Mariners Opening Day Debate is Dumb and Unnecessary

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Felix Hernandez
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Felix Hernandez /

One of the biggest topics of conversation in Seattle yesterday was who should start Opening Day for the Mariners. The conversation was fairly well split between James Paxton and Felix Hernandez.

The debate filled the local radio scene, and while the debate was hot, the responses were not. The simple truth is, this entire “debate” is moronic and unnecessary. The only thing more annoying than the question itself, were some of the rationale used by both sides.

For example, 710 ESPN Seattle host Mike Salk would give the nod to Felix Hernandez. Ok, fine with me. However, the rationale was an absolute joke. Salk journeyed back to 2008, when the Mariners gave the Opening Day start to Erik Bedard.

Salk postulates that this wrecked Felix emotionally, stating his 9-11 record as evidence. Really, a pitchers win-loss record is your evidence? Seriously? What year is this?

Salk also believes that not giving the ball to Felix would be an insult to him, and you could “lose him” for the season. If giving the ball to Paxton over Hernandez is what does in “the King” the Mariners have bigger issues to worry about.

The argument for James Paxton is that “he has earned it”. This is where Salk and I agree. Opening Day is largely ceremonial, and the difference between starting Game 1 of the season and Game 2 is negligible over 162 games.

Let’s be very clear about this: James Paxton is easily the best pitcher in the Mariners organization. Don’t let anybody try to spin this fact by questioning Paxton’s durability (never mind that Paxton has thrown more innings than Felix the past 2 seasons).

You see, we have eyes, and watch the game. If the Opening Day starter was based solely on talent, Paxton gets the nod. However, this is baseball, a sport that hands out awards and accolades based largely on reputation and past success.

But let’s go back to the original point. Starting Opening Day versus game 2 will not make the slightest difference in the success of the 2018 Mariners. The real question in the Mariners rotation does not land on spots 1-3. The real debate comes in the back half of the rotation.

The Opening Day debate may drive excitement. It brings out the passion in people, and pits people into 2 camps. Give the nod to the franchise stalwart? Or give your best pitcher the “honor” of starting game 1 of 162.

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However, at the end of the day, the answer to this question is irrelevant. Personally, I would give the nod to Paxton. But will the season be sunk if they give the ball to Felix? No. There are numerous reasons to be worried about an implosion from the Mariners. The idea that the Opening Day starter will be the cause is as ludicrous as the question itself.