It strikes Mark Langston as no small irony that, for a man who always believed he would be part of Mariners magic, he has been center stage for two of the defining moments in franchise history - and been unable to enjoy either.
“I don’t think there’s much doubt that trading me to Montreal for Brian Holman, Gene Harris and Randy Johnson changed things for the Mariners,” Langston said Tuesday. “It gave them a guy who became the best pitcher in the American League.”
In a Seattle career that ended with that 1989 trade, Langston was - until the “Big Unit” - the best pitcher in team history, compiling a 74-67 record with a 4.01 earned-run average in six seasons.
And it was Langston on the mound for the California Angels in 1995 for that one-game playoff for the A.L. West title, a game that Johnson won in the Kingdome.
“When I was here, it was always the Seahawks, the Huskies, and the Mariners were pretty far down the list,” Langston said. “When I first got here, the team had only reached one million in attendance one time - the record when I was traded was like 1.2 million in a season. Now they’re going to draw three million fans.
“That’s what happens when you win.”
That is another irony Langston lives with. For years in Seattle, he watched as teammates were traded or allowed to become free agents, every year believing the franchise would turn a corner. When he left, it hadn’t, and now the Mariners are about to embark upon their second postseason.
Langston has never pitched beyond the regular season. And as his contract expires at the end of this year, he’s not entirely certain he will pitch again.
He has missed almost all this month with the Angels because of an arthritic left elbow, and says he will rest for the next few months and go to spring training - probably with Anaheim - and see what happens.
“A lot of pitches, a lot of innings, I’ve got an old elbow,” Langston said.
One day, he and his family may buy a summer home in the Seattle area, where they still have friends. His daughter, born while he was in Seattle, is now 12, and he says he will be out of baseball before she begins attending high school.
“I still love doing what I do, and I hope to get a few more years in,” he said. “But I won’t know until next spring.”
Russ Davis tried putting special inserts into his shoes Tuesday before running and, with the extra support, found he could run without much pain for the first time since severely spraining his right ankle Aug. 25. “I think I can play,” Davis said. He may play this weekend.