Sixteen years ago the Seattle Mariners were inevitable, too.
They scored 300 more runs than their opponents. They had Ichiro Suzuki, the MVP and a Hall of Famer-to-be. They won 116 games, tying the record by the 1906 Chicago Cubs.
“We were the Patriots before the Patriots, the Warriors before the Warriors,” pitcher Paul Abbott said. “Everything was clicking. I look at the Dodgers and they make it seem easy. It wasn’t easy, but we just never thought we were going to lose.”
All season they were on parade.
In the end, there wasn’t one.
The Mariners lost to the Yankees in five AL Championship Series games. They watched Arizona beat the Yankees in the World Series.
By any rational standard, the act of going 116-46 against major league competition, particularly when a frequent AL West opponent like Oakland is good enough to win 102, is harder than riding a wave for a month.
In that sense the Mariners might have been the best-team-ever. Had they been in the English Premier League, with no postseason, where 38 regular-season games are considered sufficient for a proper evaluation, they would have been canonized.
Instead, they are either forgotten or dismissed. It’s not about the best team. It’s about a champion.
Until recently, the ’01 Mariners were a shadow on the ’17 Dodgers, the latest best-team-ever. But now the Dodgers are dealing with today’s problems. Losing, at least for a week and a half, has become as habitual as winning. Having proven their vulnerability, they now belabor the point.
On Aug. 25 they led Arizona by 21 games in the NL West and they led Houston by 13½ games in the overall standings, which determine home field in the postseason.
After Tuesday night’s 10-inning loss, they led Arizona by 11½ and Houston by seven.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal said the losses are disguised blessings because, after all, the Dodgers could have seized up during the playoffs. The evil spirits just dropped by early.
Maybe so, but the Diamondbacks are flesh and blood. They tightly grip the first wild-card spot and have made a hobby of beating the Dodgers.
In fact the Dodgers, through Tuesday, were 23-22 against the possible NL playoff cast.
The Mariners did not lose their mojo. On Sept. 10, Freddy Garcia beat the Angels in Anaheim, 5-1, and Seattle’s record was 104-40.
The next morning, towers crumbled in lower Manhattan. The season resumed on Sept. 18 and the Mariners won 12 of their last 18.
The Yankees had won four of the previous five…