is characterized by perennial non-achievement. The Mariners finished last or next-to-last in their division in 10 of their first 13 seasons, and did not record a winning season until 1991.
Despite having stars such as Gaylord Perry (the famed spitballer, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, spent the final two years of his 20+ season career with Seattle and was given the nickname "The Ancient Mariner"), Alvin Davis (American League Rookie of the Year (1984)), Harold Reynolds (two-time All-Star (1987-88) and three-time Gold-Glover (1988-90)), and Mark Langston (league-leader in strikeouts pitched (1984, 1986-87)), the team gained a reputation for poor performances and losing records. Highlights of the early years included hosting the 1979 All-Star Game, Gaylord Perry's 300th career win in 1982, cannon-blasts from the "USS Mariner" behind the centerfield wall following home runs by the home team, appearances by Morganna the kissing-bandit, and promotions such as "Funny Nose Glasses Night." One notable lowlight was Roger Clemens record-setting performance April 29, 1986 in defeating the Mariners and becoming the first pitcher ever to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
The rookie season (1989) of centerfielder Ken Griffey, Jr., acquired with the 1st pick in the 1st round of the 1987 amateur draft, gave fans hope that a change of fortunes may not be long in coming. Acclaimed as one of the most talented young athletes in all of baseball, Griffey's combination of stellar defensive ability, hitting power, and baserunning speed made him one of baseball's preeminent superstars of the 1990s, and helped to steer the Mariners to much greater success during his 11 seasons in Seattle.
In 1991, the Mariners had their first winning season, finishing 83-79 under manager Jim Lefebvre. Though it was the team's best season, it was only good enough to end in fifth place in their seven-team division, and Lefebvre was fired. Bill Plummer served as manager in 1992. Prior to the 1993 season, the Mariners hired manager Lou Piniella, who managed the Cincinnati Reds to a 1990 World Series win.
By 1995, the Mariners had added a core of strong players built around center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., pitcher Randy Johnson and designated hitter Edgar Martinez. An early-season injury to Griffey seemed to doom the 1995 season. In mid-August, the Mariners were 13 games behind the first-place California Angels. A September winning streak marked by late-inning comeback wins, combined with a losing streak by the Angels, opened the way for the Mariners to tie the Angels for first place on the last day of the season. The Mariners won the tiebreaker game 9-1 and clinched their first-ever trip to the playoffs. Down 2-0 in the ALDS, in one of the game's most dramatic moments, the Mariners won three games at home to beat the New York Yankees and advance to the ALCS. One of the most memorable moments of Mariners history happened in Game 5 with a double by Martinez in the 11th inning that scored Joey Cora and Griffey to win the game 6-5. "The Double", as Martinez's clutch hit has since been called by Mariners fans, is credited as being the moment that "saved baseball in Seattle" by generating interest in the team and making a new, baseball only stadium possible. Unfortunately, the Mariners' memorable championship run was halted by another up and coming club, Mike Hargrove's Cleveland Indians. 1995 is fondly remembered as The Magical Season.
In 1996, the Mariners, led by Griffey, rookie shortstop Alex Rodriguez, and sluggers Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, won a then team record 85 games but missed the playoffs. The juggernaut offense set the record for most home runs by a team in a season, but ultimately the M's lack of pitching, exacerbated by Randy Johnson's midseason injury, doomed the team.
The Mariners won the division title again in 1997, but were defeated in the ALDS 3-1 by the Baltimore Orioles. They were again hurt by a lack of pitching depth to complement the outstanding offense, which was, as usual, led by Griffey, who won the MVP award (a first for both him and the Mariners).
In 1998 and 1999, the Mariners had losing records due to their lack of pitching depth (Johnson was traded at the July Non-Waiver Trading Deadline to the Houston Astros after being inconsistent in the first half of the season; some fans and press thought he was trying to force a trade through malaise). Midway through the 1999 season, the Mariners moved to SAFECO Field. After the 1999 season, Ken Griffey, Jr. requested and attained a trade to the Cincinnati Reds, leaving Alex Rodriguez as the face of the franchise at the beginning of the SAFECO Field era.
2000 was a return to respectability for the Mariners, as they won the Wild Card. They finished half a game behind Oakland Athletics, as they played only 161 games. The tiebreaking rules had already awarded the division crown to Oakland, so the rained out 162nd game was not made up. While Ken Griffey, Jr. was no longer patrolling center or lurking in the middle of the batting order, he was adequately replaced by the incredible glovework and solid fielding of new center fielder Mike Cameron. Alex Rodriguez replaced Junior as the face of the franchise and Edgar Martinez provided his usual excellent hitting in the cleanup spot. Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer were steady parts in the rotation. Closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, a former professional in his home country of Japan, won the Rookie of the Year award. The Mariners swept the White Sox in the ALDS, but lost to the New York Yankees in six games in the ALCS. The following offseason was as important as any in Mariners history, as Rodriguez up for free agency. Ultimately, was lost to the Texas Rangers for what was then the richest contract ever in professional sports. However, the Mariners were able to weather the loss by adding Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki, who won the Most Valuable Player award and Rookie of the Year in 2001, and slick fielding, power hitting second base veteran Bret Boone, who was also an MVP candidate.
In 2001, despite the loss of Rodriguez (He would be greeted at his return to Safeco with Monopoly money by fans, no doubt to protest his selling out of the Seattle fans), the addition of Ichiro (who wears his first name on the back of his jersey) and a career season by Boone helped the Mariners to the most successful regular season on record in the modern era. The 2001 Mariners led the major leagues in winning percentage from start to finish: easily winning the American League West championship, setting a new Major League Baseball record for most wins in a single season with an unprecedented 116, and matching the previous record for single season wins set by the Chicago Cubs in 1906. At the end of the season, Ichiro won the AL MVP, AL Rookie of the Year, and one of three outfield Gold Glove awards, becoming the first player since the 1975 Boston Red Sox' Fred Lynn to win all three in the same season. The Mariners pulled off a come-from-behind 3-2 series win over the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS to advance to the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, but succumbed to the Yankees for the second year in a row in the ALCS, 4 games to 1, in a hard-fought series: a sad end to such a historic year.
At the end of the 2002 season, manager Lou Piniella left the Mariners to manage his hometown's Tampa Bay Devil Rays, reportedly due to his anger with the management policy of investing in low quality free agents. The Mariners signed Bob Melvin to be their new manager. The local press speculated that a first year manager (especially one of Melvin's temperament) would be easier for the front office and ownership to control. While they started the season hot (they were on pace to win 100+ games again well into the summer), the Mariners missed out on the playoffs due to their failure to find a substantial contributor at the trade deadline and the unbelieveable 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, still the second best total in their history.
Despite an excellent start to the 2003 season, the Mariners contended and reached the same record as in 2002, but were again beat to the playoffs by the Athletics. failed to make the playoffs, which was again blamed on management's failure to bring in a bat at the trading deadline and the aging roster's decline. General Mangager Pat Gillick became a consultant midway through the offseason to make room for Bill Bavasi.
The Mariners stayed competitive in 7 of the 9 seasons from 1995 to 2003. The 2004 season, however, saw the demise of the Mariners' dominance of their division. Although many of their players were aging, the Mariners continued an apparent practice of "content to contend," starting the 2004 season having not made a major deal in three years. The team lost their first five games and went into the All-Star Break with a 9-game losing streak, a 32-54 season record (.372), and a 17-game deficit compared to the first-place Texas Rangers. After the All-Star break, unable to ignore the dreadful state of their team, the Mariners gave the team a complete overhaul, moving aging and unproven players away from center stage (the most notable move was trading Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox for Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed, and Mike Morse, all of whom started for the big club at some point in 2005) and inserting over a dozen call-ups into the 25-man roster. The season's end was enlivened by Ichiro breaking George Sisler's single season record of 257 hits (finishing with 262) and by events honoring the retirement of Mariner icon Edgar Martinez. Just days after the end of the season, the Mariners fired Melvin. On October 20, 2004, the Mariners announced the signing of their new manager, Mike Hargrove. Hargrove was the manager who led the Cleveland Indians past the Mariners in the 1995 ALCS. In the offseason, the Mariners and Bavasi suprised fans and the local press by signing two premier free agents, third baseman Adrian Beltre and first baseman Richie Sexson, ending the organization's practice of making piecemeal signings and trades.
Despite many changes and large player signings touted by the Mariners ownership 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 won six more games than the year before. The brightest spot of the season was the emergence of the vaunted 19 year old Venezuelan pitching prospect "King" Felix Hernandez (he was generally agreed to be baseball's overall best pitching prospect) who became the youngest major leaguer to debut since Jose Rijo of the New York Yankees entered the league at the age of nineteen. Unfortunately, stars Ichiro and Adrian Beltre had off years. However, Sexson matched expectations, authoring a batting line that featured 39 home runs and 121 RBI. Aside from Hernandez, some promising rookie middle infielders became part of the Mariners' long term plan: Cuban defector, shortstop and defensive wizard Yuniesky Betancourt and Venezuelan second baseman and former top prospect Jose Lopez became next season's starters. However, the Mariners' rotation beyond Hernandez and the aging Moyer was poor; the Mariners had the most suspendees under the new drug testing policy, notably Ryan Franklin and Morse; and fan attendance declined significantly. The Mariners realized that in order to return to respectability and stay in black ink, they must make a splash in the weak free agent and trade markets this winter, particularly in regards to the rotation.
- Founded: 1977 (American League expansion)
- Uniform colors: Navy Blue, Northwest Green (Teal Green), and Metalic Silver
- Logo design: A baseball on an 8-pointed compass.
- Mascot: Mariner Moose
- Current ownership: Nintendo of America (majority shareholder), local minority interests
- Playoff appearances (4): 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001
Minor league affiliations
- AAA: Tacoma Rainiers, Pacific Coast League
- AA: San Antonio Missions, Texas League
- Advanced A: Inland Empire 66ers, California League
- A: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Midwest League
- Short A: Everett AquaSox, Northwest League
- Rookie: AZL Mariners, Arizona League
- Rookie: VSL Mariners, Venezuelan Summer League
- Mariners award winners and league leaders
- Mariners statistical records and milestone achievements
- Mariners players of note
- Mariners broadcasters and media
- Mariners managers and ownership
- Seattle Mariners Official Website
- Seattle Mariners Team Statistics
- SportSpot.net Seattle Mariners Message Board
- USSMariner.com, a fan blog
- Lookout Landing, another fan blog
- Sports And Bremertonians, a Seattle sports fan blog