SEATTLE -- The Mariners absorbed much of the Major League spotlight during the Ken Griffey Jr. era in the late 1990s and into the turn of the millennium with the rest of an All-Star cast, many of whom are in or could be on their way to the Hall of Fame.
Seattle’s record of 116 wins in a season in 2001 has been touted by many to be among the most monumental in Major League history -- only the 1906 Cubs have matched that feat -- so of course, that campaign stands out above all when assessing each of the Mariners’ all-time best seasons.
Below are the Top 5 best seasons in Mariners history:
1) 2001: 116-46
The number “116” still remains synonymous with Seattle baseball, the year that the Mariners rode the wave of new faces Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Cameron, and a familiar one in Bret Boone, to the most wins in a single season in almost a century. In an era before viral became viral, Suzuki was a sensation, winning the American League batting title with a .350 average, tallying an unprecedented 242 hits and becoming just the second player in MLB history to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards in the same season. He was one of a whopping eight Mariners to be selected to that year’s All-Star Game -- which was held in Seattle.
Seattle’s magic didn’t quite continue in the postseason, with a five-game defeat in the AL Championship Series to the Yankees, who were playing with extra motivation in the wake of 9/11. But despite their October shortcomings, the 2001 Mariners remain one of the greatest teams of their era, if not all time.
2-T) 2002: 93-69
Seattle didn’t let its 2001 postseason disappointment carry over the following year, riding the same core that set records to another impressive season, while drawing a franchise-record 3,542,938 fans to Safeco Field -- an average of 43,740 per game, which falls just shy of the venue’s capacity. That year also saw one of the best days at the dish for any Mariner all-time, with Cameron becoming the first player in team history and one of just 18 players in MLB history to homer four times in a single game.
The Mariners held first place in the AL West from the ninth game of the season until Aug. 23, when their tumble to a 16-18 record over the final month-plus began. Though Seattle finished with 93 wins, normally enough to reach the postseason, the club fell two games shy of the AL Wild Card and thus began its lengthy October drought.
2-T) 2003: 93-69
The ’03 club was best known for its wire-to-wire starting pitching staff, as the Mariners used just five over the entire 162-game season -- a feat no MLB club had accomplished before or has since, dating back to the Mariners’ inception in 1977. The Iron Men were Ryan Franklin, Freddy Garcia, Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro and ace Jamie Moyer, who led the staff with a 21-7 record and 3.27 ERA. The lanky lefty earned his first All-Star bid in his age-40 season. He was one of five selected to the Midsummer Classic, with Ichiro, Edgar Martinez, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Washington-state native Willie Bloomquist.
Despite another 93-win season, the Mariners once again fell victim to playing in a loaded AL West, finishing in second place behind the A’s (96 wins) to fall short of the postseason.
4) 2000: 91-71
The Mariners entered 2000 reeling from the offseason trade of Griffey to the Reds, which sent shockwaves throughout the organization and drew apprehension from the media and concern from the fans. But with Alex Rodriguez entering his prime, Martinez still as consistent as ever, the free-agent acquisition of John Olerud and Cameron blossoming into a surprisingly more-than-worthy replacement in center field, the Mariners marched their way to the postseason for just the third time in history as the AL Wild Card.
Despite losing their grasp of first place in the division during the final days of the regular season, the Mariners got on a tear in the AL Division Series and swept the 95-win White Sox handily, with the Game 3 clincher being the first playoff game held at Safeco Field. The Mariners even took the eventual World Series champion Yankees to six games in the ALCS.
5) 1997: 90-72
Led by Griffey’s AL MVP Award-winning season, Seattle surged through ’97 with an all-time power-hitting lineup. Griffey’s franchise-record 56 home runs were part of a then-MLB-record 264 that the Mariners hit -- a high mark that stood until 2018 -- and he was one of six players to hit at least 20. Only one other team in MLB history had more players to hit that many in a single season at the time. The Mariners also drew more than three million fans for the first time in franchise history in 1997, but their bats went cold during the ALDS against the Orioles, as Seattle collectively slashed .218/.257/.391 in the four-game defeat.