In my hometown of Seattle a lot is being made about the 10-year anniversary of the Mariners' American League single-season record of 116 wins. I may become unpopular after this column but, really, without a World Series championship after a season like that, what's the big deal?
Not to take anything away from that team, because it did seem like 2001 was the season that the Mariners would finally win it all. Our pitching was ferocious, from starters Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer, to unhittable closer Kazuhiro Sasaki. DH Edgar Martinez was running a virtual hittiing clinic for the rest of the league. John Olerud was in his second year with the team as the cagey veteran finally returning to his hometown in a heroic fashion.
We had, in the two years prior, just lost two of our bona-fide (and only) superstars -- Alex Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers and Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds. It seemed as though Seattle was thrown into another one of those dreaded rebuilding periods that we baseball fans of any team, are so familiar with. Rebuilding & yeah & good times.
But the Griffey deal delivered up-and-coming outfielder Mike Cameron and free agency brought us second baseman Bret Boone. Players who would both have career-best years as fielders and at the plate in 2001. Add to that a utility guy in Mark McLemore who just didn't seem to have a bad game, no matter what position he might have played that given day.
That season started in a hurry as the Mariners went on a 17-3 winning tear in their first 20 games. The city was on fire with "Mariners fever" and games were selling out. Seemingly everyone in the Pacific Northwest was wearing an M's cap or jersey. At the All-Star break the Mariners were the dominant team in the league, and many sports experts -- even from outside the area -- were already stating how the team was uncannily built to easily win the World Series.
Sports fans in Seattle, though, are not used to winning championships of any sort. Therefore, there wasn't a shared confidence or swagger or braggadacio reverberating around town. There was excitement, sure, but did Seattle's fans actually think that they'd win it all? Well & yeah; even M's fans started to believe, especially after the "100 win" mark came and went.
It was simple, right? The Mariners had won virtually every regular-season series that year. It went with common math at that point, that they should win their series games in the postseason, too. Nope. We ran into a cagey and confident buzz saw, personified by the New York Yankees. It was the ALCS, and the M's season was suddenly over.
It was kind of embarassing then, to have that gaudy "116" in that past season's win column. It only showed that the Mariners simply could not get it done when the real pressure was on. I love that team of 2001, for sure, and have grand memories from then.
But it is hard for me to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of that season that tied the Chicago Cubs' major-league record for wins. The end-game result of going home early still leaves a bad taste. I had such high hopes. I think we all did. I guess, though, as Seattle sports fans, we were not shocked.
In saying all of this, though, looking back to events past is an often futile and frustrating venture. That 2001 team was fun to watch, and that is the thing I shall remember.
If you are an M's fan now, it is just as fun to watch this newish team with the emerging stars. I like the way the team is playing with such confidence, all the while just trying to get back to .500. I'm happy with being an underdog without the eyes of the sports nation all up in our Northwest grill.
Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography due out later this year, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.