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Above Average, Which Is Extraordinary

Brandon MorrowWhat a win last night for the Mariners! Even with the team out of playoff contention, this game meant plenty. For me, it was the best game of the year. With win number 82 in the bag, the 2009 Mariners guaranteed themselves a winning season. Purely from a win-loss standpoint, it only guarantees that the M's will finish a tick above league average. After a 101-loss season though, it is a remarkable achievement.

The last team to go from 100 losses one season to a winning record the next is the Kansas City Royals, who finished 83-79 in 2003 after going 62-100 in 2002. For the next team, you have to go back to 1989, when the Orioles finished 87-75 after going 54-108 the year before. The Rangers have pulled off the feat twice in their history, in 1985-1986 and 1973-1974. The A's have done it twice as well, 1979-1980 and 1967-1968.

There are others who have gone from 100 losses to a winning record as well. It is not unprecedented for a team to improve as much as the Mariners have this year, but it is special.

History says that it is uncertain whether teams like the 2008-2009 Mariners keep up their success. The 2003 Royals proved to be a one-year wonder. Kansas City ended up losing more than 100 games in each of the following 3 seasons after 2003. The Orioles finished 76-86 the year after their 1989 turnaround, and sunk even further (to 67-95) the year after that. Each time the Rangers pulled the feat they took a step back the next year - to 75-87 in 1987, and 79-83 in 1975.

Then there are the A's. They were 64-45 in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and 88-74 in 1969. In particular, their late '60s turnaround led right into their dominant early '70s run, when they won three consecutive World Series.

If there are baseball gods, they favor the Mariners. Consider the way the M's got win 82. The scoring opened up with a Ken Griffey Jr. home run, which automatically makes a game special. Could it be that Griffey got his final home run as a Mariner in such a momentous victory? It's possible.

Aside from Griffey though, it was fresh faces leading the charge against the A's last night. Brandon Morrow figured out how to throw strikes, and completely dominated. The last start of his season could not have been any more positive. It's even more exciting coming on the heels of Felix's 19th win. It's easy to imagine those two anchoring the top of the rotation for years to come, if Morrow consistently gets the ball over the plate.

There was Adam Moore too, the freshest face of all. Kenji Johjima had to leave the game with an injury, and it was Moore who replaced him. All he did was hit his first major league home run. Then, finishing up the game was an overpowering Shawn Kelley. It was one of those games that can't help but make you feel good about the team's future. Hopefully it is symbolic that these were the guys headlining win 82, the game that clinched this remarkable turnaround.

Enjoy the 2009 Mariners for what they are, a remarkable turnaround story. It's a feat worth celebrating all by itself, and should be since many teams have slipped after pulling off such a big turnaround.

Enjoy the 2009 Mariners for what they might be too - a prelude to bigger and better things. This franchise completely cleaned house after last year. It is a new day, a new way, as their marketing slogan promises. Fresh faces highlighting the most significant win of 2009 only reinforces the feeling that the M's are heading in the right direction.

It was a great win last night on many levels, and this has been a great season on many levels. Sure, there are no playoffs, but that's just one distant cloud in the sky, and it can't do anything to obscure the beautiful colors as the sun sets on 2009 for the Mariners.