Editor’s Note: Hello! This is Eric Sanford, here to kick off a trip down LL memory lane this week as we do our best to pay tribute to Félix Hernández in the lead-up to his final start as a Seattle Mariner on Thursday, Sept 26, 2019. That byline probably got you good, huh? My apologies. I figured we’d start not quite at the beginning, but close. Eleven (11!!!) seasons ago, Félix hit a grand slam off peak Johan Santana during an inter-league game against the Mets in New York. Later in that game, he injured his ankle covering home thanks to a slide from Carlos Beltran. Mayhem ensued in an already bonkers game thread(s), which you can google and find if you are inclined. Anyways, here’s LL’s founder Jeff Sullivan with a combo chart and recap of an early unforgettable moment in Félix’s tall-tale-like Mariners career, originally posted on June 23, 2008. Take it away, Jeff.
With preliminary word in that Felix came out of this all right, I feel like I should offer an explanation of the community's response to those who may not have been watching. This was the most insane we've gotten in months, after all, and in a meaningless game that Felix survived without major injury, some of you might find our reaction a wee bit histrionic.
Here's the deal: Felix is all we have. I know we've talked about it a million times before, but on a team that's no good and borderline unwatchable, Felix is the one thing that keeps us coming back, the one thing capable of raising our spirits. The one thing. Yeah, Jeff Clement's hanging around, and Erik Bedard's pretty good when he hasn't like stubbed his toe or accidentally nicked his hand with a hammer, but Felix is the guy that stops you in your tracks and makes you think that anything is possible. In a midsummer squall, he is our beacon. If there's one thing left about which we can still get excited, it's Felix, and we can't imagine how empty life would be without him.
So with that in mind, today was to be something extraordinary. You could just feel it over the course of the first few innings. All the necessary elements were in place. We had a bitchin' shiny matchup between two of the most talented pitchers in baseball. We had the King on top of his game on the hill, getting Met after Met to put the ball on the ground. And we had the impossibly mind-destroying Felix grand slam just to raise the bar and prove that we still don't know the first thing about what Felix can accomplish. The story had already been written - Felix would shut out New York on the road and win with the support of his own home run. All that was left to do was watch the whole thing unfold before our eyes, and it was all we could do to contain ourselves in the meantime. This was set up to be the game that made worthwhile the entire season.
And then It happened.
This wasn't about Felix getting seriously hurt. It was never about Felix getting seriously hurt. That was in the back of our minds, of course, but what fueled the rage was the understanding that, in the blink of an eye, we had been robbed of our fairy tale. This wasn't at all how things were supposed to go. Felix was supposed to hit the home run, shut down the opposition, and be carried off the field a hero. Instead he was carried off wounded, carried off against his will, without so much as a win for his efforts. In a flash all of our exuberance was stopped in its tracks, and where one minute we were preparing to celebrate the achievement of a season, the next we were forced to deal with the reality that the greatest Mariner moment in years and years had been - in true Mariner fashion - followed by tragedy. This was everything we've been talking about. This was the universe once again demonstrating its refusal to allow us any sort of sustaining delight. And people generally don't take too well to rude and untimely reminders.
In the end, it's not as bad as it felt when it happened. Maybe we're just taking our cues from Felix, who was all smiles in the locker room after the game. I'm not sure. I'm certainly not anywhere close to as angry as I was a few hours ago. After all, we still have the King Felix grand freaking slam, and that'll live forever. But while things have settled down, I will defend to the death our right to get emotional. It was absolutely justified at the time, and if you disagree with that, we're not the problem - the fault is yours for not understanding just how much Felix Hernandez means to me, to this team, and to this entire community. Felix is the Mariners, and I pray to the high heavens that I never turn into the kind of fan who doesn't appreciate the significance of that.
Biggest Contribution: King Felix, +45.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Sean Green, -8.3%
Most Important AB: Felix grand slam, +30.8%
Most Important Pitch: Beltran single, -6.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +26.6%
Total Contribution by Lineup: +15.9%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +7.5%
(What is this chart?)
- Felix over his last four starts: 26 innings, 24 strikeouts, 5 walks, 62% groundball rate, 68% strikes. He is slowly but surely beginning to look like the King.
- But forget about that. In fact, forget about everything else. Johan Santana has a career ERA of 3.21 and more strikeouts than innings pitched. In seven seasons as a regular in the rotation, he's won two Cy Young Awards, gone to three All Star Games, and never once posted an ERA over 3.33. At 29 years old, he's widely considered one of, if not the best starting pitcher in baseball, and this past winter he was traded for four talented young players and signed to a six-year contract worth nearly one hundred forty million dollars. Players don't get much more high-profile than Johan Santana.
Felix Hernandez hit a grand slam off of him.
A GRAND. SLAM. With the bases loaded in the top of the second inning, Felix got a first pitch high fastball and HIT A GRAND SLAM.
"My approach? Just swing. I closed my eyes."
I don't even-I mean...what? Really? King Felix made a reality out of a Chuck Norris fact. I can't even pretend like I can sit here and try to convey this to you guys because I don't think it's going to sink into my own skull for two or three days. Felix Hernandez hit a grand-slam - a game-winning grand slam - off of Johan Santana. If his outing had ended in almost any other way, I think this would seem even more incredible than it already does, but for God's sake, Felix Hernandez hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana. Before today the Mariners hadn't hit a grand slam off of anyone. FELIX HERNANDEZ HIT A GRAND SLAM OFF OF JOHAN SANTANA.
If ever you thought that even Felix's ability has its limits, let this be proof that, when it comes to the King, there exists no upper bound. With an official 2008 team slogan of "There is no floor," Felix is the complete opposite. There is no ceiling. The man could throw a perfect game the next time out and I'd just wonder why it took him so long. He may be a frustrating son of a bitch from time to time, but my goodness, things like his grand slam today just serve to remind me of why I'd like to be buried with him so we can hang out together in the afterlife. I love you, Felix. I hate that you got injured, and I wish you a speedy recovery, but you're a God damn six-foot memory machine, and I can't even fathom what you're going to do next.
All you fans of other teams out there, I've got some bad news. Felix is ours, and you can't have him.