My Oh My! Mariners! (Part 1 of 3)
Finally… After 21 years, The Seattle Mariners are in the MLB playoffs.
- Finally… After 21 years, The Seattle Mariners are in the MLB playoffs.
- The last playoff series… 21 years ago.
- A brief explanation of how baseball works.
- Baseball team roster construction in a nutshell
- The short playoff history of The Mariners:
- An overview of the current MLB postseason format
- An oral account of the 2022 American League Wildcard Series: The Seattle Mariners vs The Toronto Blue Jays
- The Result?
This is my longest post to date and I am proud of it. I hope you enjoy it!
It’s been hard to be a Seattle Mariners baseball fan. If this was a relationship with a person you would say the fan is in an abusive relationship. So many times you have hope or get a glimmer of the thing you fell in love with, only to be let down, only to have your heart broken.
For years now, they (the Mariners) have said they will change. That this year is different. This year will be the one where they get it together. Then they fail the last week of the season and miss the playoffs. One time was out of their control in 2014 when they had to have everything go right, win one game at the end of the season and have another team lose one game, the Oakland Athletics, to get in. It wasn’t to be and they were eliminated despite winning 87 games. The last time it felt it was the year we would get to the world series and likely win it all, was in 2001, when The Mariners tied a record 116 wins in a season, in a miracle season, only to make it to the American League Championship Series to face the New York Yankees.
The same Yankees were a Dynasty team that had won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. And go to the postseason pretty much every year… The 2001 playoff match-up against the Yankees was noteworthy because it was after 9/11. The Mariners never had a chance. Even though the Mariners had an all-time win record that year, and were favored before the attacks happened, it was not likely that they would win. Somebody loses in sports since only one team can be champion. And teams generally do well when motivated or after tragedy strikes in their hometown. This series was about 1 month after 9/11 took place.
The last playoff series… 21 years ago.
It was a bittersweet series. As a Mariners fan, I do not like the Yankees… As a young sports fan, I had a hunch the Mariners weren’t going to beat the Yanks. Not after 9/11 happened and some of the games would take place in New York City. As if an experienced, multiple-recent World Series winner needed more motivation.
Unfortunately, I was right as the final score was Seattle Mariners 2 wins, Yankees 4 games in 6 games. It was satisfying to see ex-Mariner Randy Johnson and The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in 7 games in the world series… But I thought next season we would be back.
The Yankees beat us twice in the ALCS in 2000 and 2001 within 6 games. Yes, there were reasons to watch games, with players such as Ichiro (pronounced EE chee Row) who would get base hits in the style of players from the dead-ball era and run full speed to first base every time he made contact an impact in the infield. Or make spectacular plays from the outfield. Or watch Felix Hernandez paint corners, and dominate games as a pitcher by himself as a young phenom, showing up every start, despite getting no run support. Or for the love of the game baseball, where you might see something that has never happened before on any given day. At times, it was fun to watch them lose as there was a hope for the future as draft picks accumulated and you hoped that young prospects would pan out.
But, as hopes fade. As the loss piles up. As watching loses meaning… It’s natural as a human to put your attention elsewhere. While I never gave up hope, as the heartbreak added up… I had to love them at a distance. Over these 21 years, the M’s did try every possible way to succeed, yet still failed.
A brief explanation of how baseball works.
Baseball, at its core, is a battle between a hitter and a pitcher. One team comes to the plate to hit to score runs, and one team defends. Each inning is made up of 3 outs that make up 1 inning. One game is a minimum of 9 innings. To make an Out, you must either: A) strike out a batter in 3 strikes, or the batter hits the ball to the field of play, which the defense records 1 Out. Each team takes turns on offense and defense, and whoever has the most runs after 9 innings wins. Unless it is a tie, and the game goes on. Each batter has 3 strikes or 4 balls to advance to a base. 3 bases hold runners, which if they reach the 4th base, home plate are counted as a run. The ball begins with the Pitcher, who throws a pitch to the catcher over home plate. Th outcome which is determined by an umpire if it is a ball or a strike.
Each team has 9 players: a pitcher, a catcher, a first baseman, a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, a left fielder, a center fielder, a right fielder, or a designated hitter. In modern baseball, a designated hitter typically hits for the pitcher.
When a batter makes contact with the ball, and it falls in fair ground, it is a: single, double, or triple. If it is hit out of play and not a foul ball, it is a home run. Which counts for 1-4 runs, depending on how many runners are on base.
More into details Here.
This is a basic visual demonstration of baseball as shown by Bugs Bunny lol.
Baseball team roster construction in a nutshell
Baseball players are chosen by teams every year in the MLB draft, signed Internationally as a teenager, or from other professional baseball leagues to a contract that ties them to the team that marks them for a certain amount of seasons. After that period, they are allowed to be “Free agents” and can sign with any team for any amount of money and seasons, depending on their talent and production. This right to choose where to play was a hard-earned right by Curt Flood and the Players union. While I am pro-union and for the right to work for whomever you want for the pay you feel you deserve for your talents and skills… Professional Athlete compensation is absurd. Only so because there are still so many problems with the world, and the owners of the teams and entertainment industry are owned by the 1%. As I grow older, my least favorite part of professional sports is already millionaire athletes whining about pay when they choose to sign those long deals. This isn’t as much of a common thing in the baseball zeitgeist compared to the NFL… But I digress. I simply enjoy watching these professional games, these sports, the athletes, the strategy, and the expression of humanity.
This is relevant because each team has a different budget depending on the team ownership structure. Some owners spend more money to build a team, and some groups, such as the New York Yankees, are well known in the sport as spending as much as possible because they are deemed to be in a large media market. In professional baseball’s history, most team budgets have reflected the media market they are located in. Since about the 1990s, however, this has not been the case as much, with billionaires living all over the US and World and Television expanding the media markets across states. This means that sometimes you will have a wealthy owner who wants to win it all, and will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire top talents, such as the Florida Marlins in the mid 90s, and the Detroit Tigers in the mid to early aughts. This isn’t a guarantee of winning a title, as at times, the lower budget teams such as the 2003 Florida Marlins win it all. That is the beauty of sports. Some times smart teams find players without spending the most amount of money, and do well evaluating other teams that are “richer”. Or simply play the sport better when it matters most. The Seattle Mariners have usually been around the middle of the pack in team spending during my life, with times the payroll has been higher, and others where its lower.
Other times, it all goes wrong or doesn’t work out… No matter how well the team roster is constructed, how much money is spent– High or low– Or the baseball gods determine that it is not your season. Or when you are a Mariners fan, Murphy’s law happens, and what can go wrong goes wrong.
The short playoff history of The Mariners:
The graphic above is only part of the Mariner’s postseason history. That first playoff run in 1995 is stuff of legend. I’m pretty sure the writers for the baseball movie Major League ripped off aspects of it and set it in Cleveland. Which is further reason to hate that team and adds to the rivalry. Which might be another curse on them. Curse alluding to a reason why they haven’t won a World Series in a long time.
In 1995 The Mariners were in a stadium falling apart and team owners were threatening to move the team someplace in Florida. ( I don’t remember all of the fine details as I was 9 years old, and just started playing baseball around that time.) A measure was put on the ballot for King County (the County where Seattle is located) to decide if public funds should be used to fund a new stadium with a sales tax increase. The first round, in September 1995, voters said NO. The Mariners squeaked in the playoffs with a tie on the last game of the season with division rival California Angels (Now The Los Angeles Angels… Who play in Anaheim, California. Yeah its weird). Their fate would be determined in game 163, which was then how which team would advance into the new wildcard round against the New York Yankees. The Mariners won. They advanced to the ALDS, and now a second voting measure for a stadium was on the line with the thinnest of margins. How they played would determine their fate.
This 24 minute youtube video does an amazing job covering that playoff run:
After 2001, there were a couple seasons which they were in the Playoff hunt.
In 2003, they were in the race until August, when they lost 6 in a row, and division rival Oakland A’s played better down the stretch.
In 2007, they had a similar run, but choked in September.
2014: The Mariners were in the playoff hunt at the last game of the season, with Ace Pitcher Felix Hernandez pitching. I bought tickets to this game. The Mariners were tied with division rival Oakland on the last game of the season. If Oakland lost, the M’s were in the playoffs. Going in, we had a shot with our best pitcher on the mound. That year, Felix Hernandez was in the race for the top pitcher award, The CY Young award. Therefore we had a good chance if he did well and the lowly Texas Rangers beat Oakland. Felix did his part, and the team and we, as fans had to hope that Oakland lost. In the 5th inning, we learned that our season was over and we missed the playoffs again. Oakland advanced, despite a stellar start by Felix and a great game by the Mariners.
2016 we fell 3 games short of the wildcard spot.
2018 we were far short of rival Oakland athletics which won 97 games to our 89 wins.
All roads through the American League (which the Mariners are part of) lead to exciting matchups. Except for the 1995 miracle season, We have been beaten by the New York Yankees in the playoffs in the 2/3 series. A potential match-up with Cleveland would be interesting as the match up is 1-1. That would happen only if Cleveland beats New York, and we beat the Houston Astros in our ALDS match ups.
This year could be an actual exorcism of demons. There isn’t any past history with the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wildcard round. But they already won World Series Championships in the 90s. They can wait another year. In rounds 2 and 3 of the American League playoffs, we can get back by facing the Houston Astros, who are division rivals… And were caught cheating in the World Series with an elaborate method of stealing signs in 2017. We can face either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Guardians in the ALCS, both teams which have defeated us in the postseason in past years.
First things first is to beat the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Houston Astros.
Which brings us to 2022.
An overview of the current MLB postseason format
This season has an expanded postseason format, meaning that 6 teams qualify for the postseason. The 6 are determined by their season record. If multiple teams have a tied record after 162 games, which can happen, who qualifies is determined by their head-to-head record in the regular season. The teams with a better season-winning record move on to the postseason. With the current season standings, the Mariners move on.
An oral account of the 2022 American League Wildcard Series: The Seattle Mariners vs The Toronto Blue Jays
The series began on Friday, October 7th, at 1:07pm PST. I came to work wearing the Ichiro Jersey at the top of the post. The mid-day start due to the game being in Toronto, Canada meant it would happen when I was at work. No matter. No way I was going to miss the first Mariners postseason game and series in 21 years. The time, 1:07 PM, meant that the game would begin during lunch break. This gave me some time to figure out how to follow the game. At work in our department, we have a significant, my guess, 36-40 inch tv mounted on the wall that is used for displaying work information. 99% of the time, a spreadsheet displays employee trimming production. How many grams each employee has cut for the day/week. We have a loose work environment, so the possibility of watching a live sports game while working would not take away from doing our work. I’m usually either listening to an audiobook or watching a movie on my phone, which is at eye level on a camera stand while trimming weed… So this isn’t that unusual. Looking back, I probably should have asked the owner as a courtesy if he was okay with us doing so ahead of time if we could use the working tv to watch a game. Whoops.
The game was listed on ESPN. So, I opened the ESPN+ app, thinking I could watch it live there. I struck out. It gave a 10-minute preview before I had to sign into a TV provider. Bullshit. So I tried an “alternate” method. Which kind of worked but kept freezing. So, I found the free radio broadcast for my local sports AM station. A base hit! Which was far better than the announcers on TV. There is a special connection, an intimacy, and a unique style that local broadcasters can give to Baseball over the radio. As a long-time fan, it was nice to hear our local announcers finally narrate a playoff game. Nothing like hearing the enthusiasm of Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims, Alex Rivera, Aaron Goldsmith, and former players Dan Wilson and Mike Blowers. These men have been there from 10 to 37 years. They have been there for the highest peaks, the lowest lows, and the weirdness between. They blew away the passable ESPN announcers broadcasting this postseason game.
Each pitch, each foul off the bat, each ball put into play had us in our department at the edge of our seats. My coworker and I were the most into it of the 4 working that Friday. We would cheer or clap with every good result.
A pause for Spanish pronunciation. (A play on a phrase used by Mariners radio broadcasters used during games. They say something like: “Lets take a break for station identification. This is 710 ESPN radio.” and there would be a commercial break.
I can poorly speak Spanish. I took a couple classes in high school. Baseball is an international sport with many leagues and players in spanish speaking countries. Which means that many players natively speak spanish and therefore to say their names correctly, you a little insight. Here is how to pronounce the following names below. Julio Rodriguez is said as Who Lee Oh Rod ree gehz. Eugenio Suarez is said as A (like the letter A) you hen ee oh Swar (Like the word swear without the letter e) ehz. Luis Castillo pronounced as Loo ees Cast ee yo.
And of course you say Cal Raleigh like Cal Rolly.
The tale of the game would be power and getting on base. At the top of the first inning, Rookie sensation Julio Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and got on base. (for a batter to be hit by a pitcher’s pitch means they reach first base) Third Baseman Eugenio Suarez hit a double and drove in Rodriguez to score. Mariners 1, Blue Jays 0. The next hitter was catcher Cal Raleigh, who hit a home run to right field. (which means 2 runs score) Mariners 3, Blue Jays 0. In the 5th inning, Suarez would add one more run through a fielder’s choice, causing a 4th run to score. This was the icing on the cake, as power pitcher Luis Castillo dominated the game with his 100+ MPH fastball and didn’t allow the Blue Jays to score a run on 6 scattered base hits. By the time he lost control in the 8th inning, it was enough for our power closer Andres Munoz who also throws a 100 mph fastball and 90+ slider, to dominate the remaining 1.2 innings of the game or to “close” for the win.
The game sped by and was over a good 20 minutes before the end of shift cleanup.
Game 2 was at 1:07pm in Toronto once more. The new wildcard series is a best of 3. So although the Mariners were amazing in game 1, it was very likely that the Blue Jays would strike back and take game 2. They won 2 more games than the Mariners and known for being a strong hitting team. Game 1 had Castillo and Munoz dominate with pitching. The Blue Jays did manage 7 hits across the zero runs scored. There was no guarantee that The Mariners would win game 2. It would not be an easy path, with Kevin Gausman starting for the Jays. It wouldn’t be easy for the Jays either as Pitcher Robbie Ray took the mound for the Mariners.
The Blue Jays matched yesterday’s box score, 4-0 by the 4th inning with 2 home runs by Right Fielder Teoscar Hernandez, and an RBI single by First Baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Pitcher Robbie Ray was replaced by Matt Brash, who would finish the 4th inning. Blue Jays 4, Mariners 0.
In the top of the 5th, The Mariners scored 1 run after a single by second baseman Adam Frazier, a double after a tough at bat by Designated Hitter Carlos Santana, and a sacrifice fly by Left Fielder Jarred Kelenic. Blue Jays 4, Mariners 1.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, the Blue Jays came up to bat. The mariners changed pitchers to relief pitcher Pat Sewald. Their first batter got one base with a single. The second batter was struck out. 1 man on with 1 out. After a double and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded. (An intentional walk is a strategy decision by the team on defense to put a batter on base because of their skill for generating runs by base hits, so that it is easier to generate a double play which creates 2 outs. Both teams have 3 outs to work with in an inning.) Now the bases were loaded in favor of the Blue Jays. The next batter saw two straight balls making the count 2-0. Making it worse, the second ball, a 4 seam fastball, sailed away over Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh causing the runner from third to score. Bluejays 5, Mariners 1.
After this that batter got on base with a walk, loading the bases again! To make it worse, Teoscar Hernandez who eaier hit 2 home runs came to the plate. (each team has 9 batters which take turns throughout the game in “at bats” They cna have additional at bats in an inning if the earlier batters get on base, or drive in runs before the defense makes 3 outs.) Teoscar Hernandez is not the batter you want in this dangerous situation with runners on. on the third pitch, with the 0-2 count in favor of the Mariners and Pitcher Pat Sewald, yet another 4 seam fastball got away from him and hit Hernandez on the arm. Causing him to get on base, and allow a run to score. Bluejays 6, Mariners 1. The bases are still loaded. A sacrifice fly, and a double by the next two batters scored 2 more runs. Causing Pat Sewald to be replaced by reliever Diego Castillo. Bluejays 8, Mariners 1. 1 out still. Castillo would hit the next batter on the first pitch causing the bases to become loaded again! Thankfully after a tough at bat to Espinal… Who led the inning off with a base hit… Castillo manged to get him to hit into a key inning ending double play. The damage was done. the game wasn’t yet over, but our chances were looking grim as the score was now: Bluejays 8, Mariners 1.
Top of the sixth. The first three mariners batters all reached base with singles. Bases loaded in our favor. Right Fielder Mitch Haniger had a strong at bat, but struck out. 1 out. 2nd Baseman Adam Frazier also had a strong at bat, but popped out. 2 outs. After 6 and 2/3rds innings, Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman was replaced by relief pitcher Tim Mayza. Carlos Santana came to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Mayza next threw a wild pitch, a 2 seam fastball that bounced off homeplate and far away from the BlueJays catcher, causing a run to score. Bluejays 8, Mariners 2. The next pitch, Carlos Santana hit a low pitch into left-center field with a 3 run homerun! Bluejays 8, Mariners 5. The next Mariners batter would strike out and end the inning. But, but it was a new ball game and the Mariners had a shot with score now 8-5.
The next two half innings passed with no runs scored.
Bottom of the 7th inning, BlueJays to bat. The Jays would add another run on a couple of singles. Bluejays 9, Mariners 5. After the run was driven in, the next two batters were put away by pitcher Penn Murfee.
Top of the 8th inning, Mariners to bat. They would only have 2 more opportunities to come back in the game with the top of the 8th and 9 innings. If they did not score, the Blue Jays would win as they led by this point in the game, the wildcard series would be tied 1-1 and there would be a game on Sunday. Not what the Mariners would want after being ahead in the wildcard series and using so many pitchers this game so far. It was now or never.
Eugenio Suarez came to bat against new pitcher Anthony Bass. After working the count in his favor at 3 balls, 2 strikes, he fouled off a pitch, then doubled on pitch 7 to reach base. 1 runner on second in scoring position, no outs. Catcher Cal Raleigh came to bat and hit the second pitch, driving in Suarez, Bluejays 9, Mariners 6. The next two Mariners batters would both single making the bases loaded against Blue Jays pitcher and Canadian native Jordan Romano. The stakes couldn’t be higher. For Romano, he was pitching for his home team, pitching in the playoffs with the bases loaded. If he gets out of this jam, he would be a legend. Romano struck out the next two hitters. bases loaded 2 outs. Up to bat came Shortstop J.P. Crawford. If Crawford got a base hit, he would become a legend. This is the moment I have been waiting for as a fan for 21 years. Would Crawford succeed, or would Romano get him out? If the Mariners score, come from behind, and hold on they would advance. Here we go…
On the first pitch… J.P. Crawford hit a bloop double in the middle of centerfield that none of the 3 nearby Bluejays Fielders could get to. Two of which run into each other causing a scary collision. Jubilant cheers by me turned to teeth grinding agony as the tv broadcast replayed the collision by the BlueJays defenders. These types of injury by collision don’t happen often in baseball. Though it is rare, it can happen in this place on the outfield grass between center, 2nd base, and shortstop. Which was what happened. Blue Jays Shortstop Bichette ran into Center Fielder George Springer. Bichette looked concussed, but stayed in the game after taking a few minutes. Springer had to be helped up onto a cart and be replaced because he couldn’t continue. The result is that 3 runs score. Bluejays 9, Mariners 9. With rookie of the year candidate Julio Rodriguez coming to the plate. Romano would intentionally walk Rodriguez and strike out Ty France, ending the inning. Game score tied. Now anyone could win.
Bottom of the 8th. Relief pitcher Andres Munoz came in to pitch for the Mariners. In yesterday’s game, he was dominant and easily put away the Blue Jay batters. New center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. came to bat and was struck out. 1 out. Shortstop Bo Bichette (who just had a collision the previous inning) came to bat and got on base with a walk. 1 out 1 runner on. Bichette stole second base. 1 out runner on second base, in scoring position. Two good at bats by the following Blue Jays batters made the game interesting, but Munoz came through, causing both batters to ground out and end the inning. Bluejays 9, Mariners 9.
Top of the 9th inning. Mariners to bat. Blue Jays pitcher Jordan Romano still pitching. All the Mariners need is 1 more run, and to keep the Blue Jays at bay in their final half inning in the bottom half of the 9th. If neither scores, the game would go on to extra innings. If the Mariners don’t score, and the blue Jays do in their part of the 9th, since they are the home team they would win… And a game would be played the following day. Win now and the series is over. Win now, score now, and the Mariners would have their first playoff series win in 21 years! Here we go… Suarez, Raleigh, and Haniger are to bat.
Suarez to bat. Strikes out swinging on 3 straight sliders by Romano. 1 out.
Cal Raleigh to bat. On a 2-1 count, on the 4th straight 4 seam fastball of the at bat, he hits a double to deep right center field. 1out, runner on second in scoring position.
Haniger would fly out to center field. 2 outs.
In Seattle Mariners history, a double base hit has special meaning in the playoffs. If you watched the earlier video about the 1995 series against the Yankees, you would know that it was Edgar Martinez who hit a go ahead double in extra innings at home to walk off and win the game. Edgar Martinez would build from that and become one of the best Designated Hitters of all time, and eventually be elected to the baseball hall of fame after he slowly got enough years over 15 years to make it in. This moment in 1995 likely pushed him over the top.
Second Baseman Adam Fraizer came to the plate with 2 outs, and Cal Raleigh on at second base in scoring position, who got there with a double of his own. On a swing straight out of 1995 from the left side of the plate, to the opposite side of the field, Fraizer hits a double of his own! Cal Raleigh comes into score and and the Mariners lead in the 9th! Mariners 10, Blue Jays 9.
The Blue Jays would change pitchers to Adam Cimber. He would walk the next two batters to load the bases.. But get out the jam with a ground out by Crawford.
Bottom of the 9th. Mariners 10, Blue Jays 9. The Jays would have to score 1 run to tie the game to continue it to extra innings, to survive. If they score 2 runs, they can win and hold onto tomorrow. In a move out of 1995 on the Mariners pitching side, In came Starting Pitcher George Kirby in relief. It would not be easy as Teoscar Hernandez, Matt Chapman, and Danny Jensen were due to hit. All of which had hits and runs batted in earlier in the game. Hernandez hung in there with a 9 pitch at bat before grounding out. 1 out. Chapman worked a 6 pitch walk and was at first base. He could score if someone drove him in. It happened earlier. It could happen again. Jansen worked a 8 pitch at bat, but Kirby struck him out looking. 2 outs. Raimel Tapia came to bat. on the third pitch he made contact with the pitch, but hit a soft line drive to center fielder Julio Rodriguez. 3 outs.
What a game! We won with a come back victory!
What a series! Now we face division rival Houston Astros.
Woo! It’s Tuesday morning as I finish writing this long, long post. Fitting as for its themes of baseball and a baseball life. Today we have game 1 of the ALDS against the Astros at 12:37pm PST. Once again I will be wearing the jersey at work, and listening to it there. I already bought a ticket in right field for the 1 home game, game 3 in Seattle at home… I AM PUMPED.
It’s been a while since my last post. I was not feeling physically well in September and part of October. Long Covid is a cruel disease. Unlike past instances where I had writer’s block, I was physically unable to write because I couldn’t string words together. The forest fire smoke and unusually hot October days haven’t helped. I have had to relearn when the best time for me to write… Which is now early in the day. I’ve been wiped out after work. An unfortunate new reality as this was my dedicated time to write in the past. Such is a chronic illness. Such is my life. It sucks not to be able to write. I love writing. It is how I express myself, vent, and be creative. Not being able to do so makes me depressed. That said, I have been doing well mentally over the past month. I have been doing better since I got the new booster shot. This Thusday will be 2 weeks. I hope that I’ll be able to write regularly soon.
Very interesting and informative blog post! Thank you, Reilly!
Hope you’re having a super weekend! ❤
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Thanks Meg! It was exhausting but so much fun!
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