The "Mariners" name originates from the prominence of marine culture in the city of Seattle. They are nicknamed "the M's", a title featured in their primary logo from 1987 to 1992. The current team colors are navy blue, teal, and metallic silver, after having been royal blue and gold from 1977–1992. Their mascot is the Mariner Moose.
An expansion franchise, the Seattle Mariners made their debut in . They finished in 1977-90 with losing records. The organization did not field a winning team until 1991, however, and any real success eluded them until when they won their first division championship and defeated the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. The game-winning hit in Game 5 clinched a series win for the Mariners, and has since become an iconic moment in team history. The Mariners share the record for most wins in a single season with 116, which they achieved in . Despite their successes since winning their first division title in 1995, they have never won an AL Pennant championship and remain one of four teams never to have played in a World Series.
The Mariners were created as a result of a lawsuit. In 1970, in the aftermath of the Pilots' purchase and relocation to Milwaukee by future Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, the City of Seattle, King County, and the state of Washington (represented by then-State Attorney General Slade Gorton) sued the American League for breach of contract. Confident that Major League Baseball would return to Seattle within a few years, King County built the multi-purpose Kingdome, which would become home to the NFL's expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976.
The Pilots lawsuit continued until 1976. At trial, the American League offered to give Seattle an expansion baseball franchise in return for dropping the suit, and details were ironed out over the next year. To keep the league with an even number of teams, a formal expansion proceeding was held, with a second team, the Blue Jays, being awarded to the city of Toronto. The new Seattle team, to begin play in , would be owned by entertainer Danny Kaye, along with Stanley Golub, Walter Schoenfeld, Lester Smith, James Stillwell Jr. and James A Walsh.
Despite having stars such as Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry (nicknamed the "Ancient Mariner"), American League Rookie of the Year Alvin Davis, two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner Harold Reynolds, three-time American League strikeout leader Mark Langston, and shortstop and team captain Spike Owen on their rosters, the Mariners teams of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s were characterized by perennial non-achievement, gaining a reputation for poor performances, low attendence, and losing records. Moreover, the team's ownership again changed hands after the season, as Argyros sold the club to a group headed by communications magnate Jeff Smulyan. However, the rookie season of center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., acquired with the first pick in the first round of the amateur draft, gave fans hope that a change of fortunes might be on the horizon. By the way, the Mariners finished with a losing record in 1990 to start off the decade.
The first home run in team history was hit on April 10, 1977, by designated hitter Juan Bernhardt.
After several years of relocation threats by owner Jeff Smulyan, in the middle of the 1992 season the Mariners were purchased by a group of Seattle-area businessmen, led by Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi. The purchase was initially opposed by baseball officials, who objected to a team being owned by a non-North American entity. Eventually, they allowed the sale, provided that the team's presidency and chairmanship remained in the hands of American partners.
In 1993, the Mariners donned their current uniforms probably as a result of new ownership. During the 1992-93 offseason, the Mariners hired manager Lou Piniella, who had led the Cincinnati Reds to victory in the 1990 World Series. Mariner fans embraced Piniella, and he would helm the team from through , winning two American League Manager of the Year Awards along the way.
The Mariners' fortunes began to improve in . Beginning in the late 1980s, the team had added a core of strong players built around center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr., pitcher Randy Johnson, third baseman Edgar Martínez, and right fielder Jay Buhner. On July 19, , four 15-pound ceiling tiles fell from the Kingdome roof onto the field and into the stadium's seating bowl. The incident led to uncertainty over whether the Kingdome was fit for use as a major league stadium, and may well have ultimately been a factor leading to the construction of Safeco Field. Unable to play at the venue while repairs were being executed, the Major League Baseball Players' Association rejected the idea of playing games at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma or BC Place in Vancouver, feeling that games should not be played in non-MLB venues. This forced the Mariners to play their next 20 games on the road over the span of 21 days. The long trip began miserably as the Mariners started off 2–8, but rebounded to win nine of their next ten games, leaving them just 2 games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers when a players' strike was called on August 12 that resulted in the cancellation the rest of the season. Many players felt the time together on the road and the overcoming of the adversity faced that season fed directly into the success the team would achieve in the 1995 season. The extended roadtrip resulted in a peculiarity, in which the first game in a series with the Boston Red Sox - which was supposed to be in Seattle - was rained out; if one still counts this as a home game, it would mark the first - and so far only - home rainout in Mariners history.
The tide turned with a September winning streak marked by late-inning comeback wins, which led to their most-known slogan "Refuse to Lose." Combined with an absolute collapse by the Angels, this opened the way for the Mariners to end up tied with the Angels for first place at the end of the regular season, forcing a one-game playoff. The playoff pitted Johnson against Angels ace Mark Langston, whom, incidentally, the Mariners had traded for Johnson in . Langston ended up on the seat of his pants at homeplate failing to tag out Luis Sojo who came all the way around after clearing the bases with a ball that got by the Angels first baseman, J. T. Snow, rattled around underneath California's bullpen bench, and resulted in a hurried and errant cut-off throw from Langston. The Mariners won the tiebreaker game 9-1 and clinched their first-ever trip to the playoffs. The Mariners had won 25 of their last 36 games.
Here's the pitch. Swing, and it's a ground ball, and it gets on by Snow. Down the right field line into the bullpen. Here comes Blowers. Here comes Tino. Here comes Joey. The throw to the plate is cut off. The relay by Langston gets by Allanson. Cora scores! Here comes Sojo...he scores! Everybody scores! Sojo comes in! - Rick Rizzs
Mariner commentator Dave Niehaus' call on the play is still remembered by many Mariner fans:
Right now, the Mariners looking for the tie. They would take a fly ball, they would love a base hit into the gap, and they could win it with Junior's speed. The stretch, and the 0-1 pitch on the way to Edgar Martínez, swung on and lined down the left field line for a base hit! Here comes Joey. Here is Junior to third base, they're going to wave him in, the throw to the plate will be late, the Mariners are going to play for the American League championship! I don't believe it! It just continues! My oh my!|Although the Mariners' championship run was halted in the ALCS by another up-and-coming club, Mike Hargrove's Cleveland Indians, who won the series 4 games to 2, 1995 is remembered as "The Magical Season" and "The Miracle Mariners of 1995" with "The Double" still considered by many the greatest moment in Mariners history.
The Mariners won a division title again in 1997, but were defeated in the 1997 American League Division Series 3 games to 1 by the Baltimore Orioles. They were again hurt by a lack of pitching depth to complement the strong offense, which was led by Griffey, who won the MVP award, a first for both him and the Mariners.
In and 1999, the Mariners had losing records due primarily to their lack of pitching depth. Randy Johnson was traded at the 1998 July non-waiver trading deadline to the Houston Astros after GM Woody Woodard publicly stated he did not intend on offering Johnson (who was a free agent following the 1998 season) a long-term contract. Johnson subsequently requested to be traded. He had been inconsistent during the first half of the season; some fans and press thought he had been trying to force a trade through malaise. Strong pitching from aces Jeff Fassero and Jamie Moyer was not enough to fully offset the loss, and the bullpen's struggles continued. Midway through the 1999 season, the Mariners moved to SAFECO Field. After the 1999 season, Ken Griffey, Jr. requested and attained a trade to the Cincinnati Reds, leaving Alex Rodriguez as the face of the franchise at the beginning of the high-expectation Safeco Field era, which was during the years 2000-03.
The following offseason was one of the most significant in Mariners history, as Rodríguez was up for free agency. Ultimately, Rodríguez was lost to the Texas Rangers for what was then the richest contract ever in professional sports. However, the Mariners were able to weather the loss by adding Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki and slick fielding, power hitting second base veteran Bret Boone.
In , despite the loss of A-Rod, who would be greeted on his return to Safeco with Monopoly money dropped by unusually irate Seattle fans, and on subsequent returns by incessant booing, the addition of Ichiro and a career season by Boone helped the Mariners to the most successful regular season on record in the modern era. The 2001 Mariners led the major leagues in winning percentage all season long, easily winning the American League West division championship, breaking the 1998 Yankees' American League single-season record of 114 wins, and matching the Major League Baseball record for single-season wins of 116 set by the Chicago Cubs in . At the end of the season, Ichiro won the AL MVP, AL Rookie of the Year, and one of three outfield Gold Glove Awards, becoming the first player since the Boston Red Sox's Fred Lynn to win all three in the same season. He also became the charismatic, if enigmatic, face of the team. He has been the subject of several books (including one released in the summer of 2001 that consists solely of his zen-like quotations).
The Mariners pulled off a come-from-behind 3-2 series win over the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series to advance to the American League Championship Series to have a rematch with the New York Yankees, but once again succumbed to the Yankees for the second year in a row in the ALCS, 4 games to 1, in a series which had been postponed due to the terrorist attacks on September 11. The Mariners also hosted the All-Star Game that year, and had a league-leading and team record eight All-Stars: RF Ichiro Suzuki, DH Edgar Martínez, CF Mike Cameron, 2B Bret Boone, 1B John Olerud, and pitchers Freddy Garcia, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Jeff Nelson.
The Mariners signed Bob Melvin to be their new manager. The local press speculated that a first year manager (especially someone more even-tempered than the fiery Piniella) would be easier for the front office and ownership to control.
The Mariners again got off to an excellent start in the season. They contended all season long and reached the same record as in 2002, but were again beaten to the playoffs by their division rival Oakland Athletics, highlighted by a six-game losing streak in late August that saw their lead evaporate, which they would never recover. Their failure to make the playoffs was again blamed on management's inability to bring in a bat at the trading deadline and the aging roster's decline. Notably, the debate was started by pitcher Jeff Nelson, who was himself traded after criticizing the front office's deadline inactivity. General manager Pat Gillick became a consultant midway through the offseason to make room for new GM Bill Bavasi.
With the exception of the 1998 and 1999 seasons, the Mariners had been annual challengers for the AL West title from 1995 through 2003. The season, however, saw the fall of the Mariners from contention. With an aging roster, the Mariners went into the All-Star Break with a 9-game losing streak, and a 32-54 season record (.372) 17 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers. After the All-Star break, unable to ignore the dreadful state of their team, the Mariners gave the team a complete overhaul, trading Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox for Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed, and Mike Morse and moving aging and struggling players away from center stage (most notably, releasing Gold Glover and fan favorite John Olerud) and inserting over a dozen minor league call-ups into the 25-man roster. The season's end was enlivened by Ichiro breaking George Sisler's single season record of 257 hits (finishing with 262) and by events honoring the retirement of Mariner icon Edgar Martínez. Just days after the end of the season, the Mariners fired manager Bob Melvin. On October 20, , the Mariners announced the signing of Mike Hargrove, who had led the Cleveland Indians past the Mariners in the 1995 ALCS, as their new manager. In the offseason, the Mariners and Bavasi surprised fans and the local press by signing two premier free agents, third baseman Adrián Beltré and first baseman Richie Sexson, ending some accusations from fans that the organization was only willing to make piecemeal signings and trades.
Despite several personnel changes and free-agent signings after the 2004 season, the team stayed at the bottom of the divisional standings throughout the 2005 season and finished in last place, though they improved their record by six games compared to the previous year. The brightest spot of the season was the emergence of 19-year-old Venezuelan pitching prospect Félix Hernández, who became the youngest major leaguer to debut since Jose Rijo entered the league with the New York Yankees in . Sexson also played very well, hitting 39 home runs and 121 RBI. Stars Ichiro and Beltre, however, did not reach their high levels of offensive production from 2004, and 2B Bret Boone was released before the All-Star break. Along with Hernandez, two rookie middle infielders became part of the Mariners' long term plans: Cuban defector and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and Venezuelan second baseman and former top prospect José López became the next season's starters. However, the Mariners' rotation beyond Hernandez and the aging Jamie Moyer was poor, and the Mariners suffered the embarrassment of having the most suspendees under MLB's new drug testing policy, notably pitcher Ryan Franklin and IF/OF Mike Morse. During the 2005–2006 off-season, Ichiro spoke out and criticized the team's attitude, pointing out its lack of leadership and manager Hargrove's failure to harness players.
The Mariners began the 2005–2006 off-season by signing star Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima to a 3-year deal and left-handed starter Jarrod Washburn (formerly of division rival Los Angeles) to a 4-year deal. Designated hitter Carl Everett and outfielder Matt Lawton also joined the team, although both would finish the season out of baseball. The Mariners entered the All-Star Break 2.5 games out of first place in the AL West with a 43-46 record. Despite remaining in contention within the AL West through July, a disastrous 0-11 road trip in mid-August signaled the end of the Mariners' playoff hopes, leaving them in last place, where they would finish the season. Pitcher Jamie Moyer was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for a pair of minor league prospects, and weeks later bench coach Ron Hassey and administrative coach Dan Rohn—whom many viewed as a prime candidate to replace Hargrove as manager—were removed from their positions with the team. At season's end, the Mariners had only narrowly avoided losing 90 games for the third consecutive year. While the team entered the 2006–2007 off-season with some young talent in key positions, many questions remained as to the consistency of their offense and, more importantly, the strength of their starting pitching staff.
The 2007 season began with a sense of muted optimism. While the team had a busy off-season in terms of changes to the roster, fans questioned player transactions that moved young, potential-filled players (Rafael Soriano, Chris Snelling) in favor of veterans who have suffered injuries in recent seasons (José Guillén, José Vidro, Horacio Ramírez) or who have achieved mediocre success in the past with other clubs (Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver). These transactions followed CEO Howard Lincoln's remarks at the completion of the 2006 campaign that GM Bill Bavasi and manager Mike Hargrove were on his "hot seat" and needed to produce more wins in 2007. Further magnifying the need to win was outfielder Ichiro Suzuki's suggestion at the beginning of spring training that he may have an interest in testing free-agency waters when his contract is completed at the end of the season if the Mariners continue to struggle on the field.
After two and a half seasons with the Mariners and while guiding the team to a 44–33 record in the 2007 season, Mike Hargrove was unexpectedly chased out by Ichiro and announced before the July 1 2007 game against the Toronto Blue Jays that the game would be his last as the Mariners' manager. Hargrove said that he could no longer provide the commitment from himself that he was expecting of his players and coaches. Bench coach John McLaren was announced as Hargrove's replacement. On July 13, Ichiro Suzuki signed a 5-year, 90-million-dollar contract with the Mariners that will extend to 2012. With minor league prospect Adam Jones playing well and a fairly consistent offense and pitching staff, the 2007 Mariners were back in contention in the AL West and AL Wild Card races. However, a 3–15 stretch late in the season effectively ended the Mariners' 2007 playoff hopes. The Mariners were mathematically eliminated from contention on September 24. One highlight during this stretch, however, was the home run that gave Ichiro Suzuki 200 hits for his seventh consecutive 200-hit season; Ichiro is only the third player in MLB history with seven consecutive 200-hit seasons, and the first to do it in his first seven seasons.
Heading into the 2008 season, the Mariners hoped to capitalize on their 2007 success by bolstering their roster to position themselves to once again challenge the Angels for the AL West championship. They dramatically transformed their pitching staff, adding free agent Carlos Silva and trading a package of players led by George Sherrill and Adam Jones to the Baltimore Orioles on February 8 for Erik Bedard. Other additions included outfielder Brad Wilkerson and infielder Miguel Cairo, as well as a new coaching staff under McLaren featuring former MLB managers Jim Riggleman, Sam Perlozzo, Lee Elia, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. Also added to the major league coaching staff was bullpen coach Norm Charlton, a member of the 1995, 1997, and 2001 AL West title teams, as well as Eddie Rodriguez, previously manager of the Mariners' Class AA minor league affiliate. Hitting coach Jeff Pentland remained as the only coach hired under Hargrove.
Despite their offseason additions, the 2008 Mariners featured one of the league's worst offenses. In April, the club attempted to solve some of its offensive woes by designating Wilkerson and pinch hitter Greg Norton for assignment. The offensive struggles, in concert with defensive lapses and inconsistent pitching from both the bullpen and the starting rotation, led the team to last place by the end of April despite an Opening Day payroll of nearly $117 million. On June 8, the Mariners held the worst record in baseball with a .349 winning percentage, and were on pace for 105 losses and the worst record in team history. Hitting coach Pentland was fired on June 9 and was replaced by Lee Elia, who was previously the Mariners' hitting instructor from 1993-1997. Following a 1–5 homestand, general manager Bill Bavasi was dismissed on June 16 and replaced by Lee Pelekoudas on an interim basis. Pelekoudas has held various front office positions with the Mariners since 1980, most recently as vice president/assistant general manager. The purge continued on June 19, when John McLaren was dismissed from his position and replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman. Riggleman's promotion to field manager marked the promotion of Elia to bench coach, and minor league hitting coordinator Jose Castro's promotion to hitting instructor; though now the bench coach, Elia will continue to supervise Castro and the club's hitting instruction. On July 10th the Mariners released first baseman Richie Sexson after an underachieving partial season.
On June 23, , pitcher Félix Hernández hit a grand slam off fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana, of the New York Mets, and became the first pitcher in franchise history to hit a home run, as well as the first AL pitcher to hit a grand slam in Interleague play.
On August 27th, 2008, in a loss to the Minnesota Twins, the Mariners were mathematically eliminated from their division, and on September 1st, 2008, were eliminated from the wild card race as well, effectively eliminating them from any chance to play in the 2008 postseason; the first team of the year to suffer such a fate.
|1998||76–85||.472||3rd in AL West|
|1999||79–83||.488||3rd in AL West|
|2000||91–71||.562||2nd in AL West|| Won ALDS vs Chicago White Sox, 3–0|
Lost ALCS vs New York Yankees, 4–2.
|2001||116–46||.716||1st in AL West|| Won ALDS vs Cleveland Indians, 3–2|
Lost ALCS vs New York Yankees, 4–1.
|Tied the regular-season record with 116 wins, but went 4-6 in the playoffs.|
|2002||93–69||.574||3rd in AL West|
|2003||93–69||.574||2nd in AL West|
|2004||63–99||.389||4th in AL West|
|2005||69–93||.426||4th in AL West|
|2006||78–84||.481||4th in AL West|
|2007||88–74||.543||2nd in AL West|
|2008||61-101||.377||4th in AL West||Worst record in AL heading into All-Star Break, first team of 2008 to record a 100 loss season. First team of 2008 to officially be elimated from the 2008 playoffs.|
Despite not officially retiring any numbers, the team has not reissued the numbers 11 (Edgar Martínez), 14 (Lou Piniella), 19 (Jay Buhner), or 24 (Ken Griffey, Jr.) to any uniformed staff since the last player to have worn the number left the team. Number 51, worn by Randy Johnson, was withheld from players from 1998 until 2001, when it was awarded to Ichiro Suzuki upon his request after wearing it for his entire career in Japan.
Number 00 is presumed off-limits, as it has been worn by the Mariner Moose since 1997 (outfielder Jeffrey Leonard was the last player to don 00 for the M's, in 1990). From 1990–1996, the Moose wore the last 2 digits of the year of the current season.
Jackie Robinson's number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.
Some Mariners games are also available on Canadian television, due to an agreement between FSN Northwest and Rogers Sportsnet. Selected games on FSN Northwest are simulcast on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific, which is the Rogers Sportsnet feed available to viewers in the network's Pacific region (i.e., British Columbia and the Yukon). Digital cable and Satellite TV subscribers receive all four Rogers Sportsnet regional feeds, meaning that they are also able to view the games, regardless of their region of residence.
The Mariners broadcast team currently features Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs- back for their 32nd and 23rd seasons with the club, respectively- as well as veteran broadcaster Dave Sims and former infielder Mike Blowers. For the first three innings of each game, Niehaus works the television broadcast with Blowers, and Rizzs and Sims handle radio duties; after the third inning, Niehaus and Sims trade places. Former catcher Dave Valle continues to co-host the post-game show on the Mariners' radio network.
Spanish-language radio broadcast duties are handled by Alex Rivera on play-by-play and former second baseman Julio Cruz.