Seattle Mariners Information
The Mariners were created as a direct result of a lawsuit. In 1970, in the aftermath of the Seattle Pilots purchase and relocation to Milwaukee by future Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, the City of Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington (led by attorney general and future U.S. Senator Slade Gorton) sued the American League for breach of contract. They asserted that the AL invested time and resources into trying to make major league baseball work in Seattle, and reneged on the deal with the sale of the Pilots to Selig. The suit requested $32 million in damages resulting from the loss of the Pilots.
The lawsuit continued until 1976. At trial, the American League offered to give Seattle an expansion baseball franchise in return for dropping the suit. The details were ironed out over the next year. As a result, the Seattle Mariners (along with the Toronto Blue Jays) were awarded in 1976 for play beginning in 1977. Legendary entertainer Danny Kaye was part of the ownership group.
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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, Jim Presley's 10th inning game-winning grand slam on opening day in 1986 (this coming after he tied the game with a two run homer in the ninth), 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.
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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 might not be long in coming. Acclaimed as one of the most talented young athletes in all of baseball, Griffey's combination of charisma, 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.
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The Mariner's fortunes began to turn for the better in 1994. The team had added a core of strong players built around center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., pitcher Randy Johnson and designated hitter Edgar Martinez. But, ironically, the emergence of the team from the disaster that symbolized their history may have been precipitated by a disaster of a different sort. On July 19, 1994, four 26-pound ceiling tiles crashed down from the Kingdome roof, setting in motion one of the more bizarre chapters in Mariners history, one that, at the time, threatened the future of baseball in Seattle while ultimately may have helped to save it. The team was subsequently forced to play its longest road trip ever — 20 games in 21 days spanning 10,425 miles. The incident also further inflamed the debate about the Kingdome's suitability as a baseball facility and the Mariners' quest for a new stadium, eventually leading to the building of Safeco Field. Options such as playing home games at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium and Vancouver's BC Place were explored and dismissed, mostly because the players association decided (after specific complaints by the California Angels) its members shouldn't play anywhere but at major-league parks. So the Mariners, who had played on the road in 10 of the previous 15 games before the tiles fell, packed up and left town again.
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In 1995, an early-season injury to Griffey seemed to doom the 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 most dramatic comebacks in playoff history, the Mariners won three games at home to beat the New York Yankees and advance to the ALCS.
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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 relief pitching, exacerbated by Randy Johnson's midseason injury, doomed the team.
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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.
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At the end of the 2002 season, manager Lou Piniella left the Mariners to manage his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays, reportedly due to his anger with the management policy of investing in low quality free agents and refusing to make late-season trades. 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 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, which was still the second best total in their history.
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the Mariners' rotation beyond Hernandez and the aging Jamie 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. Being placed on the bottom of the division distorted the harmony in the locker room. During the 2005-06 off-season, Ichiro, despite his well-known calmness, spoke out and criticized the team's attitude, pointing out no leadership and the manager Hargrove's failure to harness players. The Mariners realized that in order to return to respectability and avoid losing money, they had to make a splash in the weak free agent and trade markets this winter, particularly in regard to the rotation. The Mariners began the 2005-2006 off-season by signing Japan's top catcher, Kenji Johjima, to a 3-year deal and left-handed starter Jarrod Washburn (formerly of division rival Los Angeles) to a 4-year deal. Designated Hitter Carl Everett and Matt Lawton were the other additions.