Hello and welcome back to FanPost Friday. It’s Félix Mariners Hall of Fame Weekend, folks! Time to dust off your Félix jerseys and your bright yellow King’s Court shirts from the pile at the bottom of your closet and roll out to T-Mobile Park to pay tribute to the King.
That also means it’s time to reminiscence on everything Félix Hernández meant to the Seattle Mariners and the fans over the course of his 15-year career. Despite a couple of Spring Training dalliances with the Braves and Orioles before he decided to hang ‘em up, Félix joins Edgar Martinez as having the rare distinction of retiring as a career Seattle Mariner.
15 years is a long time in baseball. A lot of careers, particularly for pitchers, don’t even last half as long. This is completely anecdotal, but I feel like Félix was around long enough to span two to three different mini-generations of Mariners fans. His early career coincides with the nascent beginnings of the Mariners blogosphere with USS Mariner and LL’s early days, as well as basically the beginning of when advanced stats/SABR actually took hold in all MLB front offices. Félix was there for the beginning of the stats era and he saw it evolve to the point where all teams basically having the same types of tools for scouting so seeking players with high OPS+ was no longer a competitive advantage to exploit. As his career was ending, we were entering the high spin rate era for scouting elite pitchers who had fallen by the wayside. But anyways, the three-ish mini-generations to me feel like:
- You got on board with Félix and the modern Mariners around 2005-2007 and it culminated in him winning a Cy Young in 2010 with a 13-12 record, something that would have been unheard of in baseball in the pre-SABR era.
- You got on board with Félix and the modern Mariners during his prime years (more or less 2010-2015), where going to every King’s Court game you could was a big priority.
- You got on board with Félix and the modern Mariners when he was sadly in his decline stage from 2016 on and though you knew very well about his lore as a pitcher, you never really got to know him as the ACE the older fans knew him as.
So, depending on when you accepted Félix into your life as a Mariners fan (and for everyone in their 50’s or older, it’s also a different kind of connection, I am sure), you probably have varying levels of sentimental attachment to him. The fact that the Saturday induction ceremony game sold out well in advance made me really happy (I will not be happy when I try to get a beer or use the bathroom between innings, but nevertheless!). This team has never been short of iconic players during it’s comparatively short existence. We’ve been blessed in that regard as fans. But this is a unique experience for me and probably many others in the first two mini-generations of Félix fans in which we got to see the very beginning of his career as young-ish adults and now here we are approaching middle age and Félix is taking his rightful spot along side the other franchise greats whom we grew up idolizing either from faint memories or highlight reels. Ichiro was also in this realm for me because of how long he played, but I was still in high school in 2001. Félix is firmly in my “adult” days as a Mariners fan from start to finish.
I imagine many will carry a continued bittersweet feeling about Félix’s career throughout this weekend. He never got to pitch in a playoff game. I admit it is difficult at times to not let his last few seasons of ineffectiveness taint my memories of him. It felt cosmically cruel that when the team needed him to just be decent down the stretches in 2016 and 2018, when the team could have ended the postseason drought and an entire core of Mariners would be remembered quite differently, Félix simply couldn’t do it. An arm only has so many innings in it (between surgeries) and Felix’s arm had a shit-load of innings on it. I am trying to let these feelings go as they do not serve anyone and notably Félix himself recently said he has no hard feelings about his time with the Mariners. And why would he? A 15-year award-winning MLB career is some rarefied air and he and his family are set for life financially because of his talent and hard work. He has every reason for pride to outweigh any regrets, as should we as fans.
We are Mariners fans and postseason appearances are not the soul driver of our fandom. They are very fun, extremely cathartic, and criminally stresful, but baseball is an everyday operation. For me, it’s all about the individuals who make up the whole. Until he hit his decline, Félix gave Mariners fans something to be joyful about every five days or so. Every time he took the mound, there was always the possibility of seeing something you might never see again.
From his debut to the first King’s Court game to the final King’s Court game, Félix always gave us something to look forward to.
Okay, enough from me! It’s y’all’s turn to reminiscence!
Prompt: Give us your top 3 Félix moments
Bonus points for not just saying “the perfect game, duh!” Like obviously that’s the shining star for us all, but give me something specific about that game. How you experienced it, or what you saw if you were there, or “how ‘bout that Eric Thames catch in the first?!” Dig deep!
Have a great weekend, best of luck getting to the stadium with the light rail closures, and be kind and patient with folks at the games. And remember what we always used to say with the utmost respect here at LL....Félix is ours and you can’t have him.