Some rivals are forever, some are fleeting. The rivals and rivalries ranked here come in all flavors, including teams like the New York Yankees, ex-Seattle Mariner players and an assortment of people who have simply made Mariner wins fewer and tougher to achieve.
Writing about rivals requires some digging for the Mariners or at least a look back to their salad days, when the team was fighting for something: division titles, pennants, etc., prizes of sufficient magnitude to seed rivalries.
The Mariners might not be champion rival-generators now, but until they are again, we can at least savor and boo those rivals still kicking around.
The following list is not in any particular order, other than the alternation between teams and players. In some cases one rival is greater than another, in most cases not. I'll let you decide.
The New York Yankees are every team's rival by dint of their default king-of-the-hill status. They have the most pennants, they have the most fans, they hail from the biggest major league city.
Most fans of other teams place the Yankees near the top of the list of teams they fervently root against and Mariner fans were no different, until 1995, when the Yankees gained a special place in Mariner history.
Without wanting to re-hash the most-told tale in Mariner history too much, I'll just say the Mariners gained a rival in the Yankees by coming back from an 0-2 playoff series deficit to win in dramatic fashion, delivering three consecutive victories capped by an extra-inning final game which saw a Cy Young starter in relief, an eighth-inning, game-tying, bases-loaded walk to a guy named Strange, a double, two runs and a dog pile.
Magnifying the importance of the 1995 Mariner-Yankee series, the games were the Mariners' first in the playoffs and occurred at a time when the team's future in Seattle was less than certain.
The Yankees were coming off a 13-year playoff drought, their longest under the “Yankee” brand, which coupled with the Mariner situation made for some impassioned viewing for fans in Seattle and New York.
The Mariners and Yankees next tangled on the playoff stage when both teams were at the peak of their powers, at the turn of the millennium.
Both 2000 and 2001 saw the Yankees defeat the Mariners in the American League Championship Series, playoff battles solidifying Yankee status as one of the Mariners' chief rivals.
This rivalry has cooled with the Mariners' recent losing ways but should be easily re-fired when the Mariners return to the playoff fray.
Alex Rodriguez is by far the Mariners greatest player rival. Not only did he leave Seattle on a sour note, he left to play for division foe Texas Rangers, and then—as if that weren't bad enough—he went from Texas to the New York Yankees.
Rodriguez is one of very few players to draw the boo birds in Seattle, a species nearly extinct or maybe just non-native to Safeco Field.
Neither Ken Griffey, Jr. nor Randy Johnson left Seattle on warm terms, yet both returned to hero's welcomes years later when inter-league play brought them back to Seattle.
Of course, Rodriguez played for rival teams unlike Griffey and Johnson, but I don't think that entirely explains the hostility shown Rodriguez.
Whatever it is—some combination of attitude, team, and playing ability—it has created for many fans the ultimate rival, the ultimate player to root against when he faces the Mariners.
The Oakland Athletics took their turn as primary American League West rival during the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field renaissance.
While the Mariners were transforming into a balanced pitching and hitting team lead by Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, John Olerud and Ichiro Suzuki hitting and Freddy Garcia, Jaime Moyer, Arthur Rhodes and Kazuhiro Sasaki pitching, the Oakland Athletics were growing into the Moneyball machine that would make Billy Beane famous.
The Athletics were similar in some ways to the Mariners, as the team in Oakland also featured good pitching and good hitting. The pitching staff was anchored by a strong starting rotation of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. The offense was powered by Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada.
The 2001 season is the centerpiece of this multi-season duel, a season of historic proportion for the Mariners and a season in which only Oakland offered much pre-playoff competition for the Mariners.
Seattle beat Oakland 10 times out of 19 during the regular season and—more remarkably—the Mariners scored 93 runs in those games to the Athletics' 94. Against all other teams in 2001, the Mariners had winning percents of .667 or greater.
The 2001 division title was not the only contested prize in this rivalry. In 2000, the Mariners lost the division title to the Athletics on a tie-break, in 2002 the Mariners won 93 games yet finished third, behind the Athletics and the Anaheim Angels and in 2003, the Mariners again won 93 games only to finish in second place—behind the Athletics.
Four years might not be much by the standards Major League Baseball's epochal clashes between the Red Sox and Yankees or Giants and Dodgers but the four years from 2000 through 2003 were as intense for the Mariners and Athletics as almost any four-year span for any other pair of teams.
Vladimir Guerrero's triple slash of batting average, on-base percent and slugging percent in his 120 games against the Mariners is .340/.408/.606 with 30 home runs.
Guerrero's place on this list is well fixed by his time spent with the Anaheim Angels, where he was a frequent bother to the Mariners and a supporter of a division rival.
Before moving to the Baltimore Orioles, he worked in a tour with the Texas Rangers, giving the Mariners a taste of his bat from a second division rival.
Guerrero's legend as a Mariner killer was without question enhanced by Dave Niehaus' game calling, in which he referred to Guerrero as “Bad Vlad” or simply said in a this-doesn't-bode-well tone, “Here's that man again” when Guerrero stepped to the plate against the Mariners.
The Seattle Mariners kindled a pair of rivalries in 1995, narrowly beating the California Angels (as they called themselves at the time) for the American League West division title and defeating the New York Yankees in one of the greatest five-game series ever played.
Let's start at the beginning, August 1995, when the Mariners were furthest from first place in the AL West, 13 games back on Aug. 2nd.
Appropriately, August 1995 kicked off with a three-game series between the Angels and Mariners in which the Mariners dropped the first two games. Starting on August third the Mariners went 35-20 for the rest of the season, a stretch sparked by the August third victory over the Angels and punctuated with a one-game playoff victory over the Angels for division crown.
A slightly down year in 1996 in which the Mariners struggled to hold opponent bats to a dull roar intervened before the next battle with the Angels for the division title.
The 1997 season wasn't nearly as exciting as the Mariners won the division by six games and lead the division for the final month of the season. However, it was the Angels in pursuit and the Angels challenging the Mariners head-to-head, playing to a 6-6 draw over 12 games.
After a few years of non-mutual contention, the Angels and Mariners battled again in 2002 for what would be the American League wild-card berth. The Angels finished in second place in the AL West, six games ahead of the Mariners, in position to reach the playoffs and eventually win the World Series.
In 2002, the Mariners third place record of .574 would have been good enough for second place in any other division. Though six games out of second seems far removed, remember that the Mariners were in first place for 121 out of 162 games in 2002!
The most recent chapter in Mariner-Angel rivaldom was written in 2007, when the Mariners finished second to the Angels after challenging them deep into August.
On Aug. 24, 2007, the Mariners stood at 73-53 and the Angels at 75-53, a date which turned out to be a fork in the road.
The Mariners went down the losing path, winning only two of their next 17 games, killing what would turn out to be the team's most recent shot at postseason the play.
The Reds are a National League team, so their position below the Mariners is to be expected and the Royals position is based on only six games. Martinez owned the Mariners for 14 games, holding the Mariner hitters to a dismal batting average/on-base percent/slugging percent triple slash of .177/.238/.256. Martinez's ERA against the Mariners was 1.57, the lowest ERA he posted against any team which he faced for at least 100 innings.
Martinez might not seem like a rival until you consider his years of dominance against the Mariners, his seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 1998 through 2004.
Most of those years the Mariners were contending for the American League West title and about two times per year during that span they received a severe beating at the hands of Martinez, beatings whose frequency no other American League team suffered.
Even facing Martinez more often, American League East teams outside of Boston suffered less than the Mariners.
The Washington Nationals are my team-rival dishonorable mention simply for their existence in the sad race to the basement that pitted them against the Seattle Mariners in 2009.
At stake was a first-overall draft pick, one of the most sought-after picks in recent years, a pick even casual followers of amateur talent knew would be spent on college pitching legend Stephen Strasburg.
YouTube videos circulated of Strasburg simply working out in the San Diego State University bullpen during his last year in college.
The resulting alignment of a storied amateur player with equally inept teams in Washington D.C. and Seattle forged a rivalry hinging on failure. While all Mariner fans rooted for Mariner victories, a subset rooted for the Nationals to pick up just a few more victories.
The Nationals failed to oblige and a non-rivalry rivalry was born.
Omar Vizquel receives the player-rival dishonorable mention aka on-field-jewelry-complaint award for the fuss resulting from his request on Aug. 25, 2001, to have Arthur Rhodes remove his earrings mid-game.
Omar Vizquel is also a natural rival for the Mariners, having spent his first several seasons in Seattle before joining the Cleveland Indians, a team the Mariners would face multiple times in the playoffs.
The earring incident, in which Vizquel requested earring removal due the earrings' distracting nature, is the creation myth behind Vizquel's rival status. I only give Vizquel a dishonorable mention because the seed of the rivalry is really all there ever was. Vizquel never became a real rival for the Mariners or their fans.
I can't help but leave you with one final factoid, a bit of poetic justice making the earring-incident game all the richer. The Mariners won the game in the 11th inning when John Rocker threw a wild pitch!
The Texas Rangers potential for rivalry is great but they have not achieved that status vis-a-vis the Seattle Mariners because the two teams have not been good at the same time yet.
Outside the American League West, the Baltimore Orioles were a consideration only held back by the teams' too small a body of rivalrous work, with only one shared playoff series and one massive, dugout-clearing, bullpen-clearing brawl.
Fittingly, my near-miss player candidate was Rafael Palmiero, who played many seasons with both the Orioles and Rangers, hitting 52 home runs against the Mariners. His overall numbers against the Mariners are less impressive, keeping him off the list of truly big rivals.