BRENT STECKER

Seattle Sports History’s Most Disappointing Teams: Mariners, Seahawks and more

Jul 3, 2023, 10:30 AM | Updated: 11:26 am

There’s no getting around it. To this point, the 2023 Seattle Mariners season has been a huge disappointment.

Luis Castillo lone Seattle Mariners player named 2023 MLB All-Star

Coming off the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 21 years, the M’s went into this year with the high hopes of building off of that success to not only return to the postseason but perhaps win a division title and contend for the World Series.

Yet having just past the midway point of the year, the Mariners are 40-42, and the frustration is evident in the fan base (though the weekend series win over the American League-leading Tampa Bay Rays helps a little).

Could it end up being the most disappointing season in Seattle sports history? It looks like it has the potential to be in the conversation, but we’re talking about Seattle sports here. Fans in the Pacific Northwest have been through the ringer, and oftentimes it feels like – to steal a line from Albert King – it it wasn’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.

So just how bad have things gotten before in the Emerald City? Here’s a list of the 15 most disappointing Seattle sports teams we could think of.

Seattle SuperSonics

1993-94

If we’re talking disappointment and Seattle sports, I think there’s no other place to start than here. And if you still wince at the sight of Dikembe Mutombo, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The 1993-94 NBA season was the first after Michael Jordan’s retirement, and it started to feel like it was destiny for the Sonics to become the league’s new powerhouse. With the three-peat Chicago Bulls no longer the favorites to win the title, the Shawn Kemp/Gary Payton-led Seattle squad emerged as the best team in the regular season, going 63-19 to earn the top seed in the Western Conference to the playoffs. There had never been a No. 1 seed that had lost to a No. 8 in the first round, so there were no concerns about the Sonics dispatching the upstart Denver Nuggets – especially after they jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

What happened next? Leave me alone, I still don’t want to talk about it. Oh, I have to? Well, when the series shifted from the Seattle Coliseum to Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena, apparently so did the momentum. The Nuggets took Game 3, held on in overtime in Game 4, and when they came back to Seattle for Game 5, the Sonics just couldn’t put the Nuggets away and finally fell 98-94 in overtime yet again. Mutombo cradled the ball on the floor after the final whistle, and the window opened for the Houston Rockets to become the back-to-back champs during Jordan’s hiatus. When Seattle finally did make the NBA Finals in 1996, MJ was back and the Bulls were more unbeatable than ever, making the sting of ’94 suddenly even worse.

2007-08

Remember that time when we pretty much knew that the first major pro sports franchise to bring a championship to Seattle was going to move to Oklahoma City as soon as its season ended? And then it took Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (he was technically briefly a Sonic) with them, too? It doesn’t get any more disappointing than that. Having to watch a 20-62 team that was pretty obviously built to lose with an eye toward contending shortly after arriving in OKC was a particularly cruel twist of the knife, too.

Hey Oklahoma, your team name is bad, your uniforms are still ugly, and you have a weird obsession with making your hamburgers taste like onions. It’s never too late to give us our team back.

Bump and Stacy present the first annual ‘Bumpies’ Awards

Seattle Mariners

2001

Alright, now we’re getting into some potential controversy, though to be fair this team came up a lot when I asked for suggestions on Twitter (and has one big thing in common with the ’94 Sonics).

The 2001 Seattle Mariners are unquestionably the best team in franchise history and a candidate for most beloved. After losing Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in successive seasons, the Mariners surprisingly turned into a juggernaut in 2001, registering 116 wins to tie the MLB record for most in a single season. But the flip side of that is the fact that the M’s are still the one MLB team to have never been to the World Series, which means one thing: the best team to ever wear Mariners uniforms was ultimately a disappointment.

Despite Ichiro Suzuki’s amazing rookie season in which he won both American League Rookie of the Year and AL MVP, despite Bret Boone’s campaign that was perhaps equally worthy of MVP consideration, and despite a wholly balanced roster that for six months seemed could do no wrong, the Mariners didn’t get the job done in the playoffs. They survived an AL Division Series against Cleveland (and survived is pretty much the only way to describe it), then were turned away by the Yankees (of course it was the Yankees) in the AL Championship Series.

So yes, the 2001 squad was the greatest in Seattle Mariners history, but that might also make it the franchise’s greatest disappointment.

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2010

In the middle of the Mariners’ 21-year playoff drought was this truly embarrassing faceplant.

The 2009 M’s were kinda good, going 85-77 with a seemingly bright future. And with Ichiro still in his prime, Félix Hernández turning into one of the best pitchers in the game, and a young core looking to take shape (Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, José López), general manager Jack Zduriencik went all-in on a philosophy that prioritized small ball, defense and run prevention.

In came big additions in the form of Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and the versatile Chone Figgins (*shudder*), and the team even got an infamous ESPN The Magazine cover ahead of the season (“Outs are in, and so are the Mariners” turned out to be a big whiff). They didn’t work, and two years after the 2008 Seattle Mariners became the first $100 million team to lose 100 games in MLB history, this one finished with the same dismal 61-101 record. And this was the season that Félix Hernández won his Cy Young Award, too!

It was fun to watch Cliff Lee for the 13 games he pitched in a Mariners uniform before they tried to course correct by flipping him to Texas, I guess.

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Seattle Seahawks

1992

Sorry, Dave Wyman. We know it wasn’t your fault.

You know how the 2010 Mariners couldn’t score? That’s an old chestnut in Seattle sports history, something the 1992 Seahawks did “better” than anybody. They wasted a dominant defense that was fourth against the pass, eighth in yards allowed per play, and featured that year’s Defensive Player of the Year (Cortez Kennedy), somehow going 2-14 despite their opponents scoring more than 20 points in a game just five times, including just once in the 30s (the final game of the season, which was a 31-14 Chargers victory). Seattle’s two wins: a 10-6 shootout against New England and a 16-13 overtime affair with the Broncos.

Do you know why some Seahawks fans were adamant about never wanting to see Russell Wilson traded? Because they watched the woeful 1992 quarterback trio of Stan Gelbaugh, Kelly Stouffer and Dan McGwire. The kids these days truly don’t know how good they’ve had it.

2017

Was this the end of the Legion of Boom? The beginning of the end of the Russell Wilson era? Both, most likely.

The Seahawks went 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time since head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider drafted Wilson in 2012, and the season including one of the most depressing wins imaginable. In a Thursday night game in Arizona (oh, those Thursday night games in Arizona), Seattle won 22-16 but lost star cornerback Richard Sherman to a season-ending Achilles tear and star safety Kam Chancellor to what turned out to be a career-ending neck injury. It was the last game for either in a Seahawks uniform, coming just weeks after Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril had also suffered a career-ending neck injury in Week 4.

Following the game in Arizona, the Hawks went 3-4 the rest of the way to fall short of a postseason berth, and the ensuing offseason was the first we started to hear of Wilson and the front office not being on the same page, eventually resulting in his trade to Denver four years later. The 2017 season was also the one that, for some reason, Wilson threw a shoe. Why bring that up? Because it happened and it’s funny.

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Seattle Kraken

2021-22

Listen, it’s truly awesome that the Kraken finally brought NHL hockey to Seattle, and their success in the 2022-23 season and run in the playoffs was an absolute joy to behold. It was also really cool to see how much the city embraced the team after the league granted Seattle an expansion franchise, and especially during the run up to its inaugural season.

Unfortunately, that first season itself wasn’t really all that fun.

The Kraken were bad, finishing 27-49-6 for 60 points, the third-worst record in the NHL. Normally a season like that is to be expected with an expansion team, but fair or not, expectations were higher for the Kraken after the NHL’s previous expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, reached the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Finals in their first season on the ice. Vegas made masterful use of new expansion draft rules to create an instant contender, and the league’s other teams clearly did not want to make the same mistake twice when it came to the Kraken. General managers avoided making deals with Kraken GM Ron Francis in the summer of 2021 as a result, but credit to him for being patient and finding a way to turn those expansion draft rules into roster gold a year later.

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UW Huskies football

2008

Were the 2008 UW Huskies supposed to be good? No, not really. But nobody expected them to go completely, utterly winless. It’s still crazy to think that it actually happened.

Head coach Tyrone Willingham never found success on Montlake and it was no surprise he didn’t return for a fifth season in 2009 following this embarrassment. Washington has generally owned the upper hand against Washington State in its historic rivalry, but Dawg fans will probably never forgive Willingham for giving Coug fans this trump card: unlike the Huskies, WSU has never gone an entire college football season without a win. Not even during the woeful era of Paul Wulff, who in fact coached the Cougars to the overtime win over UW in this particular year.

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2021

From one disappointing Huskies coach to another. The Jimmy Lake era was painful, but at least it was short.

Washington entered the 2021 season ranked No. 20 in the nation, and there was hope that Lake could keep the momentum going as the successor to Chris Petersen, who ended his stellar run as Dawgs head coach after the 2019 campaign. Lake had led the Dawgs to a 3-1 record during the shortened, very odd and probably-best-if-we-just-forget-it-even-happened 2020 season, but the wheels feel off the next year as it became abundantly clear he wasn’t the right fit. UW would finish 4-8 overall and fifth in the Pac-12 North, and Lake was briefly suspended and then quickly fired before season’s end following a sideline incident with a player.

WSU football

2016 and 2018

Finding the right examples for the Cougars is surprisingly tough because it feels like wheat is the only thing that is harvested on the Palouse more than disappointment.

We’ll wrap these two seasons together because they tell a very similar story. Both years, the Cougars went into the Apple Cup – which they were hosting in Pullman – just needing to beat the Huskies to clinch the Pac-12 North, which would give them a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game and an opportunity to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2003. Ah, think of how great a win would have felt for the Cougar faithful! Now keep thinking about it, because WSU never came close.

In 2016, the Dawgs blew the Cougs out 45-17, but to be fair UW was ranked No. 6 to WSU’s No. 23. As for 2018, it was a more respectable 28-15 WSU loss to Washington, but it hurt perhaps even more as the Cougars were ranked No. 7 at the time, while UW was No. 16. The Cougars’ offense also curiously struggled in snowy conditions at Martin Stadium, which you’d think would have favored the team from the 509 over a more rain-accustomed UW squad.

Those two losses were part of a seven-year Apple Cup losing streak, no doubt making the pain that much more intolerable for Coug Nation.

UW Huskies basketball

2016-17

This was the end of the Lorenzo Romar era at Hec Ed, and what a disappointing end it was.

Romar had led the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times in his first nine seasons as head coach, and he continued to draw big-time recruits throughout his 15-year tenure at Washington. The trips to the Tournament dried up well before 2016-17, though, as that talent kept falling short. Even with 2017 No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Markelle Fultz and 2109 No. 20 overall NBA Draft pick Matisse Thybulle on the roster, the Dawgs limped to a 9-22 record. It was their worst showing under Romar, who was subsequently fired as UW’s drought of dancing in March reach six straight years.

2019-20

Romar’s replacement, Mike Hopkins, got off to a great start in Seattle. The Huskies picked up an early signature win during the 2017-18 season (Hopkins’ first) when they knocked off a Kansas team ranked No. 2 at the time. The Dawgs would go 21-13 and make the NIT that season, then finished 27-9 to earn an NCAA Tournament berth in 2018-19, with Hopkins winning Pac-12 Coach of the Years honors for both seasons. But in 2019-20 as Hopkins’ own recruits started to make up more of the roster than Romar’s, Washington began going the wrong direction. Though UW had a not-quite-terrible overall record of 15-17, it finished dead-last in the Pac-12 at 5-13 in conference play. The program has yet to turn around since then, and Hopkins is clearly on the hot seat for next season.

Seattle Storm

2019

The Storm won their third WNBA championship in 2018, led by MVP Breanna Stewart and the legendary Sue Bird. So why is the next season on this list? Because it featured neither reigning MVP Breanna Stewart nor the legendary Sue Bird, and it made for a big bummer before they could even gear up to defend their title.

Stewart ruptured her Achilles playing in Euroleague competition and Bird underwent knee surgery just before the season started. And just like that, the year was seemingly over before it began for the Storm. The disappointment here has everything to do with the fact that it took the air out of any potential repeat excitement, because the season in a vacuum wasn’t bad at all. The Storm still finished with a winning record (18-16) and reached the second round of the playoffs.

Seattle Sounders

2022

You have to hand it to the Sounders for making it as far as they did without a season befitting this list. And there’s even a silver lining when it comes to the 2022 Sounders’ disappointment.

This was the 14th season in the team’s MLS history and the first that did not include a trip to the playoffs as they finished 11th in the Western Conference with a 12-17-5 record. That’s how good the Sounders have been – the worst thing about them is that one time they didn’t make the playoffs.

The silver lining? The Sounders made history in May of this same year by becoming the first MLS franchise ever to win the CONCACAF Champions League, clinching the win on aggregate over Pumas of Liga MX in a raucous second leg at Lumen Field. Worth it? Yeah, probably worth it.

Video: Rock bottom for Seattle Mariners — How did it get so bad?

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