Originally Published: July 20, 2001 5:30 p.m.
After catching my first glimpse of the Seattle Mariners last night I'm convinced that some things do look bigger on television.
Bigger than the Mariners' 19-game lead in the American League West. Bigger than the Diamondback eyes after being punished by Team Perfect 8-0 at Safeco Field.
Or maybe as big as an entire country – Japan.
The Japanese-owned and Japanese-fueled Mariners have not only sewed up their division, but are now ahead of the all-time best 114-win pace of the 1998 Yankees.
Where have you gone Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez?
Wherever it is, please stay. Because no matter how the season ends, sports feel-good stories don't get much better than the Mariners of '01.
Not only is Seattle 41 games above .500, but its road record (35-12) is better than anyone else's home mark. It's the only team in baseball that has not lost three straight games, and it's doing it with a roster that doesn't exactly leave you gasping for breath.
OK, the M's do have the league's frontrunner for MVP in Japanese import Ichiro Suzuki. And first baseman John Olerud has been consistent throughout his 12-year career.
But they also have Jay Buhner on the disabled list. A second baseman (Bret Boone) who has played on three teams in three years; a 38-year-old designated hitter (Edgar Martinez) who is having a subpar season by his standards and 12 guys named McLemore.
Without question, the Mariners' margin for error is much smaller than that of the Yankees three years ago.
Which is yet another reason to love this poetry-in-motion baseball team, which appears to be having one of those magical seasons that can only end with a World Championship.
Scott Podsenik sounds more like a dietary supplement than a member of baseball's best team. But last night in his first at-bat in the big leagues he crushes a bases-loaded triple and is barely greeted with high-fives from his teammates.
We've all heard the cliche that "winning is contagious," but it's reached ridiculous proportions for Seattle and has even taken some of the fire out of one-time base-tossing, dirt-kicking skipper Lou Piniella.
But if you want to talk MVP, look no further than general manager Pat Gillick. That's Most Valuable Persuader.
The best-kept secret in baseball, Gillick won five American League East titles and back-to-back World Series while with Toronto. In his three years with Baltimore the Orioles reached the ALCS twice.
But the personnel moves he's made in Seattle have made Griffey, A-Rod and the Big Unit look like excess baggage.
Two years ago Gillick signed six free agents – pitchers Kazuhiro Sasaki, Aaron Sele and Arthur Rhodes, along with first baseman John Olerud and lifelong utility players Mark McLemore and Stan Javier.
Then following the 2000 season he lands Ichiro, who everyone said had a rotten swing; Boone, who nobody seemed to want; and pitcher Jeff Nelson, who couldn't get along with Joe Torre in New York.
If Seattle ever lost the Space Needle, Gillick would pick up the Statue of Liberty on waivers.
And save about $250 million in the process.