IF ANYTHING'S A LESSON in the Mariners yet-again American League Championship Series loss to the Yankees, it's that we don't need no stinkin' 116 wins. What good is a record that serves only to haunt? Announcer, ironically: "The Mariners set a record for wins in 2001, only to go in the toilet like the old days." For that matter, what good is the regular season? Why do we bother? It's relatively meaningless to the real season—the playoff, pennant and World Serious games. Better the M's just have some folks in to Safeco Field for 162 nights, pop some corn, and show a few movies. Come October, play ball!
M's fans—especially the long-suffering ones who remember such records as the 1978 Mariners striking out four times in one inning (one batter made it to first when the third strike was dropped, the other three went down in order)—may be consoled by repeating Seattle's traditional postseason mantra, "It's only baseball." And after all, isn't a real loss a death in the family, a bridge collapse, terrorists beating U.S.A. 9-11? Isn't a real victory the triumphs in medicine, the successes of education, the day someone gets to tell Osama bin Laden: up against the wall, muthafugger?
Unfortunately, the season ended just when we were about to get over our reluctance to boo the team from the city of sorrow (although does booing the Yanks now conversely mean cheering Randy Johnson?). A tinhorn New York Daily News columnist helped renew tensions with his comments that Seattle, as an "insignificant burg," is undeserving even of "our derision." Then, in the sixth inning of that singularly memorable 14-3 loss to Seattle, the Yankees got the raspberry from their own fans. After that game, the Yanks showed their true blue by clearing out of the clubhouse to avoid reporters.
That was remindful of a "Top Ten Signs the Yankees Are Getting Arrogant" bit David Letterman did a few years ago. Among the signs: "Most Yankees leave at the top of the eighth to beat traffic." (Others included: "Team's stated goal is to 'Go out there and give 41 percent,'" and "Have been using team practice to rehearse their World Series victory hug.")
In the end, even if this was the best Mariners season ever, few M's fans were fooled. The enduring highlights of 2001 are: 1) New York has changed but the Yankees haven't, and 2) the Mariners have changed but Seattle hasn't. After a quarter century of near and far misses, we still know not to be around sharp objects during the postseason.