Felix Hernandez Loses, Still Hasn't Gone Postal

We've all heard the expression "going postal" before, and many of us have used it ourselves. However, I'd wager that a fair number of people aren't familiar with the etymology, so just in case you've been in the dark all this time, allow Wikipedia to explain:

The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder.

To "go postal" originally meant "to shoot people in a homicidal rage."

Over time, it's come to mean something less than that. Over time, going postal has been associated less with murder and more with just being really mad. Googling "Carlos Zambrano" + "postal" yields 244,000 results. We hear it all the time in a sports context, even though murderous sports figures are few and far between.

But forget what the expression means now. Let's take it back to what it meant at the beginning. Felix Hernandez still hasn't gone postal. Felix still hasn't packed a gun, cracked, and opened fire on all of his teammates. Felix still hasn't done this, even though more and more often I think it might be justified.*

Tonight was just another loss he shouldn't have lost. No, this game obviously didn't mean anything in the big picture. This game was the difference between 53-70 and 54-69. For Felix, it was the difference between 11-11 and 12-10. This was a game between two teams going nowhere this season, and one might regard it with the same indifference as with tonight's games between the Jays and the A's, or the Dodgers and the Rockies. I don't know what SportsCenter is like now, but at least back in the day, this was a game that wouldn't have had any highlights. They would've showed the score, and maybe talked about Joe Maddon for 15 seconds, and then moved on to something else inconsequential, like the Reds/Pirates game, or a soccer championship.

But even though the game had little meaning in the big picture, it had all the meaning today. For Felix, it had all the meaning in the last few days. Felix prepared for this start against the Rays. He worked hard to get ready, and then he worked hard out on the mound. He worked hard because he wanted to win. That's all there is for him to do anymore - win individual games. It's not important that they don't matter in the standings. They matter to him. Regardless of the context, Felix wants to win, and Felix hates to lose.

And he lost again tonight through little fault of his own. He was provided two runs of support. Two runs, over nine innings, seven of which came against a legitimately bad Major League starting pitcher. And still, for a while, two runs looked like it would be enough. Felix entered the eighth having allowed one run, that run having scored after Adam Kennedy couldn't field a groundball. But the Rays scored two in the eighth, after Kennedy botched another play with two outs. The Rays went ahead, and minutes later, Felix was tagged with his 11th loss despite having thrown maybe the best stuff he's thrown all year.

Felix could be incensed. I'd be incensed. This shit has been going on for too long. Since the start of last season, Felix has a 2.76 ERA, and since the start of last season, Felix has a 24-23 record. The Mariners have won just 31 of his 61 starts. For the sake of comparison, Clayton Kershaw also has a 2.76 ERA over that time, and in his starts the Dodgers have gone 35-23. Justin Verlander has posted a 2.87 ERA, and the Tigers have gone 40-20. The Mariners, with Felix? Barely .500.

Barely .500! I know we don't talk about these things very often, and there are good reasons for that, but think about this. Really think about this. For the last two years, the Mariners have had one of the best pitchers in baseball, and when he's pitched, they've lost nearly as often as they've won.

And yet Felix has taken it. Despite so routinely getting so little support, Felix has taken it. He hasn't complained one single time, that I can remember. He hasn't acted out. He hasn't punched a water cooler. He hasn't made passive-aggressive remarks to the media. He hasn't slacked off on the mound. And he hasn't brought a gun to the clubhouse and shot any of his teammates or coaches. He's said all the right things. He's acted all the right ways. Sometimes he's even blamed himself.

It's amazing. If I were Felix, I might just quit. This shit is stupid. But I'm not Felix. Felix hasn't quit. Felix very obviously hasn't quit. Felix still wants to win as badly as he ever has, but Felix still loves this team. Somehow, after everything, Felix still loves this team, and he still wants to be that guy to lead the Mariners to the playoffs.

I am so thankful for Felix after exhilarating wins. I might be more thankful for Felix after heartbreaking losses. Hang in there, Felix. Hang in there just a little while more. It's going to get better. Everything's going to get better.

* not really you guys!

I have very few bullet holes just because God dammit:

  • I wasn't exaggerating above - Felix looked about as unhittable tonight as he ever has. He's had better games, but all of his pitches were superb, and he knew it. Everybody knew it. Two-thirds of his pitches were strikes. Of the Rays' 51 swings, 19 of them missed. He didn't give up a hit until the bottom of the fifth, when the official scorer generously gave B.J. Upton a single on a play Adam Kennedy should've made, and he didn't give up another hit until Sam Fuld grounded a clean single into left in the eighth.

    And even though Felix allowed a pair of runs in that eighth, he was hardly getting thumped. There was Fuld's grounder. There was Johnny Damon's infield single. Evan Longoria pulled a sharp grounder into left to score a run, but then Ben Zobrist's go-ahead single was a blooper into center that dropped just in front of a deep Franklin Gutierrez. Replay that inning a hundred times and, most of the time, Felix gets out of it scoreless.

    Felix was great. Felix hasn't always been great, but tonight, Felix was great. Tonight was one of those nights where you watched Felix's first few innings and sensed something special. I know that no-hitting the Rays is kind of passé but I wouldn't have complained.

  • After the game ended, the camera cut to the Mariners dugout, where Michael Pineda was looking at the field alongside Wily Mo Pena, who I forgot was on the team. I wonder what these stretches are like for guys like Pena. Guys who haven't been around long, and who are pretty clearly just passing through. Does Pena really care whether the Mariners win or lose? Especially when he doesn't even play. The Mariners aren't so much Pena's team as they are his current source of a paycheck.

  • Every time Carl Willis goes out for a mound conference, he wears this little smirk as if to say "hey buddy, relax, it's just baseball, it's no big deal." Carl Willis is either a great pitching coach or a really terrible pitching coach.

  • Congratulations to Kyle Seager for not just hitting his first Major League home run, but for hitting the crap out of it. Wade Davis badly missed with a 1-1 fastball and Seager turned on it, ripping a liner way out to right. It was also his first Major League extra-base hit, and it's nice to see some flash of power, finally. For those of you who care about this kind of thing, Seager now has nine hits in his last 32 at bats, after picking up three in his first 27. These days he's looking a little more comfortable, and a little less Mathisy.

  • This is a catch that Trayvon Robinson made. This is Robinson the instant the camera cut to the outfield:

    Robinson_medium

    The line drive had been in the air for less than a second, and Robinson was already in full stride. We know that he has good footspeed, but he also seems to have good instincts, meaning he could be one hell of a defensive outfielder. That lowers the bar of what he has to do at the plate to be a worthwhile contributor. It's worth noting that he doubled again. It's just, the strikeouts. The damn strikeouts. Strikeouts stand between Robinson now and Robinson as an awesome everyday player.

  • Hey look, I'm writing more than I expected to again. With this game in the books, Adam Kennedy now has an OPS+ of 82 or 83. He has a career OPS+ of 88, and he is 35 years old. Which means Adam Kennedy has officially been what any reasonable person would've expected him to be. The decent first half and the miserable second half suggest that Kennedy was rejuvenated and has now become exhausted, but I personally find it more likely that Adam Kennedy has pretty much just been Adam Kennedy the whole time, and he's fluctuated around that level. I'm sure he's feeling worn out now, and I'm sure fatigue has something to do with his decline, but fatigue doesn't explain everything. He's Adam Kennedy. He just isn't that good of a player. Like Jamey Wright, he was performing well for a stretch, but it would've been silly to expect that to continue.

Charlie Furbush against whatever this is tomorrow.

Ph_476451_medium

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