Did you hear about all the changes the Seattle Mariners made this offseason?
First, they changed their name to the Ailing Orcas. Then they got rid of all of their players, replacing them with people off of the street. Finally, they built a new stadium on a raft in Puget Sound, where presumably the traffic is better than in SoDo.
Okay, fine. Those things aren’t true. They still go by the Seattle Mariners, and will still play this season at the same ballpark as in previous years, though they did change the name from Safeco Field to T-Mobile Park. And though they did offload much of their roster—Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, James “Big Maple” Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino, and Cameron Maybin—their new players are still professionals.
The team is undergoing what industry professionals refer to as a rebuild. It’s a complicated concept, but essentially it means they let go of their older, more expensive players in favor of younger, cheaper ones. It’s a tacit, not-so-tacit acknowledgement that management didn’t believe they were going to win everything with a salary-heavy roster. These new younger players can take a few years to get acclimated to the game. The Mariners should be competitive again sometime during the 2027 season. Or at least that’s how it feels to fans.
What’s particularly galling about this reality is that the Mariners were close to making the playoffs with last year’s roster. Might this year have been the one where they were able to get over the postseason hump for the first time since 2001?
If you’re still reading till this point, you’re probably ready to accept the reality-based portion of this exercise. The Mariners, founded in 1977, have been to the playoffs exactly four times, all between ’95 and ’01. Three of those seasons—’95, ’00, ’01—they went all the way to the ALCS, which is one series from the World Series, aka the Fall Classic, the Big Kahuna, what my Paw Patrol loving toddler might refer to as the “ultimate battle.” There are people walking around Seattle with grey hair who were children when the Mariners were last relevant!
Instead, Seattle seems content to sail into the Offs each year. For those that don’t know, the Offs are the time of year when players work on their golf swings and spend more time with their families—as opposed to the ‘offs, where they might run the risk of breaking their fans’ hearts, which would never happen with the passive-passive relationship style we prefer here in the Emerald City.
As is often said, the Seattle Mariners have the longest postseason drought in professional sports. It’s hard to believe, given that we live in a world with teams like the Cleveland Browns. True story.
So, is there anything that might motivate fans to participate in the 2019 season, which is all but upon us?
There are lots of reasons, really. Did you hear about the new corporate sponsor, T-Mobile? Did you know that their “corporate color” is magenta? There is also a new tunnel in downtown Seattle that comes out right next to the ballpark. It’s even free to drive through it until summer!
Did you know that the newly-named stadium will have all new concession offerings, including a 34-ounce triple IPA for $47, made from Washington hops hand-picked by Jeff Bezos? Or the Tech Bro Chicken Wing Extravaganza, which includes 6,000 chicken wings for a mere $13,000?
Okay, maybe some of those things aren’t true, but if they were, would you be more likely to go a game?
On a more serious note, anything is possibly possible this season, including a playoff run. Just ask the Milwaukee Brewers. They went from 73-89 in ’16 to 86-76 in ’17 to 96-67 in ’18, which carried them all the way to game seven of the NLCS.
Besides, the baseball fan experience may be better when your team is good, but, like many things in life, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
Wait for the air to have that spring or summer feel. Try to take the afternoon or evening off from life’s obligations. Round up a buddy, your sweetie or your kid. Get out to the ballpark and soak in the sights and the sounds and the feels.
Alternatively, do as I often do, and take the game in through the mind’s eye. You need a transistor radio—battery-powered and with a crooked antenna. You sprawl out on the grass at the park or in the yard. If a warm rain is falling, you lay on the couch or the bed, with a nearby window open. Your eyes begin to rest. And then the magic happens.