Friday, August 2, 2013

No Support for the King

Larry Stone wrote a great piece for the Seattle Times about Felix Hernandez' attempt to put together a Cy Young award-caliber season. This, of course, comes after last night's complete collapse in the 9th inning on the part of the Mariner bullpen. I thought it was important to share for my readers in the northwest who follow the Mariners in good times and bad.

I have no idea if the Cy Young voters will look at the record of King Felix this season, currently 11-4, and ignore the numbers. I have no idea if, like in 2010 when he won the American League Cy Young, the voters will take a look at how terrible the team is Felix plays for. They should. They should look at the games when run support was a pipe dream for Felix. They should look at the video from last night's 9th inning and realize that all season the bullpen has let down the starting rotation, at least guys with great starts like Hernandez and Iwakuma.

And though they won't, I wish voters would take a look at what happened in the offseason with Felix.

Not only did Felix Hernandez, arguably one of the best young pitchers in the game, sign a hometown discounted contract with the Mariners because he loves Seattle, both the community and playing for the Mariners, he did it at a time that took him out of the World Baseball Classic where he could have played for his beloved Venezuela. Yes, I know that $175 million over 7 years doesn't seem like a discount for the fans in Seattle, but think about the contract that Justin Verlander signed just after Felix: $180 million over 5 years with a $22 million vesting option in the final season that would put it over the $200 million mark. Verlander is 3 years older than Felix with 1592 strikeouts and 1697 innings pitched over 9 years. Felix has 1653 strikeouts and 1781 innings pitched over 9 years in the game. Their numbers are comparable.

I can't count the number of games I have watched when Felix Hernandez has been on the mound pitching an absolute gem. I've seen him go 7 or 8 innings with ease, striking out 10 or more batters. I've watched as the offense, whether it be the restructured offense of 2013 or the completely dismal 2012 club that finished with 75-87 and shouldn't have even won that many, failed Felix by giving him little to no run support. I've watched as the bullpen, whether the current one with the likes of Tom Wilhelmsen losing himself or the 2010 club with Ryan Rowland-Smith giving up homers at every turn, threw away what should have been wins for Felix.

Watching as the team has failed Felix Hernandez has only made me appreciate and respect King Felix even more. He chose to stick with this team. He chose to play for these fans. He could have gone anywhere and made just as much money. But somewhere behind that titled ball cap, unbuttoned top button and neck tattoo is a guy who loves this game and plays it the right way like the greats of yesteryear. He may not be getting support on the field toward the record he truly earned, but he is getting more and more support from fans.

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