4.22.2015

What it's like to be a Mariners fan

In my previous post, I admitted to being geek who enjoys spectator sports. But I am a local boy so my fandom is generally limited to my hometown teams.

That means Seahawks football. My mom was (is) a Denver Broncos fan, so those Sundays of my childhood when those two teams played each other were always fun. My dad, Aaron, and I all cheering for the Seahawks while my mom was the only one dressed in blue and orange. I am a loyal 12 and the past couple of years have completely atoned for every dismal season I've watched back as long as I can remember.

That means Sonics basketball. I don't care how many championships the OKC Thunder win, I refuse to acknowledge them as a valid NBA team until the Supersonics are back in Seattle.

That means Sounders soccer. I played soccer as a kid and love having a hometown team that I can support.

That means UW athletics. The Huskies. Purple and gold. Granted, now that I live in WSU/UI territory, my choice in college sports seems a bit heretic. But I don't really care. Go Dawgs.

Even now, living in North Idaho, I consider myself a local boy and include Spokane teams among my favorites. Shock arena football, Chiefs hockey, Gonzaga basketball.

When it comes to baseball, I am all about the Mariners. A long suffering M's fan.

Within the world of Seattle sports, it seems most embarrassing to admit your favorite team is the Mariners. In fact, the last time I went to a game at Safeco field, there were more fans of the opposing team in attendance than there were for the M's. When everyone sang 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' during the seventh inning stretch, only a small percentage were actually there to "root, root, root for the home team." No shame if they didn't win, that's what most everyone expected.

They're still my team and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I genuinely miss the old trident logo of the early 80s. I fondly reminisce about the glory days of the mid 90s. Griffey's backward hat, Buhner buzz cuts, counting strikeouts for the Big Unit, watching Lou Piniella argue with the umpires, A-Rod (before the drugs), Edgar and Tino. And it doesn't matter who is providing color commentary these days; any time I listen to a game, I hear Dave Niehaus' voice superimposed over any other announcer.

image courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Don't forget though, I am still a nerd. I am a data junkie, a numbers guy. If you want to know what it is like to be a Mariners fan, the statistics will describe it better than the memories of the lingering taste from a Kingdog consumed in 1989.

Here are the statistical facts:
* The Mariners had a losing record for each of the first 13 years of their existence.
* Since 1977, the Mariners have only made it into the post season four times.
* Number of American League Division titles: 3
* Number of American Legaue Championships: 0
* The Mariners have never played in the World Series. There is only one other team that shares this shameful feat - the Washington Nationals.
* The Mariners have finished the regular season first in their division three times. In one of those three years, they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
* They have finished second in their division four times, but only advanced into the playoffs in one of those seasons.
* From 1977-1993, the Mariners never finished a season ranked better than fourth in their division.
* From 1994-2014, the Mariners never finished a season ranked worse than fourth in their division.
* They have only won 46% of the games they have ever played (not including the 2015 season).
* Rookie of the Year has been awarded to three Mariners - the first was my favorite: Alvin Davis.
* Two Mariners have won the Cy Young Award.
* Two Mariners were named Most Valuable Player.
* The Mariners have sent a player to the All-Star Game every year since their first season in 1977.
* In 21 those 38 All-Star Games, at least one Mariner was elected to be on the starting lineup.
* There was a Mariner in the All-Star starting lineup every year from 1990-2004.
* The most winning season in Mariner history was 2001 with a 116/46 regular win/loss record.
* They lost the American League Championship to the Yankees in 2001; being the first playoffs post 9/11, that was the year everyone was rooting for the Yankees.
* Also in 2001, Seattle hosted the All-Star game and the Mariners had four players in the starting lineup - more than any other team that year.
* Of their winning seasons finishing with greater than a 0.5 winning percentage, 7 of those seasons have been in the last 15 years.

What do those statistics tell me? Well, a lot.

The Mariners are better today than they've ever been. Their recent years show a stronger and better performing team than the one I fondly remember from my youth. They are a whole bunch of awesome without much to show for it. They are the best team with the worst success. Every year, they start with so much potential. It is for that reason I keep coming back to them thinking, 'maybe this will be their year.'

Maybe 2015 will be their year. But if statistics have anything to say (which I am convinced statistics always has something to say), Mariner fans can expect more of the same. I say this with love for my favorite baseball team, with respect for all of the enduringly optimistic fans like me, with a bit of hope and a dash of realism. We have a good team this year, but I fear it will not be their year.

Yes, I know that the season just started. Yes, I know that they've only played 14 games and have another 148 scheduled. That means they are only 8.6% of the way through the season. There are a lot of games left to be played and things could change.

With all the optimism us Seattle fans are supposed to possess, why the dire prediction?

Consider how this season has progressed this far. We all ready have a losing season: 5 wins, 9 losses. That gives us room to improve, but we're last place in our division and it is unlikely we'll catch up enough to qualify for post season - even as a wild card.

A couple of players give us hope. Felix is in the top ten pitchers leading the league in strikeouts. Cruz leads the league in home runs and tied for first in RBIs. These stats should make us happy. But for me, it is a whole lot of awesome and not much to show for it.

So far tonight, they're up 3 to 1 in the top of the 5th. But they had a 3 to 1 lead last night during this same inning and blew it by giving away 5 runs in the 8th inning. I have come to accept this as their SOP.

Doom and gloom aside, I'm still a fan. The M's can keep Seattling their way out of a winning season, I will still cheer them on. And yes, I did just use Seattle as a verb.

If this isn't our year, maybe next year will be our season.

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