Seattle Mariners – The Dream Of The 90s Is Alive In Seattle

One wouldn’t know it from the Seattle Mariners’ constant marketing of the year 1995, but it occurred 27 years ago. For reference, when I was 12 in 1995 and listening to the “oldies” music radio station, the music playing on the station then was just as far back as the “modern” hits of 1995 are to today. The Seattle Mariners hope you forget that. They hope you forget that the one shining moment for the franchise occurred in a time when a significant portion of their fanbase was not even alive.

But, when nostalgia and hope is all you have to offer because you haven’t made the playoffs in 21 years, you sell nostalgia and hope.

That 1995 team was special. It was not supposed to be a great team, but it was good enough to make an improbably and magical playoff run. Unfortunately, for most of the 27 years since, the Mariners have embraced “It’s good enough” as a business model. 

Once more, the Mariners entered an offseason without the playoffs, and once again, they are going into spring training with a roster they can just hope is good enough.

When all-star free agent shortstop Trevor Story signed a six-year contract with the Boston Red Sox earlier this week, it became official. In one of the best free agent classes of hitters in recent memory, the Mariners mainly chose to sit on their hands.

Yes, the brought in reclamation-project turned 2021 Cy Young Winner Robbie Ray. And they made out very well in a trade for Cincinnati Reds all-star outfielder Jesse Winker. They traded for second baseman Adam Frazier from the San Diego Padres. All those transactions made the Mariners better; there is no question about that. I like all of them. But did it make them good enough to be a contender? That’s highly debatable.

While the Mariners watched the likes of Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and Story head to other teams, division rival Texas went on a spending spree. While the Mariners spent the offseason hyping their highly ranked farm system and the prospects in it, the Houston Astros remain at the top of the heap of the AL West until someone knocks them off. While the Mariners continue to tinker around at the margins of their roster, the Los Angeles Angels employ two of the best baseball players on the planet in Mike Trout and Shohei Otani. In the AL West, only the Oakland Athletics actively made themselves worse this offseason but considering that the A’s contend every year with a shoestring budget, don’t count them out yet. 

Over the weekend, the Mariners hyped a story from Major League Baseball showcasing the franchises with the most prospects in MLB’s Top 100 prospect list. The Mariners have six. Right behind them, five for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers refuse to rest until they have an All-Star at every position on the diamond. They refuse to look at their roster and decide, “It’s good enough.” They’re not hyping the number of prospects they have in a Top 100 list because they are busy trying to get back to the World Series. The Mariners are hyping that list because other than 1990’s nostalgia; they have nothing else to offer. Want an interesting factoid? During the regime of General Manager Jerry Dipoto, the biggest free agent contract the Mariners have handed out to a position player is to journeyman outfielder Nori Aoki. For 5.5 million dollars. For one year. In 2016.

For six years, the Mariners, despite having one of the most woeful offenses in major league baseball, have refused to spend money on the very players who would make them better. Since 2016 have likely spent more money firing people who made a public practice of complaining about perfectly reasonable contracts they have given to homegrown players like the recently retired Kyle Seager than they have on free agents who could make them better. 

They spent the past several years preaching patience for them to develop prospects and payroll flexibility to compete. Players like Julio Rodriguez appear primed for success, but before we get too excited, it’s best to remember that in the past two decades, the Mariners have sent a grand total of two homegrown position players to the All-Star Game (Jose Lopez in 2006 and Kyle Seager in 2014), so the team does not exactly have a great record of nurturing and improving the talent that comes through its system. If ever there was a time for the Mariners to buck their trend of ruining their own players, it’s now. As for the payroll flexibility, they had the means and the motive to go on a spending spree this offseason. Instead, they either were not interested or did want to try hard enough to make a dent in owner John Stanton’s significant personal wealth to land one of many available topflight hitters to bolster their lineup.

I don’t say all of this to write the Mariners off. They are likely looking at somewhere around 85-90 wins, which might be good enough to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. There are still plenty of ways for the team to improve before now and the start of the season, or the trade deadline if they are in contention. However, after decades of mediocrity, it’s time for Mariners fans to demand more than “might be good enough.” 

It’s time for the Mariners to stop selling hope and nostalgia and to start spending on winning.

About Ben McCarty 35 Articles
Ben McCarty is a freelance writer and digital media producer who lives in Vancouver. He can usually be found in his backyard with his family, throwing the ball for his dog, or telling incredibly long, convoluted bedtime stories. He enjoys Star Wars, rambling about sports, and whipping up batches of homemade barbeque sauce.