“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” – Abraham Lincoln
The Mariners are committed to winning. Believe it or not they really are. You can bring up the past 9 years of the team’s history, but you can’t sufficiently argue that this team purposely chooses not to win. Did they make poor decisions? Certainly, yes they did, but then again, which team hasn’t.
In my opinion, this teams fault boils down to down team decision making and the lack of quality on a consistent basis. For the better part of the past decade there was a real problem within the front office. Like the majority of fans, I believe that issue is fixed. That said there are still decisions that are being questioned and local fans have been equally critical of the newest regimes lack of moves as much as they have praised the ones that have worked.
The most interesting debate among fans and one that continues to get brought up by the national media is that of Felix Hernandez and his status with the team. As many of you know Felix is about to become the highest paid player in the history of the franchise. Many have brought up the idea of trading him for a package of youngsters that could revitalize the organization and could potentially bring in a hitter to help lead this organization back to scoring runs.
While I’ve honestly dismissed this notion for the past two years, I’ve spent an incredible amount of time pondering whether or not this was really what was right by the organization and fan base. Should they or should they not trade him? While contemplating, I also conducted a bit of research. Interested? WHY, OF COURSE YOU ARE! Let’s take a look.
Let’s take a look at the modern baseball era, using the scope of the last 30 years and a pool of the 7+ WAR pitchers during that time frame. I narrowed the pool to those who also have produced 50+ WAR during their careers; this is how I defined “elite”. It’s obviously my own opinion but the point was to get a snap shot of the very best pitchers over the past 30 years.
I got a total of 16 pitchers:
Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, John Smoltz, Kevin Brown, Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine, Andy Pettitte, Bret Saberhagen, Dwight Gooden, CC Sabathia, Nolan Ryan, Kevin Appier, Frank Viola
This was a larger pool than I expected but one that still was easy enough to work with. The last quality I was looking for was, of those 16 pitchers, how many of them spent, at a very minimum of 10 years (all of which at their peak) if not more, with one team. The answer: only one, John Smoltz. You could make the argument for that of Roy Halladay, who spent parts of 12 big league season with the Blue Jays organization. As well as Andy Pettitte, leaving the Yankees to join Roger Clemens in Houston after 9 previous seasons with the Yankees and then again returning to the Yankees after a short 3 year stay in Texas. But the fact is they both were in their prime years when they left their organizations.
The only other pitcher I would be willing to hear arguments is Dwight Gooden, who was granted free-agency, but already showing signs of wear and tear from his boisterous party life. He went from making over 5 million (a lot at the time) to just under a million dollars to the Yankees.
(Weird moment but let me take a second to say that I firmly believe that Brian Cashman, while pesky and a fond worker of the hated New York hype machine, is one of the most under rated General Managers in all of baseball history. The guy didn’t just throw away money, though he certainly used the most dominating and common resource of New York to his advantage, he showed his intelligence with smart and low-key pick-ups. I don’t like the Yankees, but Cashman has to be given his due.)
While, Smoltz did leave the Braves franchise during the twilight of his career, I hardly hold this against him as he was only trying to prolong his career and gave the Braves the first opportunity for his services.
Why does this matter? Out of the 16 truly elite pitchers in the last 30 years only 1 has spent the entirety of his peek years with one team. What is the likelihood that Felix Hernandez becomes #2 on that list? Being that the Mariners can hold on to him up until he’s 28, after which he can become a free-agent.
The biggest thing that most people bring up, and tend to hold on too, is the lack of playoff appearances in his 7 years with the ball club. Why would someone wish to be a part of an organization that isn’t moving forward?
I’m not a big fan of looking more than 2 or 3 years ahead at in time with one individual player, since it’s hardly a sure thing. This is one of the biggest problems I have with Prince Fielder and something that I transparently talked about in my post about Yuniesky Betancourt. Athletes with loads of talent and potential can crash in a matter of a couple of years.
This is a constant reminder when talking about young prospects. Who’s to say that Dylan Bundy or Tyler Skaggs ever become quality Major League pitchers? Likewise, who’s to say that any player that’s out there can continue their current production for next 3 years guaranteed? It’s a risk in general when you talk about baseball players and it gets increased when it’s about pitchers.
Now that one pitcher we’re talking about is the cornerstone of our franchise, the guy that we are setting the entire franchise upon. It’s scary stuff. And when that’s all you have left and everything else has fallen apart, the word scary doesn’t suffice.
As fans this is usually when trading a said “superstar” becomes socially acceptable. Mainly because it becomes plainly the most obvious means to restock your organization and gear up for becoming a more competitive team.
Most fans think about a possible deal for Hernandez that would include someone like Jesus Montero + 3 or 4 other players and believe this in of itself would restock the organization and give the organization a more certain opportunity at competing.
While this isn’t necessarily wrong, you can look at the Texas Rangers and the Mark Teixeira situation as proof, the thing most commonly missed is that most trades are made because the team can no longer hold on to the player, either due to financial issues or the fact they wish to test the Free-Agent market in which case anything can happen.
I’m sure if you would have asked Jon Daniels just after the trade deadline if he would take the prospect package back in exchange for Teixeira and him signed to a long term deal he would have taken the deal. Though, it’s admittedly worked out very well for the Rangers and they’ve been able to capitalize off of it.
I’ve spent the better part of 1,250 words explaining why it’s possible and even likely that Felix Hernandez eventually leaves the organization and showing that it makes some sense to trade Felix. Let me now argue irreverently in the opposite direction.
At 19, there are few if any pitchers that have broke into the league and shown so much ability, so much talent and so much potential. Over the past 7 years we’ve seen that all unfold into a deadly skill set that while vicious from any other perspective is beautiful to us. A once-in-a-generation pitcher, who not only has stated that he wants to stay here, he has proven he’s committed to this organization.
I’m not going to argue that it doesn’t make any sense to trade him. I would be willing to agree that, to some extent, the arguments for trading him are certainly compelling and the talent in which you would receive in return for him would most likely help this organization going forward for the better half of a decade. That said, I’m just not sold that it’s a clear “plus” – or maybe “win” – for this team and the fan base.
You are giving up not just one of the most exciting and dominate young pitchers in all of baseball but THE most exciting and dominate. I can’t think of any other pitcher in baseball that I would want leading my staff. Not one and because we are currently having issues with our roster people want to flip him for a quick fix.
Trust me, I’m not so short sited that I don’t see how we could use Felix to expedite our “rebuilding” process. The thing is with Smoak, Ackley, Wells and Carp showing signs of above average offensive ability, why not just be a little more patience? Felix WANTS to be here. And it’s not as if we don’t already have upcoming pieces with promising futures.
Sometimes it just seems to me the Felix/Seattle relationship is one of a guy and girl dating.
On the one hand the guy (Seattle) isn’t sure if he really wants to get married. Marriage is FOREVER and it can be a huge mistake when rushed into. He realizes he’s dating the best women in the world. She is everything, a complete “10”, by all standards and he appreciates her but it doesn’t change the way he feels about marriage.
This can cause the guy (who’s really a 6 and dating up) to become incredibly insecure and instead of enjoying the relationship, he is constantly taking every defect of the relationship and evaluating and spinning over it and thinking of an excuse to break-up with her, circumventing the eventual moment in which she realizes she’s too good for him and leaves him for someone better.
Seattle, nobody likes that guy. That guy’s an idiot, she choose him and now because of his own neurotic nature he’s going to spaz about it until she actually does get tired of it leaves him. If you would just realize that and be happy and look on the bright side of the fact we have one of the most dominating right handed pitchers in baseball, rather than constantly worrying what’s going to happy 3 years from now.
I’m not saying this is absolutely the case. But it’s just my own observations.
I feel like when people talk about trading Felix it’s an excuse to say: “dump him before he dumps us”. I fully believe it stems from how we got burned by Randy, Junior and A-Rod (he who shall not be named). The thing is Felix is a unique situation and past transgressions of others shouldn’t be used as a horror story to this generation of fans who need to realize that we CAN afford multiple players being well paid.
Look at Edgar, Jay and Dan. All great guys that stuck us despite other opportunities, not just to get paid but to be a part of this organization, where you can tell they truly loved it here. They were devoted to what the organization and city stood for. While it’s true that there is always going to be excessive interest in Felix who’s to say they EVER have a shot.
The most important thing to focus on at this point is that if the front office focuses on putting together a winner – and I don’t doubt that they are in fact doing that – then there will be nothing to worry about. It will take care of itself. This is easier said than done, and I realize that, then again that’s why this off-season is so important.
I’ve said all along I am giving 2010 a pass and 2011 was only to show improvement A) in young talent and B) in the win column. 2012 is where I want to be something more than just a blip. I know fans all around are with me on this and even more so I’m sure that the organization is with me on this.
I’m not asking for 85+ wins. I’m not even asking for a .500 season, I’m asking simply for 77 wins. I honestly don’t think that’s too much and to be honest I don’t think this team can do it without Felix on the mound every fifth day.
If they lose 100+ games this year and everything goes wrong, sure I’ll concede it’s time to trade Felix. But A) I don’t think we’re that our talent equates to the second worst team in all of the American League and I certainly don’t believe that a last place finish in 2012 is certain.
Maybe that’s why I can’t buy into the “trade Felix plan”. It’s not about logic at this point, it’s about heart and it’s about hope. I’m not saying that you don’t have any if you do believe in trading Felix, but what I am saying is that it’s why I don’t support it. I’m not ready to finish fighting to get Felix a start in the MLB playoffs and for that start to be as a member of the Seattle Mariners. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the underdog.
Consider this my formal letter of position on Felix Hernandez for the next year. Not for the next 6-months, but for the entire year, if needed I’ll re-evaluate my position on it next year. As it stands, I don’t believe that will be necessary.