The annual Harris Poll is out in which fans nationally are asked to identify their favorite baseball team.
The Mariners shot up seven spots, from 17th to 10th, tying the San Diego Padres for the biggest jump from last year. Never under-estimate the power of the Peoria demographic. The Padres went from 27th to tied for 20th.
Not surprisingly, the Yankees dominated the poll, winning for the seventh consecutive year. They are followed by the Red Sox and Braves. The Braves, in their heyday, used to dominate the Harris Poll, finishing as the nation’s most popular team for seven straight years, 1993-99.
Why did the Mariners make such a big leap? My first theory is to attribute it largely to Ken Griffey Jr.’s return. I can’t imagine it was the addition of Ronny Cedeno. And the team is doing better (although they were under .500 almost the entire time during the polling period, June 8-15), which could have swayed some fans, I suppose.
But the truth is, the Mariners have always ranked surprisingly high for a team that everyone likes to say is hidden in the upper left-hand corner of the country. They ranked as high as tied for No. 3 (with the Chicago Cubs) in 1997, when they had Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, et al. They were at No. 10 in 2006, a year in which they finished last for the third straight year.
I really think it dates back to the 1995 surge, and that fantastically entertaining post-season, that thrust the Mariners into the national consiousness. That, and the fact that they have a large expanse of territory in the Northwest where they have no competition, at least geographically.
Any other theories?