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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 24, 2013 at 2:47 PM

A sobering look at historical implications of Mariners’ terrible start

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

The Astros, shown above after today’s 10-3 victory over the Mariners, don’t get to celebrate too often, but they’ve now done so four times in six games against the Mariners. So much for that meme about the M’s cleaning up on lowly Houston as a means to a better record in 2013.

Instead, their record now stands at a dismal 8-15, a winning percentage of .348 (the worst full-season winning percentage in Seattle history is .350 in 1978, the expansion club’s second season of existence, when the Mariners went 56-104). The only teams in baseball off to a worse start this year are the Astros (but just barely at 7-14), Padres (5-15), Cubs (6-14) and Marlins (5-16). Not the kind of company you want to keep.

In 36 seasons, the Mariners have had eight other starts as bad or worse than this year’s — and six of them occurred in their first 10 seasons as an expansion club:

1977: 8-15 (64-98 final record)

1978: 7-16 (56-104)

1979: 8-15 (67-95)

1981: 6-17 (44-65*)

1983: 7-16 (60-102)

1986: 8-15 (67-95)

*Strike-shortened season

From 1987 through 2003, a span of 17 seasons, the Mariners never had a 23-game start as bad as this year’s. Then, in 2004 — the first year of a franchise decline that has not been curtailed, a decade later — they started out 8-15 in Bob Melvin’s second (and final) year as Lou Piniella’s successor. That team wound up 63-99, not even the worst finish of this extended down period. The Mariners lost 101 in both 2008 and 2010, but even in those years they got off to a better start than currently — 11-12 in both instances.

In 2011, Eric Wedge’s first year, the Mariners also started 8-15, en route to a 67-95 finish. If there is some tiny measure of hope, it’s that the ’11 team rebounded, and was actually back at .500 (43-43) as late as July 5. And there ends the “measure of hope” portion of his blog post, as the Mariners, on July 6, began a 17-game losing streak that assured another dreary season.

I realize that 23 games is an arbitrary measuring point. But that’s how many games they’ve played right here and now, when the reality of a season in crisis has hit the hardest by virtue of a terrible road trip capped by losing another series to what was supposed to be the worst team in baseball. The sobering fact is that in eight previous seasons of starting this poorly, it doomed the Mariners to miserable seasons, years in which they never lost fewer than 95 games, excluding the strike-shortened season of 1981. It’s too early to seal their fate, but they have much work to do to change that trend.

 

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