Game 124, Indians at FELIX
Happy Felix Day. Perhaps the Happiest Felix Day. Last Wednesday, we didn’t know how awesome the game was going to be. Today, we’re pretty sure that it’s going to be awesome.
No, not because we know Felix is going to pitch really well again. I actually did a piece for the Wall Street Journal today that demonstrates that it would be historically unique if he does pitch well. Pitchers coming off perfect games have been largely terrible, and that held true this year for both Philip Humber and Matt Cain as well. Whether it’s just small sample size or some real effects from the distractions that come from throwing a perfect game, the reality is that no pitcher has ever followed up his perfect game by even throwing a shutout. Only Tom Browning allowed one run. So, yeah, Felix might not be great tonight. That is an unfortunate but distinct possibility.
I’m not sure it’s going to matter much, though. Tonight is less about the game than it is about giving Seattle something it hasn’t had in a long time – a reason to be excited to go to Safeco Field. Tonight’s event is the opportunity to give Felix Hernandez the ovation of his life when he comes onto the field, and a chance to create a special memory with a guy who will probably go down as the best pitcher in franchise history. Tonight is about showing Felix what Seattle can be when the Mariners give the city a reason to respond, and to show him that this is a relationship that should continue for years to come.
You’ve probably heard by now that Felix “promised” Mitch Levy that he wasn’t going anywhere this morning, in response to a question about his next contract. I doubt that his agents will consider that a binding agreement to end his career with the Mariners, but Felix has made it very clear that he loves Seattle. Seattle has not always loved him back. Sure, we’ve liked having him, but he pitched in front of 18,672 people against Texas on a Monday night in May, in front of 13,084 people against San Diego on a Tuesday in June, in front of 20,692 people against Boston on a Thursday in June, and in front of 21,889 against Tampa Bay last Thursday.
Since Felix has been a Mariner, they’ve almost exclusively been bad, and the park has been getting emptier and emptier. Most of the memories Felix has had of pitching huge games in front of packed crowds have come on the road, when he travels to New York or Boston or Texas and shoves the ball down their throats. Giving him that kind of atmosphere in a home game is the right way for the fan base to say thank you, and that’s what the Mariners are doing tonight.
As of this afternoon, reports had the M’s selling 35,000+ tickets for tonight’s game, and there’s probably going to be a decent walk-up crowd. You’re looking at potentially having 40,000 people in Safeco Field on a Tuesday night to watch the Indians. This is not going to be your normal Safeco Field crowd. There’s going to be yelling. There’s going to be cheering. There’s going to be a lot of “K, K, K, K” chants.
It’s going to be awesome. And it’s the kind of night that can convince everyone that this is a good thing that should continue. This is the kind of night that could re-energize portions of the fan base that have been more or less ignoring the team for the last five years. This is the kind of night that could remind people that coming to Safeco Field can be a great sporting experience.
Felix doesn’t have to throw a perfect game tonight. The Mariners don’t have to win. Tonight is about appreciating Felix, and showing him what Seattle can be again. Tonight is about convincing Felix to sit down with the Mariners and say “hey, sign me”, just like Jered Weaver did with the Angels. He already loves the city, but he could use a reason to love the atmosphere at Safeco.
Felix loves big crowds. For the first time in a long time, the Mariners are going to give him a loud, enthusiastic crowd. If he destroys the Indians and throws another gem, it will go down as one of the best moments in Mariner history. If he doesn’t, it will still go down as one of the best moments in memory, because it will be a celebration of the fan base’s appreciation for an all-time great.
If you’re in Seattle tonight and you don’t already have tickets, you should really go to Safeco tonight. This is one of those days when I’m really annoyed that I live 3,000 miles away. I briefly thought about flying across the country just to be there. Safeco hasn’t been raucous in a long time. Safeco is a lot of fun when it’s raucous.
Felix has given the city a reason to make Safeco a fun place to go again. Put 40,000 screaming people in the seats tonight, and remind everyone about what Seattle can be. Remind ownership what the place could feel like. Remind everyone that this place can support their baseball team. And show Felix just why he should spend the rest of his career in a Mariners uniform.
I talk about baseball in a very numerical way, but baseball is best when it’s emotional. Tonight is going to be emotional. Tonight is going to be what baseball in Seattle should be.