The Mariners have made the postseason.
That's a sentence that hasn't been written since 2001, saddling Seattle with the longest active playoff drought not only in MLB, but in any of the four major pro sports in North America. At least, it was active until Friday night, when the Mariners finally clinched a playoff berth in wildly dramatic fashion with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. At long last, they're no longer postseason-less in Seattle.
If you're scoring at home, there were 47,057 regular-season games played from the start of 2002 through the 2021 season, including 3,138 Mariners contests. And Seattle missed out on participating in any of the 702 playoff games in that stretch.
For a little non-baseball perspective, on the date of the Mariners' most recent postseason game -- a loss to the Yankees in ALCS Game 5 on Oct. 22, 2001 -- both “Shrek” and “The Fast and the Furious” (as in the originals of those long-running feature film franchises) were in theaters.
Now that they're in, though, the big question is how far the Mariners -- the only active MLB franchise yet to reach the World Series -- can go.
But first, let's celebrate the end of this span and put some context on what was (count 'em) 20 seasons between playoff appearances for Seattle. Here, then, are 20 facts, feats and figures that have happened in MLB from the start of the 2002 campaign through 2021.
• For context and comparison, here are the longest active postseason droughts in the three other North American pro sports:
-NBA: Sacramento Kings -- 16 seasons (last made playoffs in 2005-06 season)
-NFL: New York Jets -- 11 seasons (last made playoffs in 2010 season)
-NHL: Buffalo Sabres -- 11 seasons (last made playoffs in 2010-11 season)
• From 2002 through 2021, these were the longest MLB playoff droughts:
-Mariners: 20 seasons (2002-21)
-Phillies: 10 seasons (2012-21)
-Angels: seven seasons (2015-21)
-Tigers: seven seasons (2015-21)
-Pirates: six seasons (2016-21)
-Royals: six seasons (2016-21)
Like the Mariners, the Phillies also have a chance to end their drought in the coming days, while the other four clubs will have to wait until next year.
• Wondering about the number of times each team made the playoffs in this span? This graphic has that covered:
• While the Mariners were on the outside looking in, 14 different teams won a World Series title, including the Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs, who had championship droughts of 85 seasons, 87 seasons and 107 seasons, respectively:
-Red Sox: 4 (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018)
-Giants: 3 (2010, 2012, 2014)
-Cardinals: 2 (2006, 2011)
-Braves: 1 (2021)
-Dodgers: 1 (2020)
-Nationals: 1 (2019)
-Astros: 1 (2017)
-Cubs: 1 (2016)
-Royals: 1 (2015)
-Yankees: 1 (2009)
-Phillies: 1 (2008)
-White Sox: 1 (2005)
-Marlins: 1 (2003)
-Angels: 1 (2002)
• That this many different teams made the playoffs and won the title speaks to the fact that MLB's postseason field changed multiple times over the years of Seattle's span. Back in 2002, only eight teams made it to October in total -- the three division winners in each league, as well as the team in each circuit with the next best record -- in what still was the original Wild Card format. That changed in 2012, when a second Wild Card team was added in both the AL and NL -- for a total of 10 playoff teams -- creating a winner-take-all Wild Card Game between the two non-division winners in each league.
That format continued through last season, with the exception of the pandemic-shortened 60-game 2020 season when a record 16 teams made up the postseason pool -- the three division winners in each league, the three second-place teams in each and also the two clubs with the next best records in each. Yet even with those expanded playoff fields -- all told, there were 93 postseason berths in the AL over the previous 20 seasons -- the Mariners always fell short. (Until now, of course, as they clinched a berth in MLB's newest version of an expanded playoff pool, which includes 12 total teams in the form of the three division winners in the AL and NL, as well as the three teams with the next best marks in each.)
• The previous time the Mariners were playing October baseball, the Rays still had “Devil” in their name, the Marlins still were from Florida and not Miami, and the Angels were from Anaheim (and then “of Anaheim”) -- in what was then a four-team AL West. That's because the Astros still were in the NL (as one of six teams in a crowded Central). Oh, and the Nationals were not only the Expos, but also based in an entirely different country.
• At the start of this span, a 22-year-old whippersnapper was coming off a 2001 NL Rookie of the Year campaign in which he slashed .329/.403./.610 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs. He's now the oldest player in MLB at 42 years old and back with the Cardinals for his final season. You may have heard of him: Albert Pujols has since hit 664 home runs -- eclipsing 700 for his career -- and driven in 2,079 (through Friday and counting).
• To put the length of the Mariners' drought in the perspective of the oldest active pitcher, well, Rich Hill -- 42 years old like Pujols -- is a veteran of 18 seasons. In other words, Seattle was three full seasons removed from reaching the playoffs when Hill made his MLB debut back in 2005.
• As for which players were the best in baseball from 2002 through 2021, let's start with a look at the WAR leaderboards (via Baseball Reference):
• And here are the players with the most hits in this range:
-Albert Pujols: 3,107*
-Miguel Cabrera: 2,987
-Ichiro Suzuki: 2,847
-Adrián Beltré: 2,702
-Robinson Canó: 2,624
*In AL/NL history, there are only 33 players who have reached the 3,000-hit mark -- and Pujols achieved the entirety of that feat within the Mariners' drought.
• Players with the most home runs from 2002 through 2021 are here:
-Albert Pujols: 642*
-David Ortiz: 503*
-Miguel Cabrera: 502*
-Alex Rodriguez: 455
-Nelson Cruz: 449
*Just 28 sluggers have hit 500 or more homers in AL/NL history, and three of them -- Pujols, Ortiz and Cabrera -- totaled that many during this span alone.
• Want to know which pitchers notched the most wins in this stretch?
-CC Sabathia: 234
-Justin Verlander: 226
-Zack Greinke: 219
-Jon Lester: 200
-Mark Buehrle: 194
• And the hurlers who recorded the most strikeouts from 2002 through 2021:
-Max Scherzer: 3,020*
-Justin Verlander: 3,013*
-CC Sabathia: 2,922
-Zack Greinke: 2,809
-Clayton Kershaw: 2,670
*There are all of 19 pitchers to record 3,000 strikeouts in AL/NL history, including Scherzer and Verlander, both of whom racked up enough within this range to join the exclusive club.
• One important nugget that often gets overlooked in all of this is that Seattle's playoff-less span started the very season after the team had just won an incredible 116 games -- the most in AL history and tied for the most in MLB history with the 1906 Cubs. When you think about such a drastic dropoff leading to this dramatic drought, it's even more stunning.
• Julio Rodríguez, the Mariners' newest face of the franchise, was born Dec. 29, 2000. That means the last time Seattle was playing postseason games, Rodríguez was not yet 1 year old. Seriously.
• Félix Hernández, the Mariners' former longtime ace who debuted in 2005 and won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, made 418 starts, threw 2,729 2/3 innings and tallied 2,524 strikeouts -- all franchise records -- in his time with Seattle. Alas, his entire splendid 15-year big league career was swallowed up by this drought.
• Ichiro Suzuki made his big league debut in 2001, becoming an international sensation and just the second player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season as a driving force behind the last Mariners postseason club. Still the owner of the club's record for most career hits with 2,542, Ichiro had merely 242 knocks -- not quite 8 percent of his MLB career total (3,089) -- the last time Seattle made the playoffs.
• While Ichiro played the most games (1,704) with the Mariners from 2002 through 2021, he also was a part of the last playoff run in 2001. So which player played the most games with Seattle during the drought without sniffing the postseason? That would be Kyle Seager, with 1,480. The longtime third baseman, who debuted in 2011 and played all 11 of his big league seasons with Seattle, retired in December 2021 after the team declined his club option for this season.
• With 2,055 career games over 18 seasons -- all in Seattle -- Edgar Martinez is the longest tenured Mariner in club history and one of only three players to play on every Mariners postseason team (1995, 1997, 2000, 2001), along with outfielder Jay Buhner and catcher Dan Wilson. The longtime designated hitter's career began in 1987 and ended in 2004, meaning he was a part of three postseason-less campaigns at the outset of this span, then was retired for five years, and then spent all 10 seasons of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot before earning induction in 2019 … all while the Mariners failed to qualify for the playoffs.
• During this span, a whopping 10 managers have guided Seattle. Lou Piniella, the franchise's winningest skipper (840-711 and the first four postseason appearances), was in the final of his 10 seasons in 2002 before being traded to Tampa Bay for outfielder Randy Winn. After Piniella, it was a series of skippers leading to Scott Servais, who has provided stability by holding the role since the start of 2016: Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu, Daren Brown, Eric Wedge, and Lloyd McClendon -- none of whom lasted more than three years.
Meanwhile, four general managers have held the reins: Pat Gillick, whose successful run started with consecutive playoff appearances in 2000 and 2001 and continued through 2003; Bill Bavasi, who lasted from 2003 to 2008; Jack Zduriencik, whose tenure went from 2009 to 2015; and the current Jerry Dipoto, who took over in late September 2015. Just don't ask how many trades Dipoto has made over the years to help get the Mariners back to October.