Over 20 years in the making and many heartbreaks later … 

The Mariners end the longest playoff drought in pro sports



The Seattle Mariners

BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor

For the first time since the record-breaking 2001 season, where-in the Mariners won 116 games and made it to the American League Championship Series, the team is finally returning to the playoffs.

On the back of young stars on both sides of the ball, the Mariners clinched their spot with a pinch-hit walk-off home run by Cal Raleigh.

The drought was dreadful for fans, as for many years the Mariners were not a bad team. Even tallying seven winning seasons, falling a mere few games short several times. But, that was the story of the team, having talent but never being able to clutch up enough wins to make it into the postseason.

That is finally changing.

Over the past 21 seasons, 10 men have managed the team, and several Hall of Fame level talents have come and gone through the organization.

In the two years following their historic season, they would go 93-69 in both seasons. Usually, winning over 90 games would mean that the team would make the postseason.

However, at the time there was only one wild card team, and they were six games behind that spot in 2002 and two games behind in 2003.

Many of the players that comprised the 2001 record-breaking team stayed for several more seasons. But the fault of the team would always come to unreliable pitching that would either be unable to stay healthy, or would string together poor performances.

Following these two successful seasons, the team imploded. They would finish last in the division for three straight seasons before coming back and winning 88 games in 2007.

This would be the last truly competitive season for the Mariners for close to a decade, as the next time they would truly compete for a postseason berth would be in 2014.

2014 was supposed to be the year that changed the Mariners’ fortune. They won the Robinson Cano sweepstakes during the offseason and signed him to a 10-year $240 million deal. Alongside the new additions, the bullpen overperformed and it all culminated with the team falling a heartbreaking one game short of a playoff berth.

Following a disappointing finish, the team felt like they were primed for competition and went to sign another power bat. That bat was Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz, in the midst of the off-season, the Mariners signed the slugger to a four-year, $57 million deal.

In 2016 they fell just three games short of the postseason. Two years later in 2018, they would fall eight games short despite winning 89 games. Finally, in just the previous season they would win 90 games, having a huge late-season surge to fight for a spot, falling an incredibly painful two games short.

Over the years, the team has often been carried by a few power hitters, unable to have a well-rounded lineup or consistent starting rotation and bullpen.

That is not to say they have not had their fair share of amazing arms. Notably, “King” Félix Hernández, one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the team, was a mainstay in the rotation over the years.

Hernández had many notable achievements with the franchise, being a six-time All-Star and even winning a Cy Young Award. The Cy Young Award is given to the two best pitchers in their respective league, one from the American League and one from the National League.

He is also the last pitcher to throw a perfect game in the MLB, doing so in front of the home crowd in Seattle. A perfect game is a pitching performance where the pitcher faces all 27 batters of the opposing team, and gets all 27 outs consecutively without allowing a single base-runner.

He loved the city and stayed loyal throughout the losing years, something that many other players have followed in doing so.

Being a rookie in the historic 2001 season, Ichiro has had not only a major impact on the Mariners, but MLB as a whole. Being a Japanese player, he had to leave the comfort of his home continent to pursue his dream of playing in the MLB.

Ichiro was a 10-time All-Star, won an MVP, won multiple silver sluggers and gold gloves and was the face of the franchise for his entire tenure. Although he would play for a few other teams during the twilight years of his career, he would come back to finish his career and retire with the team he started it with.

While these two were the best Mariners for their careers, notable talent such as Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, WSU alum John Olerud, Edwin Diaz, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Seager have all played for the team.

With several notable talents and expectations to finally return to the postseason, the Mariners finally decided to turn to younger talent by trading franchise mainstays Diaz and Cano to the Mets in 2018.

It was the same year that the team would draft future hero Raleigh and the year prior they signed future superstar Julio Rodríguez out of the international pool. It signaled a transfer of the guard for the team.

2022 was the year they finally broke through and ended the drought. Fans hope that it will not be the start of another drought and look forward to cheering the team on this October.

With young players such as generational-talent Rodríguez, Raleigh, Jarred Kelenic, Matt Brash, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert as well as veteran presences such as J.P. Crawford, Luis Castillo, Jesse Winker, Robbie Ray and Mitch Haniger, the Mariners will look to contend and get better for years to come.