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Groz Remembers: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later

The Mariners defied expectations in 2001. (Getty - Otto Greule Jr/Allsport)

Mariners fans wince every time they are reminded. It has been 20 years since the franchise has made the postseason, the longest streak in pro sports blah blah blah. It can’t help but set your jaw to scowling remembering the days of Jack Cust, free agents like Chone Figgins, and the trade for Eric Bedard.

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But what if we turned it around and – like the Mariners will do on several occasions this year – celebrate the 2001 squad for what they did? That is, in the words of the late Al Davis, just win baby.

The year the first Major League baseball game was played is generally considered to be 1869, which means in the last 150 or so years only two teams have ever won as many as 116 games, and one of them played right here 20 years ago. And it wasn’t supposed to happen.

In December 2000, Alex Rodriguez became the third superstar to leave the Mariners in as many years, following Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson out the door after the Mariners fell to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Even though 2000 was the third time in six years that the Mariners had made the postseason, the 2001 season was not as highly anticipated as you might think. Key Mariners were old – Jamie Moyer, Edgar Martinez and Norm Charlton were 38, Jay Buhner and Mark McLemore were 36. Even the mysterious Ichiro was old for a rookie at 27. Yet it was this team that notched the best record in American League history, and in this spot in the weeks to come we are going to remember how.

I’m writing this on May 5, 20 years to the day the 2001 Mariners celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a 7-5 win over Toronto to improve to 23-7 on the season, giving them an incredible nine-game lead over second-place Oakland in the AL West. We knew Ichiro was something special at this point and that something special was happening on the field, but the most amazing baseball of the year was still to come. Tune in next week.

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