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Why All Oregonians Should Get Behind the Seattle Mariners!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

 

The Major League Baseball season is in full swing. Despite tremendous storylines early in the season, baseball has been somewhat overshadowed by historic play in the NBA and the NFL never-ending news coverage. Despite the overshadowing that has been going on, now would be a good time to start paying attention. 

Here in the Northwest, we have one of the best teams in the league. That isn’t any sort of hyperbole. The Seattle Mariners look to finally being living up to lofty expectations. The Mariners haven’t won the AL West Division since 2001, when they won 116 games and wowed the league. Since then there have been ups and downs, missed expectations and failed chances. But what is going on now, is something that baseball fans in the Northwest need to get behind. 

Baseball has become an increasingly regional sport. Almost every team has a regional sports network that almost exclusively carries their games. Regional sport networks, combined by the fact that nationally televised games feature teams from other regions, give a lot of people a perceived notion that baseball is struggling for interest. 

This is a huge misconception. Last year, during the 2015 season that the Mariners finished 10 games below .500, they had the 5th highest television ratings on their regional sports network, ROOT Sports. The Mariners were the number one primetime show on television in Seattle. Their regional ratings were better than the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants (according to Forbes).

Those are black and white numbers that can’t be ignored. Interest in baseball, and the Mariners, is alive and well. The shocking thing about those numbers is that was last year. 

Now let’s take a minute to define region. When a lot of people talk about regional baseball interest, they specifically talk about the immediate metropolitan area that the team is based in. However, I would argue that Seattle’s reach as a regional team is much bigger than just the Seattle Metropolitan area. 

Let’s look at the Seahawks. Although they play in Seattle, you would have a hard time getting any Seahawks’ fan in Portland to feel any less allegiance to the team just because they are 170 miles north on I-5. Television ratings for the Seahawks in Portland are always astronomical, and rival a lot of hometown ratings for other teams. 

Portland and Seattle are every bit a part of the Northwest region. When I asked a long-time Mariners fan why Oregonians should get behind the Mariners, he said, “For the same reason Seattleites should get behind the Blazers, it’s all we have.” So from now on when I talk about baseball as a regional sport, let’s just assume that the Mariners are Portland’s regional baseball team. 

Now back to the Mariners, and why I expect them to blow all of last year’s ratings numbers out of the water! 

Over the offseason, there was an entire changing of the guard for the Mariners. New General Manager Jerry Dipoto and new Manager Scott Servais came into the organization with a new direction for this team. Dipoto was very active in free agency and trades all winter and spring, to shape the team that is on the field now. His task was to surround big-ticket veterans like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez. 

In the early portion of this season, the Mariners have shown their versatility. As of May 18th, they are 9th in the league in runs scored and 5th in ERA (pitching – earned run average). Last season they finished 21st in runs and 22nd in ERA. 

The massive improvements are due to a healthy, fully-loaded roster. Cano is healthy, Hernandez is pitching at his usual dominant level, and the Mariners are getting contributions from the top to the bottom of the roster. 

Aside from the veterans that steal a lot of the headlines, there are a lot of great stories all over the roster. 

Dea-Ho Lee was a legend over in Korea and Japan where he was known for hitting the ball all over the place. In 2006, Lee won the Triple Crown in Korea by batting a .336 batting average, 26 home runs, and 88 RBIs. In 2008 he was part of the South Korean Olympic team that won the gold medal. In 2010, he hit home runs in 8 consecutive games. The 33 year old turned down more money to continue to play in Asia to chase a Major League career. He signed a one year, $4 million contract to come play for the Mariners. Lee has been a key addition to the roster as a backup first baseman and a designated hitter. 

There are similar storylines that draw you into this team. This team is super diverse. In fact, the Mariners had the most foreign-born players on their Opening Day roster, than any other team in the league. 

This is a team to get behind and root for. The bandwagon is starting to game some momentum. The Mariners are already averaging over 27,000 fans at each of their home games. That is above average for April and May baseball. As the temperatures rise and the team continues to win games, the attendance will increase.

Baseball fans, casual or not, need to make a point to get to a game this season. In this multi-part examination, I will tell you why you, as a Portland resident and Oregonian, need to be a part of the Mariners season. Not only is this team going to turn a lot of heads this year, but the fan experience is incredible. 

In Part 2, I will tell you what attending a game in Seattle is like, and why it is better than many other atmospheres in the league. 

 

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