Fann: What Mariners making the playoffs, ending drought, means to me
“We’re going to end this *expletive* drought.” – Mariners OF Mitch Haniger
I got chills when I first read Mitch Haniger’s piece in the Player’s Tribune last October. Heck, I still do.
Haniger embracing Seattle’s two-decade-long postseason hiatus resonated with me in a “we’re all in this together” sort of way that had never existed previously. Every athlete will tell you they want to win, but it’s an important distinction to hear someone say, “I want to win in Seattle.”
That’s what has made this team so easy to root for. The collective buy-in, the acknowledgement of the plight of Mariners fans and the desire to be the ones to bring playoff baseball back to this city is unique.
For every near miss since 2001 (2002*, 2003*, 2007, 2014, 2016 and 2021), there have just as many seasons with less than 70 wins. (*As a quick aside, it’s hard to fathom that the Mariners won 93 games in ’02 and ’03 and didn’t make the playoffs.) Most years, any discussion of the playoffs ended well before the All-Star break.
Now these 2022 Seattle Mariners have fulfilled Haniger’s prophecy. At 86-70, Seattle has clinched an American League wild card spot, and us Mariners fans will get to watch our team play postseason baseball for the first time in 21 years.
I was in the sixth grade at Westhill Elementary when the Mariners last clinched in 2001. I have since graduated from Bothell High School, graduated from Chapman University and made career moves from Seattle to Nashville to San Francisco back to Seattle and now to Las Vegas.
It has been a treat to see fellow Mariners fans tell their story on social media. Some who weren’t born in 2001 and others who now have children they’ve turned into baseball-crazed Mariners fans.
Next Friday I’ll get to watch the first Mariners playoff game of my adult life, and I plan to enjoy it as such. I have a Mariners group text with buddies I’ve known for decades. To enjoy this with them is something I’ll treasure forever.
I’ve reflected on who isn’t here anymore. I grew up going to games with my grandma and grandpa (my grandma always reminded us that Edgar was a hunk). They have both since passed, and I’ll be thinking of them this next week. Surely I’m not the only one who is missing someone right now.
I have been thinking about the legendary Dave Niehaus, and how much he is missed. Man, would he love this team or what? I also regret that Félix Hernández won’t be Seattle’s starting pitcher next Friday.
Beyond the reflection and the celebration, I feel an immense relief now that we no longer have to talk about the drought again. There was no hiding from the scarlet letter that we all donned as Mariners fans. We’d catch strays when watching other sports, too.
A broadcaster would be talking about whatever team and how long it had been since they’d made the postseason. There’d be an accompanying graphic listing the most playoff-starved franchises in sports with the Mariners occupying the top spot. Sorry, Sacramento Kings, that infamous burden is now yours to bear.
There’s also an undeniable hope associated with the current state of the Mariners franchise. With a 21-year-old superstar in tow and the core of a standout starting rotation locked up long term, this should be just the beginning.
There are six games left to play, and the No. 1 wild card is still within reach. Seattle is currently 1.5 games back of Toronto for that spot. Claiming it is the only route that guarantees the Mariners of hosting a playoff game. A hypothetical wild card round loss away from T-Mobile Park would sting, but that disappointment would be greatly overshadowed by the rest of the emotions mentioned above.
As far as I’m concerned, the Mariners are playing with house money from here on out now that the drought is officially over. The monkey is off their back, and my hope is that liberates them to play freely. This team’s power in the lineup and depth throughout the pitching staff should make them competitive no matter who they meet in the wild card round and potentially beyond (because why not us?).
But no matter how it all plays out, I’ll be sure to savor this moment, one that we’ve all been imagining for literal decades. It’s finally here, and damn it feels good.