Being a Seattle Mariners baseball fan has been a pretty tough proposition for most of their 35 years. For us locals, it has been sort of par for the course though. We have not had great luck in the world of professional sports. Although Seattle is now a “world-class” city (supposedly), the old lackadaisical attitudes toward such things are pretty well ingrained into our DNA. It is only the newbies who raise a fuss, and show us “how it should be.”
Such is the case with the new book Shipwrecked: A People’s History of the Seattle Mariners by Jon Wells. The author moved here in 1994 and was immediately taken with the fact that he could easily attend just about every home game he chose. All of the major obstacles he ran into in other cities were easily overcome here, traffic isn’t bad, the tickets are reasonably priced (and available), and even parking was generally not much of a problem. Outside of a few highly-coveted home stands, such as against the Yankees, those conditions remain pretty similar to this day.
What Wells breaks down in depth though is how screwed we as fans have been by the management of our team for most of these years. There is no denying that the fans have come last for decades in terms of consideration of what is best for the franchise. When he breaks down the performance of the team season by season over the years, it reveals a pretty sad state of affairs.
Except for the big year of 1995. Our town has never been as excited by the team as we were that season. It was definitely a Cinderella story, where the M’s came practically from the basement to within one game of going to the World Series. Did the fact that they were facing massive opposition to their dreams of building what would become Safeco Field contribute to management‘s decision to field a solid team? I think the answer is pretty obvious. Once the commitments were made, the M’s went back to business as usual. Superstars such as Randy Johnson, A-Rod, and others were soon on their way out.
The final chapter “Will The M’s Ever Win The World Series?” at least offers some hope. Wells cites a number of factors that bode well. It may be just good old-fashioned optimism, but I’ll take it. The team’s arguments about finances are shown to be patently ridiculous. What is most striking is the idea that since the Mariners are not in a major market such as New York or Chicago that the money simply is not there. This is a bald-faced lie, as Mariners fans are among the most loyal in baseball. Citing attendance figures for the 15 years between 1996 to 2011, the team have consistently ranked among the top five in all of baseball.