There’s only one present day Major League Baseball team to never advance to the World Series. And you guessed it, the unluckiest of those MLB franchises is the one-and-only Seattle Mariners.
In case you believe in curses, Mariners fans like to blame the team’s unlucky ways on the curse of the Seattle Pilots. If you didn’t know, the Pilots were actually the first MLB team in the history of Seattle baseball. But because fans didn’t come to the games, Bud Selig and his ownership group bought the Pilots for 10.8 million dollars to bring the franchise to Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Brewers began operations in 1970, meaning the Pilots only lasted one year in Seattle. The Pilots filed for bankruptcy on April 1, 1970, and since then, Mariners fans have been subjected to lackluster baseball.
If you’re a fan of superstitions, the legend goes that because enough fans didn’t attend the Pilot home games, a curse was put on the Brewers and any franchise that would materialize in Seattle thereafter. Since the Pilots left in 1970, the Brewers and Mariners have only played in one combined World Series. Even though the Mariners won 116 regular season games in 2001, the M’s still didn’t advance to the World Series after having to face off against the New York Yankees during the American League Championship Series.
Fans like to point to the curse as the Pilots could’ve stayed in Seattle if there were more fans at the games. However, according to numerous reports, the situation at Sick’s Stadium was so dire that fans couldn’t even flush the toilets during home games. Sick’s Stadium was reportedly called a pigpen by Oakland Athletics owner Chuck Finley, and the home of the Pilots only allowed 11,000 fans entering the 1969 season. Fans had every right to avoid attending Pilots games, especially since ticket prices for the Pilots were some of the highest in the league.
Still, it is quite a coincidence that when the Mariners were three weeks away from playing in the 2001 American League Division Series, tragedy struck at the Twin Towers. Do I believe in curses? Absolutely not. But the Yankees were media darlings that October after what happened at the World Trade Center. The talk of baseball prior to September 11th was Ichiro Suzuki’s incredible rookie season and the Mariners looking to obtain the best regular season record in MLB history, but after 9/11, the Mariners were considered more of the indifferent pacific coast ballclub than the rooting interest of fans.
Bud Selig bought the Pilots, and since then, the Brewers have only played in one World Series. They’ve only won five division titles, and they’ve only played in the National League Championship Series twice since changing leagues in 1997. Did the baseball gods curse the Brewers for not allowing the Pilots enough time to establish a Seattle franchise? Time will only tell.
For those of you who aren’t superstitious, the reason for the Mariners’ misfortunes have to do with crappy scouting, subsequent lowly draft selections, and overall player development. However, the history of low attendance continued with the early years of Mariners baseball. After the commissioner’s office awarded Seattle another MLB franchise following the breach of contract lawsuit against the American League, the Mariners continued to have low attendance numbers, similar to the Pilots.
The Mariners wouldn’t have a winning season until 1991, and even when the ballclub showed signs of winning, the M’s traded away starting pitcher Bill Swift. Swift won the ERA crown in 1992 and finished third in Cy Young voting in 1993. Swift was traded to San Francisco following that 1991 winning season in Seattle.
Things started to turn around during the early 90s once the new owner, Hiroshi Yamauchi, signed manager Lou Piniella. The Mariners would go on to win its first division title in 1995 and win its first postseason series. It was Seattle’s first postseason appearance since the franchise began operations in 1977.
In fact, if the Mariners hadn’t won the 1995 American League West division, the franchise could’ve easily left Seattle. The California Angels blew a 13-game lead over Seattle, and the Mariners defeated the Angels 9-1 in the one-game playoff for the AL West Division crown.
But, as per the Curse of the Seattle Pilots, the M's always find themselves just short of an American League pennant. The ‘95 ALCS featured two unlikely teams, the M’s and the Cleveland Guardians. The Guardians, who hadn’t won the pennant since 1954, were something of an underdog themselves.
The 1995 season would be Seattle’s third-ever winning season, but they wouldn’t play in the Fall Classic. The Indians won the 1995 American League Championship Series 4 games to 2, with the Mariners dumping their last three in the toilet. In fact, the Mariners went scoreless the last 15 innings of the ALCS.
While the Mariners lost in the championship series, it’s still a season that many Seattle baseball fans remember fondly. Ken Griffey Jr’s famous game-winning run in Game 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees inevitably led to the development of a video game: Ken Griffey Jr’s Winning Run. Edgar Martinez’s game-winning double from Game 5 was key in enticing the King County Council to vote on a stadium funding package to build the modern day Safeco Field.
With baseball now securely in Washington, the Mariners looked to avenge its 1995 ALCS disappointment with a 1997 Fall Classic appearance. To do so, they’d need to first defeat the best record in the AL, the Baltimore Orioles. Incredibly, the Mariners were supposed to play the Indians, but due to the old rules of division foes not being allowed to play each other during the Division Series, the Mariners had to play against the best record in the American League, despite having a better record than Cleveland.
Would the Mariners have fared better against Cleveland in a rematch from 1995? Who knows. Regardless, the M’s lost the 1997 Division Series in 4 games. Randy Johnson was awful in the series, losing both games. The M’s were even worse at home, as they lost Games 1 and 2 by a combined score of 18-6. Seattle won Game 3 in Baltimore, but they only managed two hits at Camden Yards during Game 4, with one of those hits being a solo shot by Martinez.
With basically no offense in Game 4, Randy Johnson gave up two runs in the bottom of the first inning, which turned out to be more than enough for the Orioles to eliminate the M’s.
Seattle would get back to the postseason in 2000, this time as the Wild Card representative. In its first (and still) last-ever postseason sweep, the Mariners surprisingly swept the No. 1 seed in the White Sox to advance to its second-ever ALCS.
This time around, Derek Jeter and the Yankees achieved revenge against the Mariners. The M’s fought hard, but the Yanks were just too much for Seattle. A six-game playoff series win saw the Yankees eventually sweep the Mets for their 26th World Series title.
The Yankees dominated the Mariners, as three of New York’s wins were blow out victories. The Mariners pitching staff just could not contain the Yankees, which was really unsettling because A-Rod led the ALCS in total bases.
Seattle again took on the Yankees in 2001, this time without Alex Rodriguez. However, Ichiro Suzuki won the unfathomable Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year, and MVP Awards all in the same season as Seattle’s leadoff hitter.
The 2001 ALCS turned out to be even worse than 2000. With everyone seemingly rooting for the Yankees due to the events of 9/11, the Yankees became the must-watch underdogs. Remember: The Mariners ended the playoffs as the No. 1 overall seed. But, unlike the 1998 Yankees who won 114 games, the 2001 Mariners didn’t have a superstar besides Ichiro. Bret Boone had a career year with 37 homers and 141 RBI, but could he continue that 6% home run probability into the postseason?
The 116-win Mariners entered the ALCS with Ichiro on a hot streak. Ichiro batted .600 in the five-game Division Series against the Guardians. But he couldn’t continue that streak into the Championship Series, as Seattle’s Most Valuable Player only hit .222 in the five-game ALCS.
The Yanks easily took care of the Mariners 4 games to 1. Aaron Sele lost all three of his decisions in the 2001 postseason, including Game 5 at Yankee Stadium where those Damned Yankees destroyed the M’s 12-to-3. Mariners legend Edgar Martinez was a non-factor against the Yanks, and fellow 2001 All-Star John Olerud didn’t fare much better.
Since 2001, the Mariners have not made the postseason. As if the baseball gods hate Mariners fans, the M’s have been eliminated on the last day of the season in 2014 and 2021.
The M’s have the longest playoff drought in all of the four American professional sports. One of the main reasons for this is the absolutely bizarre trade that was made in 2008. The Mariners somehow thought that Erik Bedard, who never played in an All-Star game, was their missing piece. They gave away their top prospects in Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, and three other players for Bedard.
Jones became a five-time All-Star outfielder and helped lead the Orioles back to prominence in the American League East division. Tillman was a 2013 All-Star who was a major contributor during Baltimore’s run in the 2014 postseason. Remember: the Mariners finished one win shy of a Wild Card berth in 2014.
Bedard finished his career with a losing record, an ERA just under 4, and only lasted four seasons in Seattle.
Things have been so bad in Seattle that Ichiro broke George Sisler’s single-season hit record during a losing season, and Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young with a losing Mariners ballclub.
So are the Mariners cursed? Well, it sure is weird that the Brewers have never won the World Series and the Mariners have never appeared in the World Series. If the former Seattle Pilot players wanted to curse Milwaukee and Seattle, it sure is working.
Finally, keep in mind that the Big Unit, A-Rod, Ken Griffey “The Kid” Jr, and Edgar “Papi” Martinez were all on the same team….and the Mariners still couldn’t make the World Series in 1995 and 1997.
Adding insult to injury, A-Rod and the Big Unit won the World Series once they left Seattle.
But do you think that the Mariners are cursed? Why can’t the Emerald City ever host a World Series game? Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.