Towards the end of the 2005 season, the Seattle Mariners had very little to be hopeful about. Despite much success around the turn of the century, it was clear that their run was ending. Names like Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Kaz Sasaki, and Brett Boone were no longer on the club.
Enter the King.
With a couple months left to go in the season, the Mariners debuted a 19-year-old kid with unbelievable potential. His name was Felix Hernandez. With a fastball that reached the high 90’s, a back breaking curve comparable to Dwight Gooden, and an enormous passion on the mound, it was clear to see what the M’s saw in him. The nickname ‘King’ was given to Felix as he was coming up through his very brief stint in the minors. Whoever coined that name for him clearly knew what they were talking about. Coming into the league at 19, it was clear that he was not a finished product. Hernandez definitely needed a couple full seasons to find himself, but by 2008, he grabbed the reigns and never looked back.
Currently, Felix has an overwhelmingly large amount of respect around the league. Hernandez is considered one of the best pitchers in baseball, so it is clear to see why so many teams are envious of the King. Hernandez’s name has been brought up in trade rumors on numerous occasions. These rumors are mostly perpetuated by the national media, who love to give their 2 cents about why he should be traded, despite the fact that they couldn’t name 5 players on the Seattle Mariners. People see the Mariners offensive numbers over the last few years and simply think “Oh, the Mariners are bad, they should trade Felix” It is not that simple.
Trading King Felix would literally be the most counterproductive move that the Mariners could make.
Yes, the M’s have been absolutely abysmal on offense the last three years; we’re talking record books bad. What is a silver lining to these awful finishes? High draft picks. Over the last few years, the Mariners have stockpiled copious amounts of talent in the minor leagues. Talent that, while still young, is starting to show on the field. With so many great players bursting at the seams of their minor league system, what would trading Felix accomplish? It would set back the M’s growth even further. The Mariners don’t need young talent; they simply need their young talent to develop. I cannot think of a more ridiculous move, than trading Felix. That would send a direct white flag to the team, the fans, and the rest of the league. Trading Felix may have made more sense three years ago, when the Mariners we’re completely starting from scratch. The only plausible scenario to trade the King would be if this upcoming season takes a nose dive and if the Mariners could commit highway robbery for established major league players. Jack Z has been shouting from the mountain tops that Hernandez will not be traded. Jack understands how close the Mariners are and he is also very aware of the mutual love between the King and the great city of Seattle.
This last season, my friends and I had the privilege of attending the Supreme Court game at Safeco Field last year. For those unaware, the Supreme Court game was Hernandez’s first start since he threw his perfect game on that hot August day at Safeco. Now normally for all of his starts, there is a group of a couple thousand fans called ‘Kings Court’ that sit on the left field line every time he starts. Everyone in that section is given a golden shirt and essentially acts like a student section during the game. Now picture 40,000+ fans, all with gold shirts and a ‘K’ card, yelling “K! K! K! K!” every time the King had a two strike count. I have been to many games at Safeco over the years, but this was on another level. The atmosphere in that ballpark was nothing short of euphoric. Don’t take my word for it, hear it from Hernandez himself: "That's the best game I ever pitched in Safeco Field. In front of these guys, the crowd, it's unbelievable. They yelled, 'Felix, Felix.' I mean, that's something special." It was easily the closest feeling to a playoff atmosphere in almost 10 years. That game took place on a Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians, two teams that were not exactly in the race, but you couldn’t tell from being there. This shows that Felix Hernandez is not only the face of the Mariners, but along with a rising Russell Wilson, he is the face of sports in the Emerald city. It is clear to see that he is unconditionally loved by his fans, which is another reason not to trade him. The Mariners attendance has been dipping badly over the last few years; if the King were to be traded it would only worsen that by a large margin.
Hernandez has spent the majority of his offseason in Seattle. He is often quoted as saying how much he likes the city and the environment. In fact, last year in an interview in Spring Training with MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds, he took offense to the notion that people think he should be traded. Recently there have been rumors of the Mariners working on an extension for him. If the Mariners can lock him up, it would be the icing on the cake for this team to make a run in the future. The Mariners’ plethora of young talent, (especially their pitchers) needs a veteran to look up to. Someone who knows what it’s like to be in the big leagues at a young age. Who better to fill this role than the King? Up and coming starters such as, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker need a mentor like Hernandez.
So don’t let the national media fool you, Jack Z knows exactly what he is doing. From the looks of it, Hernandez not going anywhere, which should make Mariners fans rejoice.
The King has unfinished business in Seattle.
Peter Reed is on Twitter. Follow him at @piratepeter11