I ask the question posed in the title with the utmost sincerity. In my 21 years, I have never seen a sports team as irrelevant as the Seattle Mariners. Sure, you could argue the Cleveland Browns or the Detroit Lions or the Orlando Magic (as a Magic fan, I am sighing in defeat saying that). Maybe the Sacramento Kings, who are basically the West Coast Magic. But those teams have at least had some relevance. The Magic at least had Aaron Gordon who got robbed out of 2 Dunk Contests. The Lions may be bad, but they play on Thanksgiving every year. The Browns made a playoff appearance in 2020. The Kings…you got me there. But the Seattle Mariners have just never crossed my mind or appeared in the national sports press for any reason as long as I can recall.
The Seattle Mariners can trace their origins to the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots played one MLB season in 1969, finishing the year 64-98. The Pilots had no real competition, though the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics began play in 1967. However, baseball was still the most popular spectator sport in America at this time. The Pilots filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Allen “Bud” Selig in bankruptcy court in 1970, and the team was moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers. This led to a lawsuit that lasted until 1976, when the Mariners were formed along with the Toronto Blue Jays so the league had an even number of teams. The team’s first season was 1977. And the problems began almost immediately. The Mariners struggled from 1977-1990, with 1991 being the first time they ever fielded a winning team. The Mariners played their third and final season under manager Jim Lefebvre, finishing with an 83-79 record. Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. were both on that ’91 squad, along with longtime Mariner Edgar Martinez. 1995 was the Mariners best season, finishing 79-66 and making the postseason for the first time in franchise history. The Mariners defeated the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, with Edgar Martinez sealing the series win with a walk-off double in the 11th inning of Game 5. Seattle then fell to the Cleveland Indians in six games in the League Championship Series. The Mariners haven’t been as relevant as that since. They’re the only MLB franchise without a World Series appearance. They also haven’t made a postseason appearance since 2001. That year, they went 116-46. Those 116 wins in a season remain an MLB record, however they lost the American League Championship Series in five games to the Yankees. 2021 was a tough pill to swallow for Mariners fans, as the franchise went 90-72, which was second in the AL West, 5 games behind the Houston Astros, and more wins than the World Series champion Atlanta Braves, but they didn’t make the postseason as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees grabbed the last two wild card spots. At the time of writing this article, the Mariners are 15-18. But with a 162 game season, anything can happen and I don’t think it’s time the Mariners hit the panic button on the season.
The Mariners have had stars. Alex Rodriguez played with the Mariners from 1994-2000. 4 of his 14 All-Star appearances were with Seattle (1996-1998, 2000). Ken Griffey Jr. has to be mentioned here. Griffey hit 630 home runs in his career, seventh all-time on the MLB list, and is considered one of the most prolific home run hitters in MLB history. Griffey Jr.’s visibility was considered to be a way MLB helped restore their public image in the wake of the 1994 players strike. He also has played in 4 calendar decades. He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 at 99.32% of the vote, which is the largest in history. Edgar Martinez also has to mentioned here as well. He played his whole career for the Mariners and was a two-time batting champion, 5 time Silver Slugger, and 7 time All-Star. Ichiro Suzuki was also a longtime member of the Mariners, from 2001-2012 and again from 2018-2019. Griffey Jr. and Martinez and have had their jersey numbers retired by the organization. However, despite having such talents as Griffey Jr., Martinez, Rodriguez, and Suzuki, the Mariners can’t put it all together. 30 of their 45 seasons have been losing ones.
So, to answer the title question: Yes, the Mariners have been relevant, but not often. Since the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, they just play in a void. They just exist. They compete and produce All-Stars, but it’s all for naught. 2021 showed there’s something this team can build on, and maybe they can turn things around and become consistently relevant.