Back in July of 2003 I was a lazy 18-year-old just a few weeks removed from my high school graduation. I was working a part-time job at Champs Sports and sitting around my parents’ house in my spare time. It was the last summer before college and I wasn’t doing much of anything at all. So naturally on the 15th day of the month, I found myself watching the 74th annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The two rosters that day featured such greats as Montreal Expos second baseman Jose Vidro (the National League’s starting second baseman), New York Mets closer Armando Benitez, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Richie Sexson, Chicago White Sox designated hitter Carl Everett, token Kansas City Royal Mike Sweeney, and Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Eddie Guardado. If you don’t know the bond that those six seemingly random former All-Stars share, then you obviously aren’t a Mariners fan.
More important than the sextet of “stars” who would later become white dwarfs in Seattle, however, were the five current Mariners playing in baseball’s summer showcase that year: second baseman Bret Boone, setup man-turned-closer Shigetoshi Hasegawa, designated hitter Edgar Martinez, veteran fireballer Jamie Moyer, and of course right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. It was a good year for M’s at the All-Star Game and unbeknownst to fans like you and I, the last time that many members of our hometown nine would find themselves at the Classic…ever.
In the ensuing years, the Mariners would earn one, maybe two All-Star nods on an annual basis. In 2011, a year in which the team lost 95 games as well as their manager, a whopping three M’s (Felix Hernandez, Brandon League, and Michael Pineda) found their way to Arizona to represent the Emerald City on baseball’s brightest stage. But in general, the decade that followed the 2003 edition of baseball’s talent show was one of relative emptiness for your Seattle Mariners, both with respect to the All-Star Game itself and the team’s slog through 162 games each year.
The general struggles of the Mariners have been chronicled in great detail, so no need to rehash that. But in examining All-Star rosters between 2004 and 2013, the story gets much more stomach-churning.
It’s bad enough that in 10 years the M’s have only sent seven different players (Ichiro, Jose Lopez, J.J. Putz, Hisashi Iwakuma, and the aforementioned trio of Hernandez, League, and Pineda) to the Classic, spread across a total of 16 selections (or 1.6 selections per year). It gets much, much worse when you take into account the 47 All-Star selections earned by the 23 unique former Mariners over that same span. Yes, you read that right. From 2004 to 2013, 23 former M’s have become All-Stars, while only seven current M’s have done the same. Likewise, those 23 former M’s have paraded through home run derbies, celebrity softball games, and fan meet-and-greets 47 different times — an average of 2.3 unique players and 4.7 selections every freakin’ year.
To put this all into context, consider that you could nearly field an entire 25-man roster solely comprised of former Mariners that have made the All-Star game in the past decade. Here’s what your squad would look like:
C – Jason Varitek
1B – Bryan LaHair
2B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Alex Rodriguez
3B – Adrian Beltre
LF – Raul Ibanez
CF – Ken Griffey, Jr.
RF – Adam Jones
DH – David Ortiz
INF – Carlos Guillen
OF – Scott Podsednik
SP – Randy Johnson
SP – Cliff Lee
SP – R.A. Dickey
SP – Gil Meche
SP – Chris Tillman
RP – Steve Delabar
RP – Ryan Franklin
RP – Brian Fuentes
RP – Arthur Rhodes
RP – George Sherrill
RP – Rafael Soriano
RP – Matt Thornton
Sure, you’d have an abundance of pitchers (and Bryan LaHair at first base — remember when he made the All-Star team? It was one year ago, yet seems like forever), but who really cares? Any general manager in the game would kill for the talent on the roster you see above. All of it just goes to show how badly management has run this team into the ground over the past ten years.
Now of course any one of us could glance at that list of ex-Mariners and start to qualify all the couldawouldashouldas that may have impacted the respective departures of each player, but why do that? It’s irrelevant. When you’re dealing with a sample size this great, a lesson in egregious mismanagement this massive, does it even matter? Does it even matter whether one guy left for more money, or another was dealt for a promising return, or yet another was a Single-A prospect we knew little about when we pawned him off on a rival? No. None of it matters. Because the fact is we had all these guys and we let them go. We dated 23 of the prettiest girls in school and ended up with a miserable, ugly bitch instead. We controlled our destiny and we screwed it all up. And in fairness, when I say “we” did all this, I don’t mean you or I (because neither you nor I would ever be this stupid), but the collective “we” that is the Mariners. We are really dumb sometimes.
If I had any idea on July 15th, 2003 how incredibly awful my baseball team would soon become, I probably would have soaked in the day’s lone contest like a prisoner enjoying his final meal. Instead, I took it all for granted and never saw the demise coming. And damn it, that blows.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Look, we all get it. The Mariners have produced 10 years of festering waste for a reason. When you look at the recent history of the All-Star game alone, it becomes pretty clear what the No. 1 reason may be.
We had it and we lost it. We were rich with talent and we squandered it all. We spent our stars faster than M.C. Hammer spent all his money. We made bad decision after bad decision and look where it’s led us: twelve years without a playoff berth.
Screw those guys in the front office. And here’s hoping it gets better.