Mariners Name Felix Hernandez Opening Day Starter

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez /

The suspense of the fictional Opening Day starter competition is over, and surprise, surprise, it will be Felix Hernandez. Why was this such a hot button issue with Mariners fans? Lets discuss.

It’s not hard to figure out why the “pro-Paxton” Mariners fans are annoyed. The main argument in favor of starting Felix is mostly about nostalgia. There are no statistical based reasons to give the ball to Hernandez for Game 1.

Paxton is undoubtedly the better pitcher, and has been the more reliable pitcher than Felix the past 2 seasons. Think about that, Felix Hernandez wasn’t healthier than JAMES PAXTON the past 2 seasons.

Aside from the obvious statistical argument, the Paxton group will argue that Felix has not earned this “honor” and this decision is emblematic of the Mariners recent failures. What does this mean? Simply put, the Mariners are choosing branding over baseball.

Felix Hernandez is either the best or second best pitcher in franchise history. He is “the King”. He is a future Hall of Famer who chose to stay in Seattle twice. Felix is, in short, a Mariners legend. And as we have recently witnessed with the signing of Ichiro, the Mariners are very much interested in “fan service”.

To put it another way, the Mariners are making PR fueled decisions over baseball decisions. It is difficult to argue this point. The Mariners have spent all off-season insisting they are in it to end the playoff drought in 2018. Yet their actions point in the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, the “pro-Felix” crowd will likely tell you the opposite. That his track record over the course of his 12 seasons makes him more than qualified for the start.

In fact, they will say, it doesn’t make any difference who gets the first start, so give it to Felix. While not the best argument, there is a kernel of truth behind it. Does starting Game 1 vs Game 2 really make that big of a difference?

However, the counter-punch to that argument would be, ” if it doesn’t matter, why not start Paxton”?

By far, the best arguments I have heard in favor of Felix over Paxton are as follows:

First, if you don’t give the ball to Felix, could you lose him mentally for the rest of the season? With so much to lose and so little to gain, why not just give him the ball?

Second, with Felix on a limited pitch count on start 1, the bullpen could have a heavy work load that day. With the off-day on Friday, why not give your entire bullpen a day after game 1, rather than burning them in game 2?

Finally, it does, for at least the first few weeks, break up the lefties. By giving Hernandez the ball, the Mariner rotation goes Hernandez, Paxton, Leake, and Gonzales, or by handedness: right, left, right, left.

Next: Mariners Opening Day Debate is Dumb and Unnecessary

At the end of the day, it has been my continual stance that this debate was and is non-sense. I would have given the ball to Paxton. But, in the grand scheme of things, does this make a huge difference in the 2018 season? No. Start Felix. Or start Paxton. Even Mike Leake. It simply does not matter.