1977 – Present
After years of futility, the 1989 Mariners showed signs of developing a good young team. Playing in the Kingdome, the American League‘s first domed stadium, the Mariners were born of controversy. When Seattle’s original franchise, the Pilots, moved in 1970 to Milwaukee and became the Brewers, the city of Seattle threatened the American League with litigation and was awarded an expansion franchise in 1977. Owned by a group that included entertainer Danny Kaye, the Mariners made Kansas City outfielder Ruppert Jones their first pick in the league expansion draft and played their first game under manager Darrell Johnson on April 6, 1977, losing 7-0 to the California Angels. For several years, the Mariners seemed to develop faster than the American League‘s other 1977 expansion team, the Blue Jays. However, the fortunes of the two franchises soon reversed.
The Mariners nosedive began on January 14, 1981, when California tycoon George Argyros purchased the franchise from the original owners. Argyros was quick to hire and fire managers and general managers and insisted that the Mariners pay their players the lowest average salaries in the major leagues. Demoralized and disgruntled players demanded trades, and Argyros, with an eye, focused more on maintaining a low payroll than assessing playing talent, accommodated them in a series of disastrous transactions. Through the end of the 1980s, the Mariners failed to have a single winning season. Of note in Mariner history are the following: Willie Horton‘s 300th home run (June 9, 1979); Gaylord Perry‘s 300th win (May 6, 1982); the delightful 1982 season (managed by Rene Lachemann and starring relief ace Bill Caudill); Alvin Davis‘s 1984 season, in which he set a club record with 116 RBI en route to winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award; AL strikeout crowns by Floyd Bannister (in 1982) and Mark Langston (in 1984, 1986, and 1987); and Harold Reynolds‘s franchise-record 60 stolen bases, which led the AL in 1987. Of dubious distinction is the Mariners’ identity as victims of Roger Clemens‘s ML-record 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game on April 29, 1986.