The 2001 Mariners led the majors in winning percentage the from the first pitch of opening day. This surprised most observers as baseball experts across the country predicted that Alex Rodriguez's departure to the Rangers would send the franchise into a downward spiral. But the arrival of Ichiro, and a monster season by Bret Boone (.331/37/141!), wrote a different story. The 2001 Mariners boasted eight all-stars who graced Safeco Field for the mid-summer classic: RF Ichiro Suzuki, DH Edgar Martínez, CF Mike Cameron, 2B Bret Boone, 1B John Olerud and pitchers Freddy Garcia, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Jeff Nelson.
As wonderful as it was, the 2001 season was the one that got away. The girl you never had the guts to ask out. Sure, you had some great times together. But when it came down to the moment of truth you couldn't close the deal. Fast-forward 10 years and we have the memories of that bittersweet season and nothing more. Seattle remains one of two baseball franchises to never appear in the World Series. Vegas would probably give you even money if you were to wager on the team that will make their World Series appearance first, the Nationals or the Mariners.
What would real winning look like in Seattle? World Series winning. It would change everything. The entire franchise, and city, would change. Imagine if the magic of 1995 lasted years, not just a few months. To get a sense of what this would look like in Seattle you can look South, to our closest baseball neighbors.
San Francisco is obsessed with the Giants. The franchise captured the heart of the city last season and hasn't loosened its grip. It is hard to describe what real winning feels like unless you experience it. This winter The City was so excited for the season to start you would have thought every day was opening day.
Winning looks like this (from AT&T Park, Opening Day 2011):
How does it feel?
This feeling doesn't start and end with a game. Winning, like The Dude, abides. It can never be erased and is never forgotten. The 1995 and 2001 Mariners gave us a taste, but don't confuse that with the real thing. Seattle is ready to be transformed. When will the Mariners be ready?