Seattle Mariners Season Preview: Felix Hernandez
King Felix has given M’s fans plenty to cheer about during his illustrious career, but will he finally taste the postseason in 2016?
Something you’ll learn about me through my writing is that I quite frequently incorporate some sentimentality. Now I’d caution anyone to not view this as a weakness, but as description for how much the Seattle Mariners mean to me. I start off saying this because today we’re going to talk about a player who is beloved (someone who should evoke an element of sentimentality in everyone) throughout this Mariners fan community. Today our Mariners pitchers and catchers report to a rather mundane, but none the less special, first official day of Spring Training. Among those pitchers and catchers is Felix Hernandez.
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As many people grew up watching Ken Griffey Jr. (I caught the tail end of that era), I grew up with King Felix. I’ve watched nearly all 334 games he’s pitched, whether on TV or live. I’ve seen his velocity decrease over time, him adjust to that, and still be one of the most dominant pitchers of an entire decade. I yelled in awe at my TV when he hit a grand slam off Johan Santana (when Johan Santana was still Johan Santana). I’ve relished in the 2010 campaign and suffered with him through 2015. I’ve spent the better part of my life comparing every other pitcher I’ve seen, to Felix Hernandez. There have been a lot of words written about our King over the last 10 years, and I’d be hard pressed to come up with something that has not been written before. He’s passionate, talented, dedicated, emotional, he’s a writer’s dream.
There are two decades worth of reasons why I am a fan of the Seattle Mariners, but without Felix Hernandez I don’t know if a lot of those reasons are possible. Having a player like Hernandez on this team constantly reminds me why baseball and the Seattle Mariners mean so much to me. Thank you Felix for spending more than a decade of your life being someone I can always count on. We’re with you through it all King, roaring or mad, happy or sad. Now, let’s play ball.
At this point (even with 2015 still annoyingly apparent) Felix Hernandez is still very good. Felix has always been able to adapt to circumstances, and he’ll continue to adapt with that athletic, run preventing new defense hanging out behind him. In case you haven’t kept up with the Mariners in the last ten years you know we’ve had a problem preventing and scoring runs, and not a single person has endured more of that burden than Felix. Believing in what Dipoto is rolling out onto Safeco this year leads me to believe that the King will return to form this year. He’s spent his whole career being the workhorse and making sure his teams have a chance. This year he’ll have enough help and won’t have to do it all on his own.
Felix has a wicked changeup that will confuse Mike Trout for the next couple years. A slider that still has exceptional movement, and a curveball that will still keep a lot of people guessing. Of course he has that 4-seam fastball that we all know and love, and it will still sit around 93 mph. In other words, Felix still has it going on. He has many, many ways to gets batters out. I can’t wait to see him slap his glove, roar off the mound with that definitive out, and yet again give his team a chance to succeed.
Let’s just get this out of the way, last year was not a good year for Felix. 2015 reminded us that he is in fact human, and can not be almighty and invincible. It also gave us a scary glimpse into a time when Hernandez will stop being a productive pitcher. Fortunately, we still have many years of good Felix left.
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A popular argument against his role with the 2016 Mariners is that he is a key piece of an aging core that Dipoto built a new team around. A core that has a very small window of opportunity to capitalize on their talents and create a winning ball club. The biggest fear that could come true is that Felix has truly CC Sabathia’d it, and his most productive years are in fact behind him. Some could say that his strikeout rate isn’t as high and he gave up more homeruns than usual last season. Even with these concerns, it’s comforting to know that a less than stellar Felix is still better than most.
If anything, Felix’s past can help us understand that one worry inducing season does not warrant panic. Because we are used to otherwordly Felix Hernandez, it’s harder to digest the drop off in some categories. The wear and tear might bring him down a couple notches, but you better believe he’ll give you every ounce of what that beautiful right arm can give.
Hernandez embodies everything that I love about the Seattle Mariners. He is our past and he is our future. He’s sustained an entire generation of Mariners fans who really haven’t had much else to believe in. Like I said before, I have a lot of reasons why the Seattle Mariners mean so much to me, and a lot of those reasons remain thriving because of players like Felix.
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Like Felix Hernandez does every April through September (hopefully October this year, fingers crossed), he’ll give the city of Seattle everything he’s got in order to win. If you don’t have a single other reason to put your faith in the 2016 Seattle Mariners, put your trust in the King, as he always does with us. Happy first day of Spring Training everyone. Lets give this season all we’ve got. Go Mariners.