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The thrill of >81 victories

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It’s nice to win a little bit.

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners have always encouraged their fans to appreciate the little things, albeit often in the way someone “encourages” a dog to take their worms medication by sticking it in a ball of deli cheese. When the final out of the regular season has been recorded each of the past 19 seasons, the Mariners have packed their bags and headed home. So too have we, shifting our attention to the playoffs free of serious emotional investment, or perhaps putting MLB in the closet altogether, to be dusted off next spring. Without the big things - playoff berths, division titles, championship games, trophies, rings - the M’s have set a bar lower than most organizations. It is not our responsibility to accept it, and if you’re familiar with our work at Lookout Landing or my rabblerousing personally, there is no patience for the organization’s lack of effort to compete each season, or at least accelerate the pace of its return to competitiveness. Ownership’s apathy, or at least contentedness with losing cheaply, challenges fans to find the joy in those small things, farm systems, surprise breakouts, spoiling seasons for rivals. And yet, in 2021, Mariners fans have been treated to, if not a big thing, at least a medium joy: a winning team.

With last night’s 5-3 victory, Seattle clinched their 15th winning season in their 45-year franchise history. While the club’s current playoff drought is the longest in its history, particularly as it has all come in the Wild Card Era, much of its moribundity came in its first decade and a half. When an AL West title was the only route to the postseason, little was attainable for Seattle, to say nothing of the mismanagement afoot at the time. And yet, in the past few decades, despite the lack of ultimate success, there is much to appreciate in Mariners fandom. Almost all of it is easier to enjoy when the team is even somewhat good, like this year’s roster.

For as vitriolic as this article may have been up to this point, this is a genuine celebration. While the Mariners technically have a winning record in my lifetime (2,240-2,192 for a .505 winning percentage), I could only realistically be considered conscious for the 2000 team and onwards. Since that time, the org has reached its highest heights, but for too many seasons, left fans out in the cold for most of the season, promising little for the future and less in the present. Losing teams can have a charm, there is no doubt, but winning clubs hold a brighter torch as they tread the long hallway of each season. They cast a brightness and warmth that draws folks in and keeps them close. I see it in my own life, discussions with friends, family, and acquaintances drifting to the M’s in a heartening fashion, free of the typical shame Seattleites display when revealing their fandom. I see it here as well, in our discussions and game threads, just the sixth winning season since Lookout Landing was created in January of 2005.

There is justified hope for the future of these Mariners, flawed as they may be. “Fun” has become a loaded word at times around the club, and I have no interest in relitigating anyone’s enjoyment of any particular season. There is no greater analysis at play, just a gentle appreciation for the opportunity to enjoy more games this year than I have in many seasons past. This year’s victories are also notably absent the stress of a club aging out of its contention window, with long-delayed investment hopefully looming at last. The warmth from this club is that of a sunrise, following so many bittersweet September sunsets. Even if they are the first sunny day of spring, not a fully formed July scorcher, I will continue to enjoy watching them shine.