SEATTLE -- None of us knew just how prophetic Alex Rodriguez's remarks would become when he met the media on his first return trip to Seattle, following his free-agent flight to Texas.
It was a Monday night in mid-April, the night fake dollar bills rained from the upper deck of Safeco Field every time Rodriguez came to bat; just one of so many magical nights during that 116-win season of 2001.
In a news conference several hours before that game, Rodriguez predicted in a crowded interview room underneath Safeco that the Mariners could win 110 games.
At the time, it seemed like A-Rod at his disingenuous best, telling the people exactly what he thought they wanted to hear.
The Mariners were 9-3 at the time, but all of us in that room figured Rodriguez no more believed that the Mariners would win 110 games than he believed the Rangers were a legitimate playoff contender.
But it turned out that A-Rod was a prophet.
In 2001, a collection of veterans who knew how to play the game was gathered by general manager Pat Gillick, and from April through September they played baseball the way it was meant to be played. For those six months Seattle was the best team in baseball, one of the best teams of all time.
The Mariners tied the major-league record for most wins in a season set by the Cubs in 1906. They were first in the American League in batting, fielding and pitching. And they did all of this without spending tens of millions on superstars.
By 2001, the Mariners had lost their glitter. Randy Johnson was traded to Houston in 1998. Ken Griffey Jr. left for Cincinnati after the 1999 season and Rodriguez went to Texas in the fall of 2000.
But Gillick brilliantly remade the team, and this group connected with the region in a way no Seattle team had done since the 1979 Sonics.
M's fans felt they knew these players. These Mariners weren't just numbers, they were nicknames -- Cammy and Gar, Boonie and Willie. And they were managed by an icon -- Loooou.
That summer you couldn't walk through a Seattle neighborhood without hearing the voices of Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs wafting out of open windows.
You couldn't walk past a pub without hearing the cheers after Bret Boone went the opposite way for a home run. Or Freddy Garcia wiggled out of a jam with a big strikeout. Or Kazu Sasaki closed the door with a pitch we called "The Thang."
This team did everything right. After Sept. 11, when the country was attacked by al-Qaida and the season was postponed for a week, the Mariners returned and Garcia shut out the Angels.
Less than a month later, on the next-to-last day of the season, when they won their 116th game, shutting out Rodriguez's Rangers, the team celebrated the country as much as the win.
Mike Cameron and Mark McLemore paraded an American flag around the field, and as his players stood behind him, Piniella choked with emotion, waved the flag as he took off his cap and acknowledged the wildly cheering crowd.
This group of veterans had hallelujah seasons. For that one season, Safeco was a hitter's park. Boone had 37 home runs and 141 RBI, Cameron was 25 and 110, Edgar Martinez 23 and 116.
Players like catcher Dan Wilson, shortstop Carlos Guillen, infielder McLemore and outfielder Stan Javier played their roles as if they were scripted.
Ichiro constructed an MVP season, leading the American League in hitting (.350), hits (242) and stolen bases (56).
As the 2011 M's continue to struggle for runs, it's stunning to look at the numbers from 2001.
Safeco thumped with an energy it hasn't felt since.
Sure, the season ended too quickly. In the postseason, the Mariners' bats stilled and they lost in five in the ALCS to New York.
But for six months, this team made every day important. It shared this record season with its fans. And, after the tragedy of Sept. 11, it gave Seattle an important diversion from the sadness of that late-summer reality.
For that one season, the Mariners brought greatness to Seattle. A decade later, those memories haven't faded.
2001, by the numbers
8: Mariners named to the All-Star team. Ichiro, Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud were starters, and Mike Cameron was a substitute in the game won by the American League, 4-1, at Safeco Field. Freddy Garcia, Kazu Sasaki and Jeff Nelson each pitched a scoreless inning, Garcia earning the win, Sasaki the save. Lou Piniella was a coach in the game.
9: Most losses in a full month. The Mariners were great from start to finish -- 20-5 in April, 20-7 in May, 18-9 in June and July, 20-9 in August, 15-6 in September and 5-1 in October.
40-18: Mariners' record vs. the AL West. The M's had a winning record against every team.
45: Saves by Sasaki.
59: Wins on the road, an American League record.
116: Wins, which set an American League record and tied the major-league record, first achieved by the 1906 Chicago Cubs.
927: Runs scored, an average of 5.7 per game.
43,308: Average attendance for 81 home games.