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BOOK REVIEW

Shipwrecked details Mariners' decline

The 2001 baseball season was a high-water point for the Seattle Mariners.

It is also at the core of why the franchise has floundered since.

That's the opinion shared in Shipwrecked, a People's History of the Seattle Mariners.

Author Jon Wells, who for the past 15 years has published an independent newsletter about the Mariners, says the 116-win season in 2001 gave club management a false sense that they could win - and win big - with the status quo.

At the same time, he says the money needed to sign Ichiro (a rookie in 2001) from his Japanese ballclub in addition to his salary hurt the Mariners in the long-run.

While Ichiro has been a stand-out for the Mariners, Wells contends that since 2001 the Mariners farm system has been depleted. Until last season, he notes few of the Mariners' draft picks advanced to play with the major league club.

He suggests the big payday Seattle had to pony up for Ichiro and his former club hindered the Mariners from seriously drafting and retaining future talent requiring big pay checks.

Something certainly went adrift for the Mariners since the great 2001 season, as in the past 10 seasons Seattle has had four campaigns in which it failed to win at least 70 games in Major League Baseball's 162-game season.

Of course, Seattle's baseball struggles aren't anything new. Wells reminds his readers that Seattle is the only American League club not to reach a World Series and places the blame for that squarely at the feet of team management.

Wells notes that even when the 1995 playoff season started drawing more crowds - followed by a new stadium - management was still pinching pennies when it came to signing the players needed to compete.

He details the club's misdeeds in allowing Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson to depart Seattle.

Wells says the problems of those thrifty ways were compounded in seasons such as 1997 when, in a desperate move to stay in the playoff chase, Seattle traded away future stars like Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for fading relief pitchers.

The book also treats readers to segments such as the best and worst trades and free agent acquisitions in Mariner history. There are also plenty of action photos and even editorial cartoons through Mariner history.

Wells is a baseball fan, to be sure, and Mariners' fans in particular will enjoy reliving the franchise's highs and many lows through the pages of Shipwrecked.

Before plunking down $15.95 for the book, though, readers should know that Shipwrecked is not endorsed by any players, the Mariners or Major League Baseball.

Published by Alaska-based Epicenter Press (epicenterpress.com), Shipwrecked also relies on several comments from anonymous sources reportedly close to the Mariners.

Wells further notes that he and his publications are not on good terms with club management.

But despite the ax-to-grind focus in much of the book, Shipwrecked provides insight into how the Mariners fell, rose and fell again.

It also encourages fans to hold the club accountable for future actions.

Wells writes, "...don't believe it if you hear the M's can't afford to contend or don't have the money to go out and sign top free agents. The team's owners have made more than $100 million in profits in the last decade."

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