The NFL’s Buffalo Bills ended their playoff drought, dating back to 1999, when they won their final regular season game against the Dolphins on Sunday. They also needed the Ravens to lose to the Bengals in order to sneak into the AFC Wild Card game. As a result, MLB’s Seattle Mariners now have the longest playoff drought in the four major professional sports, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes.
In 2001, the last time the Mariners reached the postseason, the club won a record-tying 116 games during the regular season. After just barely escaping the Indians in the ALDS, going all five games, the Mariners were stopped in their tracks by the Yankees in the ALCS, dropping four of five games. They haven’t been seen in postseason play since.
What was life like back in 2001? George W. Bush was President and, of course, there were the 9/11 attacks. The iPhone hadn’t been invented yet; people were using flip phones and those awful Nokias. Windows XP was released near the end of 2001. Microsoft unveiled the Xbox; Nintendo released the GameCube. Enron had their scandal in 2001, which led the Astros to rebrand their stadium as Minute Maid Park in 2002. Bryce Harper was nine years old in 2001; Mike Trout was 10. The first Legally Blonde movie was released, as was Shrek. What a year.
The Mariners have had some good teams in the time since, but the AL West was very competitive in the early 2000’s. In 2002, the Mariners won 93 games and finished in third place! From 2008 to 2012 — the last year the AL West had only four teams — the Mariners finished in last place four times in five seasons. They had two more fourth-place finishes and a third place finish from 2013-15 after the Astros joined the division. After a front office overhaul, the Mariners improved to 86 wins and a second-place finish in 2016, but mustered only 78 wins and ended the year in third place in 2017.
Will the Mariners make the playoffs in 2018? FanGraphs is projecting an 81-81 record. The Astros are expected to win the AL West while the Yankees and Angels pick up the AL Wild Card slots. These projections, of course, are far from sacrosanct as any number of things could happen during the season to improve the Mariners’ fortune. But it seems realistic. After all, the Mariners are playing in the same division as the defending World Series champions as well as a team that has Mike Trout, retained Justin Upton, and added Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart, and Ian Kinsler. Odds are in favor of the Mariners extending their playoff drought to 17 years.