They were a team almost beyond comparison. A combination of talent and fortune, the 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games, a feat matched only by the 1906 Chicago Cubs.

Record-setting seasons are the talk of New England, with the Boston Red Sox record at 105-49 after Friday night’s win.

They will enter next month’s playoffs with the majors’ best record and high expectations.

But regular-season dominance doesn’t ensure anything in October.

Ask those Cubs, who lost the 1906 World Series to the White Sox.

As for the Mariners, they didn’t even reach the World Series.

Paul Abbott, 51, the Portland Sea Dogs’ pitching coach, was part of Seattle’s outstanding rotation that year – with Jamie Moyer, Aaron Sele, Freddy Garcia and John Halama.

The offense featured Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, John Olerud and a sensational rookie from Japan named Ichiro Suzuki.

The Mariners didn’t have a losing streak (two games), until Pedro Martinez shut them out at Fenway on May 1. Still, Seattle never lost more than two straight games through mid-September. They won and won, until the American League Championship Series, when the Yankees beat them in five games.

“Thanks for bringing up a sore subject,” Abbott quipped when asked about his Mariners’ elimination in the playoffs.

Abbott, speaking by phone from his home in North County, California, said the 2001 Seattle team was incredibly in sync.

“It sounds cliche but we had 27 guys that really played well as a team,” Abbott said. “The bench filled in extremely well. We had excellent starting pitching, an exceptional bullpen.

“We lost A-Rod the year before (Alex Rodriguez signing as a free agent with Texas). But then we had Ichiro-mania and Bret Boone with a career year.”

Boone, the second baseman, batted .331 with 37 home runs. Suzuki hit .350 and won both American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors.

On the mound, Moyer was a 20-game winner. Every starter won at least 10 games, including Abbott, who went 17-4, (4.25 ERA) even though he missed April with a sore shoulder.

“I had the benefit of a great team,” Abbott said.”

In 2000 the Mariners won 91 games and reached the playoffs. And to prove the fact that best records mean little in the postseason, Seattle swept the 95-win White Sox in the divisional series, and the West champion A’s (91-71) lost to the Yankees (90-72). New York then beat the Mariners in the ALCS.

But this 2001 Seattle team was even better.

“We didn’t lose a series until September,” Abbott said. “Very happy clubhouse. Loose. Playing well. Confident.”

Indeed, the Mariners were 104-40 through Sept. 10. But then the season was halted for a week because of the events of Sept. 11.

“I don’t make this an excuse – when 9/11 happened it took the wind out of our sails. It changed the focus to life – as it should have. Everyone’s focus was on New York City, as it should have been,” Abbott said.

Resuming play on Sept. 18, the Mariners won two straight games, but then came their longest losing streak, four games.

Still, the Mariners won 10 of their last 12 games, then beat Cleveland in five games in the divisional series.

Oakland, which won 102 games, lost to the Yankees in the divisional series again.

“New York had a great team,” Abbott said.

The ALCS began in Seattle and New York won both games – Andy Pettitte outdueling Sele 4-2 and Mike Mussina then besting Garcia, 3-2.

In New York for Game 3, Moyer and the Mariners’ offense beat the Yankees and Orlando Hernandez, 14-3.

Game 4 featured Abbott vs. Roger Clemens, the Cy Young Award winner.

Abbott exited the game after five innings with the score 0-0 and the Yankees hitless. Abbott already had thrown 97 pitches because of the eight walks he allowed.

“I had a 1-2-3 first inning and walked eight over the next four innings,” Abbott said. “That’s hard to do, give up eight walks and no runs. I acted as my own reliever.

“I didn’t feel wild but I wasn’t going to give in to that lineup. I wasn’t going to throw one over the middle of the plate to Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada or Paul O’Neill.”

Clemens also left after five innings (89 pitches), giving up one hit and four walks.

Both bullpens yielded a run in the eighth. In the ninth, Alfonso Soriano stroked a two-run, walk-off homer against closer Kazuhiro Sasaki.

In Game 5, New York romped 12-3, and the glorious Mariners’ season ended, again after losing to the Yankees in the ALCS.

“It stung a lot more than the year before,” Abbott said, citing the 116-win season and high expectations.

“We didn’t experience (losing) all year. We weren’t used to it. It hurt. We were like the Patriots (in 2007).”

That New England team went undefeated in its NFL season, then lost in the Super Bowl.

New England now has another juggernaut enjoying a great season.

The postseason begins in a little over a week.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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