On Oct. 6, 2001, the Seattle Mariners won their 116th game of the season. Tying the MLB record set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and breaking the AL record of 114 set by the ‘98 Yankees, widely considered one of the greatest teams in MLB history.
Part of what makes this achievement so astonishing is they did so in the wake of losing three Hall-of-Fame-caliber players.
At the 1998 trade deadline, in the midst of a down year, Seattle traded Cy Young award winner, Randy Johnson to the Houston Astros. In return, the Mariners received three important pieces to the 2001 team, shortstop Carlos Guillen as well as pitchers John Halama and Freddy Garcia, the latter of which would make the 2001 MLB All-Star team.
After the 1999 season, Pat Gillick was hired as GM and given the duty of handling franchise icons Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, both of whom were on expiring contracts entering the 2000 season. A-Rod played the year out and walked in free agency but Griffey was flipped to his hometown Cincinnati Reds before the start of the season. The returning package included center fielder Mike Cameron, who would go on the be an all-star and Gold Glove winner in 2001.
But by far, the most consequential move by the Mariners was the signing of Japanese phenom, Ichiro Suzuki. In Ichiro’s 2001 rookie season he became the first player in Major League Baseball history to win MVP, rookie of the year, Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, and start in the all-star game. A mind-numbing feat.
He went on to lead his team to their historic win total, but it’s there that the fairytale came to an end. Facing a Yankees team carrying the hope of a city still reeling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Mariners lost the first two games at home. Manager Lou Piniella guaranteed his Mariners would win two of the next three games in New York and bring the series back home. But no one on that 116-win team ever played another postseason game in Seattle again.