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Hey Felix, Do Better

Maybe all of our previous suggestions were too complicated. If that's the case, then listen up: do better. Do better at pitching. It's all we want.

We're all familiar with the potential. We all know what Felix is capable of, and we all understand the true significance of Felix Days, even - or perhaps especially - in the midst of a team-wide collapse. Morrow's debut aside, Felix is the shiniest beacon of hope in the entire organization. He is the Big Unit to the Mariners' Mac Suzuki. The Paris to the Mariners' Hartford. The Duvel to the Mariners' can of Pabst rolling around in the glove compartment of a stock VW sedan participating in the Baja 1000. He is the player dubbed The King, and the player upon whom we have heaped extraordinary expectations only because we think he deserves them.

That's one side. The obvious side. The fun side. The other side looks at Felix up and down, takes a step back, looks at him again, and comes away a little annoyed, because the other side is the acknowledgment that, as good as Felix is, he ought to be so much better.

The fact of the matter is that, while Felix possesses an incredible assortment of weapons, he still isn't all that good at using them. He does have a mediocre fastball. He does throw it too often. He does frequently struggle with command. He does miss the breaking balls he used to throw in '05. He is still a little immature. These are all issues of his, and where we figured many of them would gradually go away with the passing of time, they still feel every bit as prevalent as ever. Let's face it: while we all envisioned Felix posting ERAs around or below his current 3.41, he hasn't earned it. His 110 tRA+ is the same as it was last year and the same as it was the year before. He's been a good pitcher, but only infrequently a great one, and as often as I remind myself that he's still young and gifted, I'll be perfectly honest - every so often I just get sick of waiting. Sick of waiting for him to take The Leap. Because sometimes I can't shake the feeling that, if he were going to Leap, he'd have done it by now.

I know it's a little irrational. Felix is plenty young and the least of this team's problems. If we had five of him - or eleven of him, or twenty-five of him provided we only face Johan Santana - we'd be sitting prettier than anyone else in the league. But I see games like tonight, where he can't hit a spot to save his life and still manages to get 87% groundballs, and I see the upside, and I wonder to myself why he can't just put everything together already and turn into the overpowering lawnmower he's supposed to be. And then I wonder to myself how I'll respond down the road if this is as good as Felix is ever going to get. And then I shiver, because my what a horrible thought.

But it's a thought we have to consider now. A thought we didn't think we'd have to consider a few years ago when Felix first came up, but a thought from which at the moment there's no easy escape. Why are you doing this to me, Felix? I've tried my hardest to keep the faith while many around me have examined you with wary eyebrows, but while I still love you more than waffles and freedom, you have undeniably introduced a shred or two of doubt where there was no doubt before. I don't want you to let me think that this could be it. Not even for a second. But what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to interpret and relay your disappointing lack of significant progress? At some point you have to take the initiative and step up your game. Even the hardiest, most steadfast of supporters will eventually need a little proof if you want them to stick around.

I still believe in you, Felix. But with every passing start like this, I believe in you a little less than I did the week before. Which can only mean one thing. The ball's in your court.

Do better.