Seattle’s long local nightmare is over. The Mariners are in the playoffs.
This is not a particularly big deal for some teams who are perennial post season participants. It is a major deal for the Mariners, who endured a 21-year stretch without reaching the playoffs.
Understand that every franchise in all four major professional sports except for the 1-year-old Seattle Kraken of the NHL have played in the post season since 2001. Every franchise except the Mariners.
It’s not as if this team hasn’t had good players. Studs like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez have all passed through without being able to lift Seattle from also-ran status.
It’s as if the Mariners carried a curse of the original MLB team in their city. Remember the Pilots, a sorry attempt at introducing the game to the great northwest. That experiment lasted one year before disappearing and then surfacing in Milwaukee, reincarnated as the Brewers.
There was a time when the Mariners were very good. In 2001, their last playoff season, the team won 116 games, matching the record for the most wins in a season set by the Chicago Cubs in 1906. You know what happened to the Cubbies after that.
The Mariners drifted into baseball’s never-never land after that magical season, an annual punchline when it came to wins and losses. Which brings us to 2022 and a remarkable renaissance.
It took the Mariners until the very last weekend of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot and they did it in a most dramatic way. Cal Raleigh, sent to the minors when he struggled at the beginning of the season, was the hero with a two-out, pinch hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland A’s 2-1.
Storybook stuff and the Mariners were, for the first time in two decades, in the playoffs once more. They were in as a wild card, baseball’s backdoor route to the post season. It hardly mattered though. The triumph brought euphoria to a place where it has been in woefully short supply.
So bring on the big boys. Seattle is ready for them. The Mariners can be this year’s Cinderella of the post season. What’s important is they have a chance, and that’s a brand new experience for a franchise that has been on the outside looking in for so long.