When Interleague play was started in 1997, it was designed to give “natural” rivals an opportunity to play each other in the regular season. Mets v. Yankees. Cubs v. White Sox. Angels v. Dodgers. Royals V. Cardinals. These games make sense on paper, and they are fun for the fans. For all the great rivalries that have developed with Interleague play, there are others that do not make sense geographically. Do we really need to see Pirates v. Royals, and other terrible matchups? Probably not, but I like the Padres and Mariners playing six games each year.
Sure, the rivalry was created, in part because the Padres and Mariners are the only west coast teams without a reasonably close geographical partner. The teams have very similar parallels, and call me crazy, but the rivalry fits.
First, I do realize that Seattle and San Diego are separated by about 1,500 miles, but they are both tortured franchises. The Mariners came into the league in 1977 as an expansion team, eight years after the Padres started playing in the National League. Seattle and San Diego actually did have teams enter MLB together in 1969, as the Seattle Pilots began play at Sick’s Stadium. That franchise played in Seattle for all of one season. After the 1969 season, some car salesman named Bud Selig bought the Pilots, and moved them to Milwaukee. The Padres almost moved to Washington after the ’74 season, but Ray Kroc bought the team, and the Padres ultimately stayed in San Diego.
Both teams have been historically bad. The Padres didn’t enjoy a winning season until 1978 — their tenth year of existence. The Mariners did not enjoy a winning year until 1991 — and their 15th season. Both franchises have gotten oh so close to that elusive championship, and both have come up dry.
The Padres went to the World Series in ’84 and ’98, and the Mariners are one of two franchises (along with the Expos/Nationals) that has never appeared in the World Series. The Mariners did win 116 games in 2001, and were knocked out by the Yankees in the ALCS. Both franchises have had opportunities to win championships, but have come up empty.
The cities themselves seem to be cursed, in regards to professional sports. The Chargers and Seahawks have each been to a Super Bowl, both losing in unspectualar fashion. Both cities have lost an NBA franchise, with the Sonics leaving for Oklahoma City, and both the Clippers and Rockets left San Diego for greener pastures. Each city is picturesque, San Diego with some of the most beautiful beaches around, and Seattle with some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States.
Call me crazy, but this rivalry makes sense. Two gorgeous, laid-back cities. Two mediocre franchises in bad sports towns. It may not have the appeal and tradition of the Subway Series, but the Padres and Mariners have built a nice rivalry. Two cursed towns battling for mediocrity each year. Bring home the Vedder Cup, San Diego!