The Rise and Fall of the 1990s Seattle Mariners:
A Ticket-Stub History (1998)
1998: CHARLTON, TIMLIN, SPOLJARIC, AYALA, FOSSAS AND SLOCUMB: THE WORST LAW FIRM EVER
- March 31: Indians 10, M's 9: Remember how Opening Night '96 felt like an extension of '95? Well, Opening Night '98 feels like an extension of '97. It's 3-3 in the 5th when Junior hits a solo shot, Buhner hits a 2-run homer, and Russ Davis follows with a 3-run homer. 9-3! But Randy gives back 3 in the 6th and is relieved by Bobby Ayala, who actually pitches well for an inning. But in the 8th it goes: walk, flyout, triple, walk. So in comes left-handed relief specialist Tony Fossas. Who walks David Justice. So in comes Mike Timlin. Who gives up a double to Manny Ramirez. Now it's 9-9 with men on second and third and one out. Brian Giles is intentionally walked to load the bases. And what does Travis Fryman do? He walks. 10-9. M's batters go down in order in the 8th and 9th. They've seen this movie, too.
- April 4: M's 12, Red Sox 6: Junior goes deep. In their first four games the M's have scored 39 runs, and their record is 2-2.
- April 6: M's 8, Yankees O: After the game, the M's are 3-3. After the game, the Yankees are 1-4. But this is the game that leads to the team meeting that leads to David Cone rallying the troops around hatred for...Edgar Martinez and Jamie Moyer? I'm not joking. See pp. 43-44 of “The Yankee Years.” Tom Veducci writes: “Like Torre, Cone was angered by what he saw the previous night. He watched Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez, batting in the eighth inning with a 4-0 lead, take a huge hack on a 3-0 pitch from reliever Mike Buddie—five innings after Jamie Moyer had dusted Paul O'Neill with a pitch.” Moyer? “Dusted”? And had Torre and Cone SEEN the M's bullpen? 4-0 was a nothing lead for them. But the Yankees wanted to hate so they did. Cone told his teammates, “You have to find something to hate about your opponent. Look across the way. These guys are real comfortable against us. Edgar is swinging from his heels on 3-0 when they're up by about 10 [sic] runs!... I fucking hate those guys. I hate this place. If you want to find some motivation here, [1995 is] part of it. It's also Edgar swinging 3-0 trying to take us deep. They're sticking it in our face! And there's only one way to react to that.” To which Verducci writes, “It was classic Cone: emotional, honest and inspirational.” Emotional, yes. Honest, no. Inspirational, maybe to assholes. But it worked. The rest of the season, the Yankees would go 8-2 against the M's, win 114 games and the World Series, and begin to establish their dynasty. The M's wouldn't even make the playoffs.
- April 8: Yankees 4, M's 3: This is the game after Cone's speech. M's up 2-1 in the 7th inning and Tony Fossas allows an inherited runner to score. In the 8th, the game now tied, Bobby Ayala allows a leadoff walk to Tim Raines and a homerun to Chad Curtis. 4-2, Yankees. Comback in the 9th? Russ Davis leads off with a homerun, his second of the game, to make it 4-3. Then Joey and Alex get singles. With nobody out. And Griffey up. And he flies out. And Edgar up. And he grounds into a game-ending double play. Against Mariano? Nope. Against Mike Stanton. It's games like these that make you realize you should play, at the park, softball, rather than watch Major League Baseball at the downtown stadium. There's no more helpless feeling than watching.
- April 10: Red Sox 9, M's 7: This isn't a game I went to. It wasn't even a game in Seattle. It was at Fenway Park in Boston, but I remember listening to it on the radio in my apartment in the Fremont neighborhood. It is, in fact, my most memorable game of the year. Randy is blowing away the Sox, he's struck out 15 in 8 innings. The M's tack on 2 in the top of the 9th, but the half-inning is long, and I'm sure he's thrown enough pitches, and anyway we have a 5-run lead, 7-2. What could happen? This. Heathcliff Slocumb comes in. Single, walk, double. Tony Fossas comes in. Walk on four pitches. Mike Timlin comes in. Single and hit-by-pitch. Bases juiced, tying run on second, so Paul Spoljaric comes in. And Mo Vaughn hits a walk-off grand slam. Game over. The line on the M's bullpen: 4 pitchers, 7 runs, 0 outs. I lay back on my couch and just laughed and laughed and laughed. Cone's speech might have inspired the Yankees, but this game must've dis-inspired everyone associated with the '98 Mariners. I knew the season was over on this day. Seattle Times story here.
- April 20: M's 8, Royals 7: Last gasp of “Refuse to Lose”? M's come back from 6-1 deficit and win. HRs: Junior, A-Rod, Rich Amaral. The bullpen gives up nothing. Slocumb lowers his ERA to 23.82. Ayala lowers his to 6.75. We're golden, baby!
- April 21: Royals 5, M's 3: Except we're not. M's strand 14. Bullpen gives up 2 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th. Slocumb's line: Single, flyout, wild pitch, walk, groundout, walk to load the bases. Walk to bring in a run. He lowers his ERA to 21.60. Tony Fossas, who gave up the 8th inning runs, is slightly better: 20.25.
- May 6: M's 10, White Sox 9: Heathcliff Slocumb is the winning pitcher! Bobby Ayala with the save! Because...? Well, in the 7th, with the M's up 6-4, Spoljaric, Timlin, Fossas and Slocumb (consider it the worst law firm ever) combine on this: single, single, double, double, strikeout, lineout, home run, single, strikeout. It's Slocumb who gives up the homerun. So he gets the win when Dan Wilson hits a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 7th to put the M's back on top. Junior makes a great catch in center, too. We win but it's hardly fun anymore. Trying to enjoy the '98 M's is like trying to enjoy school when you know there's a bully who's going to beat you up in sixth period. It's like trying to enjoy the play when you know Pres. Lincoln is going to get shot at the end of it.
- May 23: Devil Rays 6, M's 3: Ken Cloude pitches a shutout for 7 innings and the M's take a 3-0 lead into the 8th. Then Paul Spoljaric and Tony Fossas give up 2 runs on no hits: walk, walk, walk, groundout, groundout, flyout. In the 9th it's all Ayala. He gives up four singles, a stolen base and a wild pitch and the Rays go up by 3. It's the M's fifth loss in a row. They're 21-27, and 10 1/2 back in the A.L. West.
- May 24: M's 3, Devil Rays 1: No bullpen blowouts on this one because no bullpen. Randy Johnson pitches 9 innings and strikes out 15. Junior clobbers an upper-deck homerun. Seems like...old times. Cue Diane Keaton.
- June 3: Angels 8, M's 1: We used to beat these guys.
- June 6: Dodgers 10, M's 6: Junior goes deep and cuts a runner down at home, but Joey Cora commits three errors and Ayala gives up three runs in the 9th.
- June 19: M's 9, A's 1: Randy with 12 Ks, Junior and A-Rod homer. It's their 4th victory in 18 games.
- June 23: M's 5, Padres 3: Moyer with 8 scoreless innings, Junior with 1st-inning HR. But even this game causes handwringing. Healthcliff Slocumb gives up 3 runs in the 9th and lets the go-ahead run get to the plate, before recording the final out.
- July 1: M's 9, Rockies 5: Junior with a HR and 3 doubles. Edgar goes deep. The bullpen is perfect. The M's are 35-49, 15 GB.
- July 10: Angels 5, M's 3 (11 innings): Junior ties the game in the bottom of the 7th with an upper-deck HR, and Moyer pitches well for 8 innings. Then we play Russian Roulette with the bullpen. Spin with Greg McCarthy in the top of the 9th: click. Spin with Mike Timlin in the top of the 10th: click. Spin with Bobby Ayala in the top of the 11th: BLAM!
- July 28: Indians 4, M's 3: Last time I'll see Randy as a Mariner. He goes the distance and loses. The Indians closer is Mike Jackson, who used to be with us during better days. He seems to be doing well. We miss him.
- August 1: Yankees 5, M's 2: The day after Randy Johnson is traded to the Houston Astros. Dark day. David Wells goes the distance for the Yankees, who are dominating baseball. The shot the M's had (from '95 to '97) feels over.
- August 3: M's 3, Red Sox 1: Shane Monahan hits first career HR. A new era begins.
- August 20: Blue Jays 7, M's 0: Roger Clemens pitches a 2-hitter and my friend Tim and I leave early. That's never happened before.
- August 21: M's 5, White Sox 4: Edgar and Buhner homer. Russ Davis hits a go-ahead double in the bottom of the 8th. Timlin closes it out with the tying run on third.
- September 4: O's 9, M's 1: New experiment: Paul Spoljaric as starting pitcher! He gives up 6 runs with two outs in the top of the 4th. Junior makes a great over-the-shoulder catch. Poor bastard.
SEASON RECORD: 10-11. It's my first losing record since '94 but percentage-wise it beats the Mariners losing record of 76-85. I see Junior hit 8 homeruns. But I'm elsewhere, focusing on other things, because this thing is lost now. What could've been is gone forever.
TOMORROW: ONE MAN LEFT ON BASE