To start with, I’d like to invite you to look within yourself. Look deep into your history rooting for the Seattle Mariners. Let Migeul Cairo: 1st baseman, seventeen losses in a row, Mike Hargrove leaving, John McLaren’s hissy fit, Ken Griffey Jr. leaving again, the Adam Jones trade, the Justin Smoak Years, Dustin Ackley, let all of that swirl around inside you.
Through all of that, there has been one, singular, constant source of joy. Felix Hernandez is the one, the only one through all of this, who never broke. He is the chunky seventeen-year old people wrote breathless reports of from Everett way, way back in 2003. My god, that was a lifetime ago. He was the super pitching prospect who actually became an ace. He won a Cy Young. He threw a Perfect Game.
His greatness, however, is not as simple as his excellence on the field. Twice, at the height of his ability and earning potential, Felix could have gone anywhere, and been paid more than he has made in Seattle. After every, single, miserable season most would have understood if he had simply said "I’m ready to move on. Please trade me. I’d like to win." Many athletes, in many sports, have done the same. There is no shame in it. But Felix refused. He is the rarest of creatures: A hyper-competitive, uber-talented, exceedingly proud athlete for whom loyalty, and a sense of home seemingly trump all other considerations. As he has stayed fiercely, defiantly in Seattle, he has become something perhaps no Northwest athlete, and certainly no superstar, has been in the modern age: Family.
Now, look back within the swirling cosmos of your inner most being. Early in the season, when the Mariners were rampaging through the league like furious demons unleashed upon a helpless earth, the narrative emerged that the Mariners were finally ready to carry Felix to the playoffs, precisely at the moment he could no longer carry them. But it wasn’t to be. This team needs Felix, and be honest with yourself, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the Mariners to overcome their own pratfalls and shortcomings there is no acceptable path but one walked with Felix at the head of the party, marching defiantly towards whatever destiny awaits them, with the storms and ravages of time ever-nipping at their heels. This is how is should be. This is how it must be.
Human beings are remarkable creatures. Despite all reason, logic, and prior experience; in the face of tragedy, horror, loss, and grief we find, and cling to hope. We are like the flowers that bloom through a crack in concrete. We find reasons to believe in a brighter future wherever we go, often against all reason. So it is with us. The Seattle Mariners of the past fifteen years have been arguably the most miserable team in all of American professional sports. Nonetheless, when I look back on it, it will not be the losses, but the proud man from Venezuela with the god-like talent, who became one of us, who defines these years.
The season’s second half is upon us, and a competitive but flawed Mariner team desperately needs their King, our King. This is exactly how it should be. Win or lose, live or die, let it only be with Felix at the head of the vanguard, his banners snapping in the breeze, and his song on our lips. He was the one who saved us from despair, only he can lead us to victory.
To Felix, and whatever doom awaits us all.