|Sunday, October 7
Updated: October 8, 2:28 PM ET
116 wins? M's need 11 more
By Jim Caple
The Mariners lost the game's best pitcher three seasons ago, the best center fielder two winters ago and the best shortstop last December.
They do not have a player who is likely bound for Cooperstown (at this point, only Edgar Martinez appears to have a shot). Their left fielder missed most of the season with a torn heel. Their best player weighs 160 pounds. Their starting shortstop may have had tuberculosis all season.
And they still won 116 games, two more than any previous American League team.
No wonder A-Rod is so proud.
In case you missed it, after Seattle's record 116th victory Saturday night, Rodriguez told reporters, "A part of me feels like part of me won 116 games, too, because this was a three-year process."
It sounds ludicrous but A-Rod is merely echoing the words of Scottish poet John Dunne, who wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." In that respect, A-Rod not only was part of the Mariners' 116 victories, he was an integral part of the championships won by New York, Cleveland, Arizona, Houston and Atlanta, as well.
So, way to go, A-Rod. Including your 73 victories with Texas, that's almost 700 wins. What a season!
When Rodriguez made his first trip back to Seattle last April, he predicted the Mariners could win 115-120 games. Everyone snickered but it turned out he was dead on. After Sunday's final game, he predicted the Mariners will win the World Series in five games and said he will be rooting for his old teammates. He even went to their clubhouse to wish them well.
His former "brothers," meanwhile, were still upset about losing sole claim to the all-time record for wins.
"Record or not, we're not used to losing," pitcher Paul Abbott said after Seattle lost Sunday 4-3 to Texas on a ninth-inning run off reliever Jeff Nelson. "How many times do you get a chance to win 117 games? I know 116 wins is good and it will look good tomorrow to us but right now we're disappointed we lost."
With amazing little national attention, the Mariners tied the 1906 Cubs for the most victories in big league history with 116. The Cubs retain the more significant record (highest winning percentage -- Chicago won its 116 games in just 152 games) but is there any rational person who thinks those 1906 Cubs could have competed with this year's Mariners? No, not even if Tinker, Evers and Chance turned an awful lot of double plays every game, plus a couple triple plays.
The Cubs played in an era so different from today's -- the players were smaller, weaker, slower and whiter (no minorities allowed) -- that it is insulting to compare the two.
The better comparison is to the 1998 Yankees, who won a mere 114 games. The Mariners' record is more impressive, even if New York sportswriters would rather lose their frequent flyer miles than admit it.
Not only did the Mariners win two more games than the '98 Yankees, they traveled more and played a slightly tougher schedule. Thanks to the unbalanced schedule, they played 19 games against Oakland, winners of 102 games. Their interleague games were against the NL West, where only one team failed to win at least 80 games.
Most importantly, this is not an expansion season, as 1998 was. While Tampa Bay may not be any better this season than in 1998, Arizona clearly is and the Mariners beat the Diamondbacks three times. Further, all those players who first reached the majors because of expansion in 1998 now are more experienced (for that same reason Barry Bonds' 73 home runs are that much more impressive than Mark McGwire's 70, even if they weren't as exciting).
Of course, for now the Yankees hold one very significant edge over the Mariners. The Yankees went 11-2 in the postseason and won the World Series.
"Everything is very similar, just a different atmosphere. Now we have to win the World Series, too," said Nelson, who pitched on both teams. "If we win the World Series, I'll have to say this team is better, just because we have a better record."
The Mariners won 116 games but they must win at least 11 more to be considered among the best of all time. Then perhaps people outside Seattle will take notice of one of the truly great seasons in baseball history.
"It's not surprising we're not getting much credit," outfielder Jay Buhner said. "A lot of guys had some pretty exciting seasons. Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson. And plus, we're tucked up here in the great Pacific Northwest. There are some people who don't even know we have a baseball team here. But I think that's changing.
"So we just need to pick it up and show it in the playoffs. If we bring home the championship, maybe then they'll say, 'You know, maybe they were the best team of all time.'"
And if the Mariners do, there's a more significant question. Will they vote Alex a World Series share?
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.