Perhaps you’ve heard: The Seattle Mariners are on a major down spell lately. That’s putting it mildly: Monday night, they set a franchise record, losing their 16th straight game.
Yeah, that’s bad. I mean it could be worse—they still have a better season record than the Orioles, Cubs or Astros heading into today. And the recent news that Mariners uber-blogger Dave Cameron has cancer reminds us all to keep things in perspective. But this recent slide stinks for the team. A club just 2.5 games out of first on July 5 is now done for the season.
In response, Seattle writer Larry Stone ponders in his column if this is the most embarrassing moment ever for the Mariners franchise. He argues it probably is, and he has a point.
But questions like that always make me dive into the historical record and determine if it is.
The point here is not to further any Seattle fans’ humiliation. This just began as an exercise in curiosity. Besides, I have an entire file with baseball events by dates, and I like using it. The following are some of the lowlights in Seattle Mariners history:
April 6, 1977: The Mariners play their first game—and lose 7-0 to the Angels. They are shut out despite getting 11 men on base. They’ll also be shut out in the second game, before finally scoring in their third effort.
July 10, 1977: Speaking of shutouts, this day’s 15-0 loss to the Twins is still the club’s worst shutout loss ever.
Aug. 6, 1977: Chicago’s South Side Men torch the Mariners pitching staff for six home runs in a 13-3 shellacking. Back in the 1970s, it really took some doing to allow six homers in a game. This is the third loss in what turns out to be a nine-game losing streak. At the end of the streak, the Mariners lose two straight games by a combined score of 24-2.
Oct. 4, 1978: Seattle loses its 104th game of the season, still the franchise record for most losses in a season. They do have the excuse of being only a second-year club, but they’ve hit triple digits four more times since then. The Mariners end the 1978 season 56-104, having dropped 13 of their last 14 games.
April 18, 1981: One day after the A’s mauled them 16-1, the Mariners drop another one to Oakland, 8-0. The two-game combined deficit of 23 runs makes this the worst pair of consecutive losses in team history.
April 25, 1981: The entire Maury Wills managerial era (or should it be managerial error?) with the Mariners is often considered one of the worst tenures any skipper ever had, but this day provides the signature moment. Before the game, opposing manager Billy Martin notices there’s something wrong with the batter’s box in Seattle. The umpires inspect and the measurements show that Seattle tampered with the dimensions. They had been enlarged to help Seattle get an edge on breaking pitches from Oakland hurlers.
May 1, 1981: Mike Parrott loses his 18th consecutive decision when the Tigers batter him in their 7-3 victory over Seattle. Parrott won when he started for Seattle on Opening Day in 1980, and proceeded to drop his remaining 16 decisions on the year. He’s now 0-2 in 1981—but he will win five days later.
May 27, 1981: One of baseball’s most bizarre moments occurs when Seattle Mariner infielder Lenny Randle blows a ball foul to prevent a nifty bunt single by Kansas City hitter Amos Otis. It works—but the Royals win the game, 8-5.
April 13, 1982: It's the longest loss in franchise history: 4-3 in 20 innings to the Angels. The Mariners tied it 2-2 in the top of the ninth, and took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 15th, but California rallied and won.
Aug. 23, 1982: Seattle Mariners pitcher Gaylord Perry, long and widely suspected of throwing the spitball, is ejected for the first time in his career for doing just that. In fact, it’s the first time in 40 years any pitcher has been tossed for it. The Reds Sox win, 4-3.
June 11, 1983: The Mariners are in the midst of a terrible 102-loss season in which they finish last in the league in hits, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (and near the bottom in doubles, triples, homers, and walks). But the lineup they produce on this day might be their worst of the season, as the starting nine have an average OPS+ of 71. Here’s the batting order, with their AVG/OBP/SLG numbers and OPS+ on the year:
Name AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+ Steve Henderson .294/.356/.450 117 Jamie Allen .223/.309/.304 68 Ricky Nelson .254/.294/.371 80 Richie Zisk .242/.311/.411 94 Al Cowens .205/.255/.329 57 Jim Maler .182/.260/.242 38 Orlando Mercado .197/.256/.298 50 Todd Cruz .190/.221/.324 46 Julio Cruz .254/.332/.354 86
They’ll actually have an even worse lineup on Sept. 25 (average OPS+ of 65), but they somehow win that game, 2-1. On June 11, they lose 6-1.
April 18, 1986: Here’s one you don’t see every day: When Seattle pitcher Mike Moore walks a batter with the bases loaded, Alfredo Griffin scores from second base. After all runners advance one base (and the man on third scores), Griffin looks up from third, and notices Moore and catcher Steve Yeager are neither near the plate nor paying attention to him. So he bolts for home and scores. Officially, he’s credited with stealing home.
April 29, 1986: Roger Clemens makes history against the Mariners, becoming the first pitcher in history to fan 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
Aug. 18, 1986: Well out of the race in the midst of their 10th consecutive losing season, the Mariners trade Dave Henderson and Spike Owen to the Red Sox for Rey Quinones, three players to be named later and cash. None of the guys Seattle get do much, while Henderson still has several productive seasons.
Sept, 13, 1987: The Mariners waste a terrific two-hit performance by young fireballer Mark Langston, as Floyd Bannister of the White Sox completely shuts them down. He faces the minimum 27 batters in the game. Only one man reaches base, and he doesn’t even reach base. Huh? In the third inning, second baseman Harold Reynolds blasts a single, but is out trying to stretch it into a double. Thus the team’s only base runner is out before the play is over. Chicago wins 2-0, as both hits Langston allows are home runs.
Aug. 4, 1988: Dave Stewart of the A’s nearly no-hits the Mariners. Jay Buhner singles off him in the third inning and that’s it, as Oakland wins, 2-0.
Sept. 19, 1988: Seattle pitcher Gene Walker has an appearance to forget, committing a league-record tying four balks.
May 10, 1989: Mark Langston has another great game turn into a loss. After eight innings, he’s pitching a no-hitter. Entering the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead, this is what happens: single, ground out to advance the runner, RBI-double, RBI-single to tie the game. Then, after a reliever enters, the Mariners lose on the fourth hit of the inning.
June 3, 1989: For the second time, a Harold Reynolds single is the only thing preventing the team from being no-hit. This time it’s a lead-off single in the first inning off Nolan Ryan. Well, if you’re going to be nearly no-hit, may as well be by the Ryan Express.
April 11, 1990: After two near-misses, the Mariners are finally no-hit. In a bit of irony, the pitcher is former Mariner Mark Langston, in his first game with the California Angels. Langston tosses seven innings, and then reliever Mike Witt a pair more to complete the no-hitter.
April 16, 1992: When manager Bill Plummer turns in the wrong lineup card by mistake, the Mariners are stripped of their designated hitter. A series of pinch hitters bat for their pitchers as the Mariners lose, 5-4 to Chicago.
Sept, 6, 1992: Mariners pitcher Mike Schooler makes history, in the worst way possible. He allows a record-setting fourth grand slam of the season. It comes in the bottom of the 12th inning, with his team up 9-8 against Cleveland. He allows only seven homers all year, but four are with the bases loaded.
April 17, 1993: Tigers 20, Mariners 3, for the worst loss in franchise history. It’s also the only time they’ve allowed 20 runs in a game.
Aug. 8, 1993: Sometimes things are more important that the final score. In this game, Texas infielder Mario Diaz hits a line drive that bashes Seattle pitcher Brad Holman on the forehead, fracturing his sinus cavity. Holman comes back three weeks later.
Dec. 10, 1993: Seattle trades young prospect Mike Hampton with Mike Felder to the Astros for Eric Anthony.
Dec. 20, 1993: The Mariners trade shortstop Omar Vizquel to Cleveland for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson, and cash. To be fair, no one expected Vizquel to last as long as he did.
May 13, 1994: The Mariners finish their worst three-game stretch in franchise history by losing 11-1. Combined with the previous two losses by 16-2 and 14-6 scores, the Mariners have been outscored by 32 runs in three days.
July 19, 1994: The Seattle Kingdome has always had a bad reputation as a baseball stadium, but it really lives down to its reputation today, as some ceiling tiles fall down. The day’s scheduled game is postponed and the Mariners won’t play at home again until 1995.
July 31, 1994: The Mariners lose, dropping their all-time franchise record 388 games under .500 (1,206-1,594), its all-time low. Or, if you prefer, after this moment they’ve won more games than they’ve lost.
May 14, 1996: Despite facing a Mariners lineup featuring Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr., New York’s Dwight Gooden throws a no-hitter for a 2-0 win.
July 31, 1996: On the second anniversary of their all-time low franchise record, the Mariners make probably the worst trade in franchise history, sending Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to the Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb.
Sept. 2, 1996: Mike Greenwell 9, Seattle Mariners 8. The Boston outfielder drives in all the team’s nine runs as the Red Sox narrowly clip Seattle.
Sept. 13, 1996: In hindsight, this wasn’t a good move: the Mariners let David Ortiz go to the Twins.
Sept. 18, 1996: Once again Roger Clemens makes history by fanning 20 batters in a game. Once again the team he faces is the Seattle Mariners.
July 22, 2000: By now, the Mariners play in a much nicer field, majestic Safeco. However, it has a bad day, as the retractable roof doesn’t retract, forcing an unexpected 54-minute rain delay in the midst of a 13-3 loss to Texas.
Oct. 14, 2000: ALCS Game Four: Down two games to one, the Mariners face old nemesis Clemens, who hurls a complete game one-hitter against them while fanning 15. An Al Martin double to lead off the seventh innings is all they can do against him.
Aug. 5, 2001: It’s actually one of the greatest baseball games ever played, unless you’re a Mariners fan. The Indians storm back from a 12-run deficit to win 15-14 in extra innings over Seattle. The comeback happens despite Cleveland yanking many of its starters midway through the game. Had it not been for this comeback, Seattle would have ended the season with a record 117 regular-season wins.
Oct. 13, 2001: ALDS Game Three: The Mariners suffer one of the worst losses in postseason history, 17-2 to the Indians. Seattle recovers to win the next two games and advance to the ALCS.
Oct. 22, 2001: ALCS Game Five: What’s worse—losing 16 straight games in a season when not much is expected of you or losing in the playoffs when you’re supposed to win the world title. The Mariners fall four games to one in the ALCS after their 116-win season, losing this last game in especially ignominious fashion, 12-3 to the Yankees.
May 18, 2002: Pedro Martinez is at his best against the Mariners on this day, striking out the side in the first inning on just nine pitches.
May 24, 2002: Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. An avid Mariners fan requested his ashes be dropped over Safeco Field. When his friends try to grant that wish, the canister with the ashes drops, hits the roof and falls onto the street. Police and firefighters are called out as people fear the canister might be a terrorist bomb.
Jan. 8, 2004: The Mariners trade infielder Carlos Guillen to the Tigers for Ramon Santiago and a minor leaguer. Santiago collects eight hits in two years with Seattle before going back to Detroit and the minor leaguer never makes the majors. Meanwhile, Guillen makes three All-Star teams as a Tiger.
June 24, 2004: In one of the longest games in recent history, Seattle loses 9-7 in 18 innings to Texas. Jamie Moyer, making his only relief appearance from 1997-2008, allows a walk-off home run to Alfonso Soriano. The game went to extra innings goes to extra innings when Texas scores in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings to tie it.
July 1, 2007: In a shocking decision, Seattle manager Mike Hargrove resigns despite the team’s surprising 45-33 record and eight-game winning streak.
Feb. 8, 2008: The Orioles trade talented pitcher Erik Bedard to the Mariners for five young players, most notably Adam Jones. Bedard is hampered by arm problems in Seattle while Jones emerges as an All-Star center fielder.
Aug. 17, 2008: PitcherR.A. Dickey throws four wild pitches in one appearance for the Mariners.
June 28, 2009: Seattle trades apparent failed prospect Michael Morse to the Nationals for Ryan Langerhans.
Aug. 30, 2009: Zack Greinke pitches a one-hitter against the Mariners. Only Kenji Johjima's second-inning single prevents the team from being no-hit.
April 11, 2010: It’s shades of 1983, as the Mariners again will lose over 100 game due to a dreadful offense. This year’s squad will finish the league last in hits, doubles, triples, homers, batting average, OBP and SLG. On the bright side, the Mariners are next-to-last in walks. Few lineups will be as bad as this bunch, which lost 9-2 to Texas:
Name AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+ Ichiro Suzuki .315/.359/.394 111 Chone Figgins .259/.340/.306 83 Casey Kotchman .217/.280/.336 71 Frank. Gutierrez.245/.303/.363 85 Ken Griffey Jr. .184/.250/.204 29 Jose Lopez .239/.270/.339 69 Eric Byrnes .094/.237/.156 13 Adam Moore .195/.230/.283 58 Jack Wilson .249/.282/.316 60
They’ll trot the same nine out a few more times before the year is over, too. These nine combine for an average OPS+ of 65, far worse than the July 1983 lineup (but about even with the Sept. 25, 1983 lineup that oddly won its game). Just as in 1983, the Mariners field an even worse batting order later in the year, only to win the game. Going by OPS+ the lineup of Sept. 27 is a hair worse than this one (combined OPS+ of 583, not 586).
July 9, 2010: The Mariners trade starting pitcher Cliff Lee with a second player and cash to Texas in exchange for four prospects. Time will tell how valuable those prospects are.
Nov. 10, 2010: Again, sometimes what happens on the field doesn’t matter too much. On this day longtime Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehus dies of a heart attack.
July 16, 2011: The Mariners end a streak of 30 straight scoreless innings, but still lose the game.
July 25, 2011: Seattle drops its 16th consecutive game, getting pummeled 10-3 by the Yankees. The Mariners' record becomes 43-59 —so they were actually .500 when their downfall began.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail.
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