In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Seattle Mariners are beaten by the Texas Rangers 4-3 in the final game of the regular season. The loss prevents the Mariners from setting a new major league record for wins during a season. The Mariners managed by Lou Piniella equaled the 116 wins set by the Chicago Cubs in 1906, finishing 116-46. A big part of the Mariners' success was the dynamic play of Ichiro Suzuki, who became the second player to win both the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. The Mariners would fail to reach the World Series, losing to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
It was a time of transition for baseball in Seattle. The Mariners were set to host the All-Star Game at Safeco Field but had lost superstars in each of the last three seasons. They were forced to trade Randy Johnson before he became a free agent in 1998. Ken Griffey Jr. was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before the 2000 season after he expressed a desire to play closer to home, while Alex Rodriguez signed a record deal with the Texas Rangers before 2001.
To make up for the losses, the Mariners signed Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki while making smaller moves, including the addition of Brett Boone. Both moves would have a significant impact as each competed for the American League MVP. Boone had a league-high 141 RBI with 37 home runs and a .331 average, which were career highs. Ichiro, however, rocked the world and became the top leadoff hitter in baseball. Joining Fred Lynn, who won Rookie of the Year and MVP with the Boston Red Sox in 1975, Ichiro changed the game and became the face of the Seattle Mariners. In winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP, Ichiro Suzuki hit .350 to lead the league, with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases to lead the AL. He also had eight home runs and 69 RBI while scoring 127 runs.
It was not just the newcomers that drove the Mariners to 116 wins, as old reliable Edgar Martinez had another stellar season hitting .306 with 23 home runs and 116 RBI. John Olerud also had a big season batting .302, with 21 home runs and 95 RBI as the Mariners hit .288 as a team. On the mound, the Mariners were led by Jamie Moyer, who won 20, while Freddy Garcia won 18, Paul Abbot won 17, and Aaron Selee had 15 wins. In the bullpen, Kazuhiro Saski saved 45 games as the Mariners stunned the baseball world.
The Mariners got off to a fast start, winning 20 games in April and May, and held a record of 40-12 as June began. They were in the midst of a 15-game winning streak at the time. By the All-Star Break, the M's had a 19-game lead, with a record of 63-24 in the American League West, a division that would see the Oakland Athletics claim the Wild Card. The Mariners would lead wire-to-wire and reached 100 wins on September 5th. The September 11th attacks delayed the Mariners division-clinching as they officially won the West when the season resumed on September 18th. After winning the West, the Mariners had a season-worst four-game losing streak as they looked to make history. The Mariners topped the Yankees record of 114 wins on October 5th, breaking the American League record set in 1998. They evened the record the following day but could not top the 116 wins, which the Chicago Cubs first established in 1906.
The Mariners had difficulty in the postseason needing five games to beat the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series before they were stunned by the Yankees in the ALCS, losing in five games as they lost the first two games at home and were unable to get back on track. The Mariners missed the playoffs despite a record of 93-69 in 2002 and have not made the playoffs since, currently holding the longest postseason drought among the four major sports at 20 years.