Mariners return to playoffs after two decades of misery

SEATTLE (AP) — Pitcher Matthew Boyd is the go-to player for inquiries about the Seattle Mariners thanks to a statistic.

Not the stats on the back of his baseball card, mind you. In fact, Boyd was born on February 2, 1991 in Bellevue, Washington. He grew up on nearby Mercer Island, where Seattle last made the playoffs at age 10.

“At some point in my life, I was really lucky to have a really good baseball team, and those were those transformative years,” Boyd said. “I just wanted to watch the game on TV. I was there every day. All want to go to the Kingdom. That’s really special. It’s huge for me. I’m lucky because baseball is fun.”

Baseball is getting interesting again in the Pacific Northwest like it hasn’t been in more than two decades. The longest playoff drought in the four major professional sports ended Friday night when the Mariners won a coveted spot in the MLB playoffs.

Seattle did it in the most dramatic way possible. Cal Raleigh, who was sent to the minors due to early-season struggles, stepped up as a hitter and went 3-2 with 2 outs in the ninth inning defeated the Oakland Athletics 2-1.

It’s something out of a storybook that generations play in the backyard. It joins a handful of unique, memorable moments in Seattle sports history — a shot, a game, a swing.

“It was the craziest thing ever. I don’t think I can forget that moment,” Rowley said.

Seattle will be in the wild-card round, potentially beneficiary of a playoff expansion that adds a third wild-card team to each league. Toronto and Tampa Bay have two additional berths in the AL, with a playoff schedule yet to be determined.

But the road doesn’t matter to fans, if they were born in Seattle the last time they made the playoffs, they’re now legally old enough to buy alcoholic beverages to celebrate the return.

That includes Boyd, who was acquired by his hometown team at the trade deadline.

“About Seattle, Seattle loves baseball, it’s really a baseball city,” Boyd said. “The focus has been on the Seahawks lately because of their huge success, but when you have a winner, it’s really cool to see the energy and fans come in droves.”

The last time Seattle fans saw their team play in the playoffs was on October 22, 2001, when the Mariners lost to the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the AL Champions Series. So they’ll have 7,656 days until the AL wild-card playoffs begin next Friday.

The last time the Mariners played in the playoffs, Tom Brady had four career starts. Blockbuster Video still has more than 5,000 stores nationwide. Michael Jordan is about to start a two-year career with the Washington Wizards.

iPhone? That’s 5.5 years left. But what about the iPod? Well, it went on sale on October 23, 2001.

Google is not a verb yet. Facebook? No. Same idea as Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or anything about what social media means.

The prolonged drought has made Seattle a miserable team and the subject of jokes. Despite including the likes of Ken Griffith Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez, the Mariners remain the only team that never made it to the World Series.

Manager Scott Servais appears to have determined that this team can also end this chore.

“I know everyone is exhausted. ‘End the drought. End the drought. I’ve been listening to it for seven years,'” Servais said. “Every day when I get up and drive to work, that’s what I think. Our goal is to win the World Series, not just end the drought.”

Ichiro Suzuki played 1,861 career regular-season games for the Mariners and only 10 in the playoffs, all in his first season. Franchise cornerstones Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager never saw playoff baseball after spending most or all of their careers with the Mariners.

All the moves that were supposed to propel Seattle to the top never amounted to a playoff spot at different times in those two decades.

Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard, Chone Figgins, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz have all been brought in at some point over the past two decades and believe they might make a difference. While Seattle has come close on multiple occasions, an entire generation of fans has missed the postseason experience.

Instead, those fans were seen as champions by the Seahawks, Storm and Sounders. They see the supersonic departure and the arrival of the Kraken.

This led to apathy and anger among baseball fans. And believe that ownership is sometimes more concerned with the entertainment and profit of the stadium than the product on the pitch.

But there’s no question that when the Mariners are doing well, Seattle embraces the team differently than it does other local teams.

Whether those fans will celebrate Seattle’s return at home in the playoffs remains a question. That will be decided in the coming days as the Mariners battle Toronto and Tampa Bay for seeds and settle Seattle’s playoff path.

But for the first time in a generation, there’s a playoff to talk about in Seattle.

“A lot of guys have been working very, very hard over a long period of time,” Seattle pitcher Marco Gonzalez said. “Even in dark times. We didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many believed without a reason. So this is for them.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.



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