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Stecker: Why the Mariners’ old inverted trident logo is bad luck and may be cursing them again

James Paxton wears the trident logo in 2018. (Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty)

There’s no sugar coating just how disheartening the last couple weeks of Mariners baseball has been.

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While these absolutely are not the “same old Mariners” like some members of the fan base like to cry out when things take a turn, well, the script of this latest turn-taking does seem to be borrowing a few storylines already seen during the current run of 19 years without playoff baseball.

A general lack of offense? Check.

Pitching staff ravaged by injuries? Check.

A hope-raising start to the season followed by the bottom dropping out and a gut-punching losing streak? Check.

Their throwback logo that features a symbol of bad luck possibly having a role in all this?

*Sigh*

Check.

Yes, I regretfully inform you that the upside-down trident logo that the Mariners have ditched on multiple occasions throughout their history due to superstition has, for whatever reason, found its way back into T-Mobile Park this year. It may not be on the team’s hats, but it’s definitely there – prominently featured high in T-Mobile Park for all to see, situated on a wall facing the field in the upper deck of foul territory to the west of the left field foul pole. This area of the stadium was originally called Lookout Landing but was recently re-branded The Trident Deck, and that came along with a giant poster or painting of the team’s old logo – you know, the one that carries a whole lot of baggage.

Since we’re here again talking about this logo, I may as well tell the story of the inverted trident and its disastrous record in Seattle.

So, the Mariners’ original logo features an upside-down trident that makes an ‘M.’ It’s a cool idea and a lot of people love how it looks. Unfortunately, it angers Poseidon, the god of the sea. I know that’s a silly sentence, but I’m not just making this up. It’s a long-held belief by some that in Greek mythology, a trident (Poseidon’s weapon of choice) is good luck when facing upward, but if it’s turned upside-down the luck runs out. There’s a pretty much identical superstition regarding horseshoes that you may be familiar with. (And for all you “Repeal the Teal” people who think that color is the Mariners’ problem and not the trident, go find me some historical references to teal being bad luck and then we’ll talk.)

After a very rough first decade of existence as a franchise, then-Mariners owner George Argyros had the logo changed in 1987 due to this known superstition. The Mariners’ fortunes seemed to change then – after never finishing with more than 76 wins in a season, they won 78 in 1987, which also happened to be the same year they made the franchise-changing selection of Ken Griffey Jr. with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. They had a winning season for the first time in 1991, made the postseason in 1995, and tied the MLB record for wins in a single season in 2001. All of those things happened in completely trident-free years.

Simply put, every bit of measurable success the M’s have had as a franchise came at a time when that cursed logo wasn’t on their heads. In fact, it may go deeper than that. The last time the Mariners made the playoffs was 2001, even missing the postseason in both 2002 and 2003 despite having impressive 93-win records those years. And it just so happens that in late 2002, the team began selling merchandise with the inverted trident logo for the first time at their home ballpark. Spooky.

Then there was the situation that first piqued my interest about the logo. In 2017, the Mariners brought back the upside-down trident for their spring training hats, and even I will admit it was a pretty sharp look. But that year saw them deal with a multitude of injuries, eventually tying a major league record for most pitchers used in a season, and it undercut a talented team as Seattle fell to 78 wins a year after going 86-76.

Those hats came back in spring 2018 and the injuries kept piling up, and that’s when somebody somewhere put their foot down. Though the spring training hats were to also serve as Seattle’s batting practice caps, the M’s notably wore their gameday caps instead during pregame activities that whole season, something that seems to be without precedent since MLB teams starting using BP-specific hats. Mariners manager Scott Servais even spoke to 710 ESPN Seattle about those particular hats and indicated that they would go away after spring training because he and/or the team had an uneasiness about the logo potentially carrying bad luck.

Seattle came up with a new, trident-less ‘M’ logo for its spring training/BP hats in 2019, and the upside-down trident logo went away for a couple of years. It seemed the Mariners had finally learned their lesson, so you can imagine my surprise when I went to T-Mobile Park for the first time this season and saw that the logo had been given such a prominent spot above Seattle’s field. It sure seemed like they were just asking for trouble.

And guess what? Trouble has answered.

Let’s go through a list of disasters that have happened to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park in less than two months in front of that symbol:

• Fan favorite James Paxton tore his UCL, requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery, not even two innings into his return to Seattle.

• Two no-hitters have been thrown against the Mariners – yes, both at home.

• The Mariners were no-hit into the eighth inning of the game in which prized prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert both debuted, taking the wind out of the sails of an exciting night in team history.

• Ty France, one of the team’s best hitters, was hit on the wrist by a pitch at home on April 19. He had a .311 average and .936 OPS at the time, then fell into a three-week slump where those numbers dropped to .229 and .700 before being placed on the injured list on May 14.

• The injury bug has depleted the Mariners’ roster, with notables including top starting pitcher Marco Gonzales, first baseman Evan White and second baseman Dylan Moore, and their batting average has dipped below .200 as a team.

• The Mariners began their road trip Friday in San Diego without several relievers for reasons related to COVID-19. On Sunday, breakout pitcher Kendall Graveman and his spotless ERA joined the list of relievers on the IL for that reason.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: getting rid of the inverted trident logo isn’t going to miraculously solve the Mariners’ problems, of which there are many at this particular point in their season. This is all just superstition, and there’s nothing scientific about that. But boy, when you take stock of the things that have happened while it’s been around, that thing sure has a track record, and it seems pretty foolish at this point to give it a place in any official or prominent capacity.

The thing that really puzzles me about the logo’s Trident Deck presence is that the Mariners are trying to usher in a new era of M’s baseball this year by getting over the hump in their rebuild. Their farm system is loaded. They have very promising young players like Kelenic, Gilbert and Kyle Lewis already on their MLB roster, and several more are expected to debut by season’s end. And then they have this old logo that is literally considered bad luck just hanging around. Why would you have that around now? After everything this franchise has been through, after all of the disasters that logo has been present for, does that really seem like a good idea?

Three years into a rebuild that the Mariners have invested so much into is not the time to be tempting fate. If there’s any question that this logo has a say in the franchise’s fortunes, and I’m more than comfortable saying there’s plenty of evidence that it does, why is it in the ballpark now?

Once and for all, Mariners, just lock up the inverted trident and throw away the key. It’s for your own good.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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