“The Mariners aren’t competitors. They’re protagonists.”
On March 26, the SB Nation YouTube channel put out the first episode of a six-part documentary series on the Seattle Mariners, produced by YouTuber Jon Bois and sports journalist Alex Rubenstein, based on the premise that the Seattle Mariners are the most fascinating team in the history of American sports. At face value, this sounds ridiculous. The Mariners have been nothing better than mediocre for 90% of their lifetime. They spare no expense telling us this before moving onto bigger things.
The early years of the Seattle Mariners were abysmal, as they put up losing record after losing record. As Rubenstein would tell us, if you care about winning and losing, you will gain nothing from the video. Instead, viewers are treated to the story of how the Seattle Mariners came to be, including the demolishing of three separate baseball stadiums.
The story continues with the arrival of one Ken Griffey Jr. in what they call “his quest to save the Mariners.” Perhaps the most beloved baseball player of all time, Griffey was an absolute monster in his early years and was well on his way to being the best center fielder of all time, if not for the injuries that plagued the later part of his career. Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson make their first appearances in the Mariner timeline as well as the show transitioned into the Battle for Seattle in episode three.
The Battle for Seattle was a playoff series in 1995 so important it is given its own 24-minute episode. It covers the story of the first ever playoff appearance for the Mariners in a series against the constantly mentioned New York Yankees. What might not be as obvious was the context in which the series happened. It was at this time the owners wanted to move on from the Kingdome, and maybe from Seattle if that’s what it took. The only issue was that the Mariners gave citizens no reason to support them, and the question became how much the Mariners would need to accomplish to stay in Seattle, in a new stadium we now know as T-Mobile Park.
With the guarantee that the Mariners would stay, the story moved on to the late 90s/early 00s where Seattle built a death star featuring some of the very greatest in baseball: Griffey, Johnson, Martinez, and a new young stud named Alex Rodriguez. From there, episode five featured the career of Ichiro on his path to becoming one of the greatest ever as well.
The sixth and final episode began with Felix “the King” Hernandez and all he did for a Mariners team that would never give him the success he deserved. That’s when it became clear the Mariners weren’t so much about team success but a platform for the individual to be the best they could be. They are currently on a historic playoff drought that has persisted since 2001 when they won 116 games, a mark that still hasn’t been passed. As of the Nationals winning the world series last year, the Mariners are the only team to not make a single world series in their lifetime.
The Mariners are, simply put, not good. Maybe endless mediocrity was the price to keep baseball in Seattle. Maybe, as Rubenstein put it, “they are touched by God.” Nevertheless, this documentary made me feel things I didn’t even know I still had. It’s nigh impossible to hate the Mariners, and if you’re unsure why that is, the is documentary series does an exceptional job at explaining the reason everybody should be on their side. Coming out the other end, I fully agree that the Mariners are the most fascinating team in American sports.