Celebrating a King
An ode to the King of Seattle, Félix Hernández, as he makes his way to the Mariner Hall of Fame this weekend at T-Mobile Park.
If it weren’t for Félix Hernández you wouldn’t be reading this article.
It all started in 2008. Growing up in Boise, Idaho, there isn’t local access to much baseball. The only team you have access to? The Seattle Mariners.
At the time I was mostly around Braves and Yankees fans, so choosing to like a team that seemed to consistently win 65-75 games seemed ridiculous. I had every excuse to fall in line with the rest of my family and friends, but something was different.
However, in those early days, I wasn’t tuning in to watch the Mariners. I was tuning in once, sometimes twice a week. I wanted to watch the Venezuelan right-hander with a devastating changeup and an upper 90s fastball, cap twisted slightly to the side.
In those days you could have convinced me that Félix was the best pitcher of all time. It truly seemed like he threw eight innings of one run, or shutout baseball every time out. It also seemed like he would leave every single game trailing, behind a lackluster group of offensive performers.
The dominance and swagger on the mound were unmatched, and I wanted to soak up every bit. When I pitched I tried to imitate him the best I could, although my changeup was terrible.
Félix was everything to me. But more importantly, he was everything to those Mariners.
Hernández hurled 2,729.2 innings in his major league career, every one of them with the Mariners. His career ERA is tied for the club record and has a sizeable lead in all-time strikeouts. Among pitchers, Félix’s 49.9 bWAR stands atop the mountain by 10 plus WAR.
He is the most obvious candidate ever for the Mariners Hall of Fame, and this weekend it will finally happen. His name will be etched in the Hall of Fame in Seattle, but will he make it to Cooperstown?
I may be biased, but if you are a fan of heavily weighing a player’s peak years Hernández has a great case. His run between 2009 and 2014 is as dominant as it gets, posting 37.2 fWAR in those years alone.
We know the concern with his Hall of Fame case is going to be longevity. His career ended at 33 years old, playing his entire 15-year career in Seattle.
For playing his entire career in one place, Hernández and the Mariners didn’t quite part on good terms. Following the 2015 season his hiatus from being involved with Seattle was pronounced, and it wasn’t till 2022 that things appeared to be on the mend.
Sea Level is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Before the first home playoff game in 20 years, the center field gate swung wide open, and out came a familiar strut across the outfield grass. The 37 year old Hernández looked much thinner and apparently is very into working out in his post-playing career. The crowd welcomed him with an earth-shaking roar, and I expect it to be similar this weekend.
A Perfect Game, an immaculate inning, six all-star appearances, and a Cy Young Award (should have been two). Félix Hernández is a damn legend in Seattle.
He could have demanded a trade. He could have quit. He didn’t have to sign a seven-year deal. He wanted to win IN SEATTLE.
Despite his best efforts, the Mariners never made it to the playoffs during his reign as King of Seattle. What did transpire was a love between an athlete and a city that is as rare as it gets. Hell, he even had an entire cheering section, “The King’s Court.” Who the hell gets an entire section full of screaming fans at every 0-2 count, passing around giant turkey legs? Félix.
I will never forget the perfect game. It was the absolute perfect explanation for his career. Surrounded by a team full of names like Trayvon Robinson, John Jaso, and Brendan Ryan, the man on the mound made this all irrelevant. His dominance in that 1-0 win was so special, but it’s hard not to wonder what he would have been with a group like this one.
My love for Félix translated into a love of the Mariners, but without him, it would have never happened. This weekend is for him. Long live the King.