To be perfectly honest, it’s been quite a while since I’ve really followed baseball as closely as I used to. Sure, I still keep up with the major happenings in the sport and manage to catch the occasional Mariners game on TV, but for the last few years it’s been rare for me to actively follow the game on a day-to-day basis, or to even know whether the Mariners won or lost their previous game without going and looking it up. Part of this is because the team just hasn’t been all that exciting to follow over the past few years. Sure you still have Ichiro and Felix, but beyond that, there haven’t been a lot of big names in the lineup to get excited about. Last year, with a major front office shakeup, the return of Ken Griffey Jr. to the team he spent the first nine years of his career with, and the management skills of Don Wakamatsu, the M’s managed to seriously overachieve the low expectations that had been set for them following the previous season’s debacle, and even managed to pull off an unexpected winning season, and although it was only good for third in the division, it was a welcome breath of fresh air for Mariners fans who have suffered through a number of disappointing seasons.
It is with the momentum of the past season and some key signings over the offseason (including the resigning of Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal and the addition of Cy Young winner Cliff Lee that the Mariners prepare to return to the field for 2010, and even though I’ve not been following them all that closely over the past few years, for some reason I find myself looking forward to this seas0n more than I have the past few. I somehow have my doubts that there’s going to be playoffs in the team’s future come October, but somehow I get the feeling this year’s team should be interesting to watch. I suppose the fact that I am now working within an only somewhat ridiculously implausible foul ball’s distance of Safeco Field helps a bit in this regard. I don’t know exactly why, but there’s just something about being able to get off work and take a short walk over to the ballpark (according to the pathing tools on Bing maps, my new desk at work is almost exactly a half mile away from home plate at Safeco as the crow flies) that sounds like fun.
Even with the optimism that comes with a new season, there’s always a little bit of nostalgia for Mariners teams gone by. I’m sure my sisters could write whole books about the memories of the times they spent in section 317 at the Kingdome and their various A-Rod obsessions (needless to say, this was back before he turned into the juiced-up overpaid tabloid fodder he eventually became,) but to me, the most memorable Mariners teams were the late nineties teams with guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Jamie Moyer and yes, even Alex Rodriguez (although we tend not to talk much about him these days) running the show, with a supporting cast including the likes of Joey Cora, Jay Buhner, Mike Blowers, Dan Wilson, Bobby Ayala and Jose Mesa (we don’t talk too much about those two either, to be honest.) These are the guys who saved baseball in Seattle back in 1995 (these days, it’s a little hard to remember that the moving vans were practically half-packed for a move to Florida after two decades of relentless mediocrity and the 1994 Kingdome roof tile incident and strike.) Back in those days, it was also quite common to see these guys doing local TV ads, including the one featuring Edgar Martinez that you see above for Eagle Hardware and Garden. Eagle was a now long departed chain of big box home improvement stores that got bought out by Lowe’s in 1999, and leaves as its only visible legacy the big “More of Everything” signs you still see on a few of their former locations. Although I’ve never exactly been a big consumer of home improvement paraphernalia, I much preferred the old Eagle stores to the Lowe’s stores that replaced them or the Home Depot stores that served as the competition, and I suspect that these ads may have had something to do with that. Be sure to click through to find plenty more commercials featuring Edgar, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson and Randy Johnson in the related videos. I’m sure any Mariners fan of the late Nineties will recognize these immediately.
While it’s easy to see these types of things through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, I do still have to admit to having something of a soft spot for these late Nineties Mariners teams, Yes, even more than a decade later you’ve still gotta’ love these guys.