Felix Hernandez: Man Who Gets It

Jeff Sullivan · August 12, 2013 at 10:09 am · Filed Under Mariners 

On April 19, 2012, the Mariners played a game against the Indians I wish I didn’t remember, and that I hope I never forget. The Mariners were, I don’t know, whatever record they were, and it was too early to think they’d be any good and it was too early to think they would suck. It was, in other words, a typical Mariners April, and in this game they turned to Felix Hernandez on the mound. In classic Mariners form, Felix’s teammates didn’t provide him with much in the way of support, but they did give him a run. In classic Felix form, the King let it hold up. Over eight shutout innings, Felix whiffed a dozen batters, and pitching with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, Felix escaped by striking out consecutive Indians on eight pitches. First, he made Jason Kipnis go away. Then he made Shin-Soo Choo go away, just like Bill Bavasi did. Felix was approaching 130 pitches, so in the ninth he’d turn the ball over to the bullpen, but he left the mound in the eighth with a roar. Choo’s swing and miss wrapped up one of the most utterly dominant outings of Felix’s big-league career. It was, somehow, an outing that stood out from most of the others.

Then in the top of the ninth, that stupid son of a bitch Brandon League coughed it up. Two walks and a single loaded the bases, and another single un-loaded them, and the Mariners lost 2-1. In the bigger picture, League’s meltdown was independent of Felix’s dominance, but that night, because of League, we couldn’t feel the same about Felix. We didn’t get that last taste of sweet closure, and to this day I can’t think of the first eight innings without thinking of the ninth. On too many occasions, Felix has been let down by his offense. On too many other occasions, Felix has been let down by his bullpen. Too much of Felix’s ability has been wasted, and Felix is a guy who really likes to win. Everybody likes to win, but Felix can usually do more on his own to that end.

Now keep all of that in mind as you read this. You might’ve missed it, but yesterday, Felix was amazing! Against a lineup that isn’t good, but against a lineup that’d scored 20 runs in two games. The Mariners’ offense, meanwhile, was not amazing, but it did provide Felix with two runs to protect, which he did. The top of the eighth ended with Felix striking out Martin Maldonado, and the score then was 2-0 Mariners with Felix at 108 pitches. His last pitch had been a fastball at 94.

For Robby Thompson, there’d be options. He could stick with Felix, or he could give the ball to new closer Danny Farquhar. As all managers would, Thompson asked Felix how he felt. Ryan Divish notes the response.

[Felix] admitted to Thompson in between innings that he was done for day.

“He was pretty much at the end of his rope,” Thompson said. “He’d basically had enough. He was honest with me.”

Normally Hernandez puts up a contentious fight about coming out of games. This time he didn’t. Of course, he could have and would have pitched if they needed him to.

“I was a little tired,” Hernandez said. “They asked me if I wanted to go back in. I said I’m alright, but I’ve had enough. I was just being honest. I want to go out there, but if I’m tired, I don’t want to blow the game.”

For Felix, this would’ve been a perfectly understandable thought process:

  • I’m tired
  • but if I come out someone else comes in
  • the score is close because this offense is the Mariners’ offense
  • whoever comes in could blow it
  • lots of leads have been blown and the closer has an ERA near 5
  • if they blow it I don’t win and the team doesn’t win
  • I should probably do this by myself
  • “I’m good to go”

But this seems to have been the actual thought process:

  • I’m tired
  • fatigue leads to reduced effectiveness
  • probably better, then, to use a fresh reliever
  • another guy could provide a better chance to win than I could
  • “I’m tired”

A little while ago, I wrote about a Kyle Seager bunt against the shift, and I noted how weird it is that we think of obvious baseball as smart baseball. Felix, on Sunday, made what’s probably a pretty obvious decision, and I’m praising him for being smart. But there’s smart smart and baseball smart, and baseball is a game of egos and over-confidence. Smartness is relative, and many pitchers probably would’ve preferred to stay in the game. Rarely do you observe this blend of competitiveness and honesty, and Felix should be celebrated for being different from the others. He should be celebrated for being different from how he used to be. Based on his own testosterone and memory, Felix had every reason to deny his own fatigue, but in that moment he understood what would be best for all parties involved. He understood his own level, he understood the level of the fresh bullpen, and he forgave prior letdowns. In that moment, there was no hubris, there were no grudges.

Say what you will about Erik Bedard, but at least he doesn’t try to over-push it. Bedard knows that pitching tired means under-performance and increased injury risk. Felix gets that. Felix didn’t used to get that, but Felix gets that now, and it’s maybe more important than ever with Felix occupying a leadership role in the clubhouse. Younger pitchers are going to be learning from the Felix example, and the reason things are the way they are is because that’s how it’s always been. Pitchers have forever been too stubborn, and following the Felix example, Mariners pitchers might not be afraid to be honest. Felix isn’t, despite all the times he’s been burned.

Felix has the talent. Felix has the loyalty. Felix has the emotional maturity and brains. Felix has it all. Felix Hernandez has everything, and we have Felix Hernandez.


39 Responses to “Felix Hernandez: Man Who Gets It”

  1. Westside guy on August 12th, 2013 10:15 am

    Felix is ours and you can’t have him!!!

  2. The_Waco_Kid on August 12th, 2013 10:19 am

    Agree completely

  3. vztaxes on August 12th, 2013 10:26 am

    Hopefully Iwakuma observed and learned.

  4. phineasphreak on August 12th, 2013 11:05 am

    Last night had all the ingredients for a classic Felix dominance and the bullpen blowing it. I’m glad Farquhar was able to seal the deal.

    And, yes, Brandon “minor” League is a stupid son of a bitch.

  5. Eastside Suds on August 12th, 2013 11:23 am

    Even though Felix made the right choice for him, I know I’m not the only one who has to hold my breath for an extended period when he leaves a close game. We have seen way too many heartbreaks.

    The guy is the cornerstone of this organization. Ownership owes it to Felix and his uncommon loyalty to this organization, if not the millions of fans, to put forth every effort to build a winner. We have a new TV and radio contract and deep pockets. I’ve posted a few times that we are not a SMALL market team. Let’s quit acting like it, hire solid and experienced management and get this done!

  6. djw on August 12th, 2013 11:32 am

    Yes, indeed this is good news and it makes me a little bit more optimistic regarding the ROI on that extension. There are few things more annoying in all of baseball commentary than the pathetic masculinity-baiting regarding starting pitchers’ depth into games.

  7. Jay Yencich on August 12th, 2013 11:40 am

    While this is compelling and all as an argument, I can’t help but associate it with the outing he had in Minnesota on July 26th this year, where he did have the option to go for the complete game, did so, and ended up coughing up the lead. Granted, he got through the ninth having thrown only 103 pitches, but having such an event so recent in his mind might have contributed to his thought process yesterday.

  8. akros24 on August 12th, 2013 12:04 pm

    With all the bad luck and poor decision making associated with the M’s over the past decade, Felix’s talent, humility and loyalty to the organization has been unbelievable. Really a class act and an amazing talent to witness.

    That being said, the Shin-Soo Choo/Bavasi line made me laugh…

  9. sbeaconhill57 on August 12th, 2013 12:07 pm

    I agree with Jay. The July 26th loss after trying to close it out himself is pretty fresh in his mind. So this is a new maturity, to judge his own limitations. Also I think it reflects a confidence in Farquhar. I’m not arguing with Jeff, though.

  10. dnc on August 12th, 2013 12:25 pm

    “I’ve posted a few times that we are not a SMALL market team. Let’s quit acting like it…”

    I’m not a big fan of the Mariners higher ups, but I’ve never thought the M’s acted like they were small market. Up until the last few years payroll has always been very competitive, and even recently they’ve TRIED to make bigger moves, they just haven’t had any success.

    The M’s problem has been poorly allocating their resources, not acting as though they were resource poor.

  11. Eastside Suds on August 12th, 2013 12:43 pm

    Agreed dnc. I was actually referring to the seeming contentment of this organization to be around .500 and filling “enough” seats to not lose money. This will be the sixth consecutive year that the M’s have BELOW average MLB home attendance. A majority owner who, reportedly has never been to a game. A front office who have (again…reportedly) settled for lesser applicants for team leadership (ie, Bob Melvin, Jim McLaren, Don Wakamatsu, Bavasi, Wedge, etc). And the inability to raise our stock in the eyes of top free agents. Thank goodness Hamilton didn’t want us, but you get my point.
    Things have to change. The organization’s attitude has to change. Mediocrity is not acceptable and boy, we aren’t even at mediocrity yet.

  12. scraps on August 12th, 2013 12:46 pm

    First, your post is exactly right.

    Second, thank you for bringing up Erik Bedard, so I don’t have to. The media — sportswriters — write us a story, mostly cliches, and we — mostly — buy it. The story has Good Guys and Bad Guys. Can you imagine Erik Bedard, designated Bad Guy for sportswriters everywhere, getting away with “too tired”? He’d be crucified.

  13. Eastside Suds on August 12th, 2013 12:49 pm

    By the way. Only seven of the 30 teams have a lower cost/per win than the Mariners and all of them are considered by MLB as “small market teams”.

  14. davepaisley on August 12th, 2013 12:57 pm

    Top of fifth…
    Erik Bedard: I’m tired. But if I leave, someone else comes in and might blow the game. In all probability, they will blow the game. Meh, whatever.

    “I’m tired”

  15. dnc on August 12th, 2013 1:13 pm

    “Agreed dnc. I was actually referring to the seeming contentment of this organization to be around .500 and filling “enough” seats to not lose money. This will be the sixth consecutive year that the M’s have BELOW average MLB home attendance. A majority owner who, reportedly has never been to a game. A front office who have (again…reportedly) settled for lesser applicants for team leadership (ie, Bob Melvin, Jim McLaren, Don Wakamatsu, Bavasi, Wedge, etc). And the inability to raise our stock in the eyes of top free agents. Thank goodness Hamilton didn’t want us, but you get my point.
    Things have to change. The organization’s attitude has to change. Mediocrity is not acceptable and boy, we aren’t even at mediocrity yet.”

    I don’t disagree with most of this (though the principal owner not attending games doesn’t bother me).

    I don’t see any of this as “small market” though.

  16. BillyJive on August 12th, 2013 2:18 pm

    ‘Felix has it all. Felix Hernandez has everything’
    Well everything except run support, any kind of championship or World Series, or a decent team behind him.
    Hopefully we fix all those things. And soon.

  17. Bremerton guy on August 12th, 2013 3:02 pm

    Eastside Suds,

    With all respect — the hirings of Bob Melvin and Don Wakematsu were widely supported by the sabermetricians and regular fans as smart hires. Bavasi, while he turned out to be a disaster, was seen as an architect of an Angels team that was just becoming dominant. Who was a better applicant than Wedge? Of all of those you mention, only McLaren could be seen as a “lesser” applicant, and he was given the job in large part as a reward for his loyalty and because he was the then-current incumbent, having inherited the team when Hargrove walked away. And when Jack Z was hired, many rejoiced at how smart the ownership was being, including many here (including the site figureheads).
    I think it’s unfair to paint the M’s ownership as happy with mediocrity in its front office personnel. In many respects, this team simply seems cursed, despite what seem to be smart front office decisions at the time, present season’s team makeup excepted.

  18. jak924 on August 12th, 2013 3:06 pm

    Felix was the only person who prevented a sweep. The rest of the roster is strictly AAA.

  19. Paul B on August 12th, 2013 3:37 pm

    The rest of the roster is not AAA. That is just a silly thing to say.

  20. senecastreet on August 12th, 2013 3:51 pm

    Seriously, jak924.
    – Seager is top 30 in MLB in WAR among position players
    – Morales is an above average hitter with value
    – Iwakuma is top 5 in bWAR
    – Farquhar looks like he’s a good pitcher and Perez, Furbush and Medina are good
    – Smoak has a top 20 wRC+ over the past calendar year
    – The book is still out on Franklin and Miller, but they have been worth 1.2 combined WAR in 99 games as rookies

    The team has a lot of good pieces — they also just have a lot of bad pieces.

  21. GLS on August 12th, 2013 4:00 pm

    Felix is awesome, so obviously we should trade him. 🙂

  22. smb on August 12th, 2013 4:06 pm

    This just makes me want to say, “hooray!”

  23. pgreyy on August 12th, 2013 4:08 pm

    I think it’s time:

    U.S.S. Mariner
    Seattle Mariners blog for analysis, commentary, and Felix appreciation.

  24. PackBob on August 12th, 2013 4:45 pm

    There’s a gray area between playing with full intensity and smart or with full intensity and recklessly, with recklessly compounded by youthful immortality and usually indicated by injury. I would guess that peer pressure in the small and highly talented world of ML baseball is intense in itself, and it’s worth the risk of injury to remove all doubt of giving everything to make the play.

    Om a different level, as a player on a team Felix has to support his teammates. If he goes in with the attitude that he has to try and finish no matter how tired he is, that would send a poor message to the relievers, no matter if they deserved it or not.

  25. MrZDevotee on August 12th, 2013 5:02 pm

    “I think it’s unfair to paint the M’s ownership as happy with mediocrity in its front office personnel.”

    Was a bit surprising on Saturday when Junior focused part of his M’s Hall-of-Fame speech on the naivette of people who express opinions that Howard and Chuck don’t care about winning. Evidently he follows some of the columns/blogs? Closest he got to his sometimes cranky side– saying something to the effect of “I know these guys personally and there’s nothing they want more than to bring this city a championship.”

    He defended the young players too, and reminded them/us of the days when he, Edgar, Jay, Randy and Dan were all under 25 years old, and wide eyed newcomers to the league.

    He talked about how the players hear the frustration of the fans, are aware of it, and SHARE that frustration when they lose.

    Small, but interesting moment, of his speech.

  26. Breadbaker on August 12th, 2013 5:20 pm

    I noted that point in Griffey’s speech, too (I was there, live, of course). And I agree with him: Howard and Chuck want to bring a championship to Seattle. Of course they want to. But given that they want to, that they have had no meaningful limitations on the resources available to them to do so, and that they most assuredly have failed to bring a championship here, the question is: why are they still in their jobs? Because their way is not a successful way to build a ballclub. You don’t have to go into specifics about it, but the fact is simply, they are impatient when patience is required, patient when impatiences is required; penurious when spendthiftiness is required and spendthrifty when penury is required. They don’t have a basic talent judgment in their hires and they don’t know when to cut their losses.

    When Piniella and then Gillick left, this franchise had some incredible assets that have been allowed to go to waste ever since. “Wanting” to bring us a championship doesn’t cut it.

  27. MrZDevotee on August 12th, 2013 5:26 pm

    I’m with you. I immediately thought afterwards “desire” and “ability” are two completely different things– or else most of us here would probably be/have been Major Leaguers ourselves…

    Success occurs (at any endeavor) when your abilities are compatible with your goals, or at least come very close.

  28. Eastside Suds on August 12th, 2013 5:59 pm

    Breadbaker….exactly what I was trying to convey. In my opinion, and I understand it is not shared by others, the last BASEBALL guys that knew how to do it were Gillick and Pineilla. That was a long time ago. Seems forever ago to a hardened fan of the M’s.
    Not that they were perfect, but since Gillick, we have not been competitive or noteworthy except 07′ and 09′. In fact, exactly two winning seasons since he left ten seasons ago!
    To blame it on bad luck/breaks is insulting. Time for a regime change and New ownership would be a great way to start.

  29. Bremerton guy on August 12th, 2013 6:12 pm

    So Eastside,

    You want a new regime. Great. So Jack Z is gone? Who takes his place? And who was a better applicant at the time than Wedge? And who should the new manager be?

  30. Eastside Suds on August 12th, 2013 7:41 pm

    First off, I was a HUGE Z fan when he was hired based upon what the experts were saying at the time. His 2009 season was a success (85 wins) with a load of positive vibes.

    Since then…..

    Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman, Erik Bedard, Miguel Olivo, Eric Thames, Adam Kennedy, Kevin Millwood, Brandon League, Russell Branyan, Jack Cust, Trayvon Robinson, Endy Chavez, Adam Kennedy, Eric Thames, Jason Bay, Brendan Ryan and other acquisitions have been frustrating to say the least.

    Yes, since the 2009 breakout season, we have Iwakuma, Morales, Furbush, Smoak, and the senior citizens to show for ALL his moves.

    I am reading that you think the status quo as far as our front office management/ownership is adequate when judged by talent acquired and 8 losing seasons in the past 10? If so, then let’s just keep on with what we are doing. Seems to be working.

    I have been vocal here on USS Mariner about Jack being a good drafter of talent and has done a good job rebuilding our farm system. However, his player acquisitions through trade or FA have been dismal by almost everyone’s measuring stick.

    As for who I would personally go after as far as a GM, that would feel inappropriate to me to post unless Jack is gone. I know that sounds like a cop out, but this forum obviously doesn’t allow me to show you a list in private. I have a list of 5-6 guys who are highly regarded with experience/success in other organizations and I would be happy to throw out some very viable candidates should that occur in November. Some of them will be hired this winter. If Jack is retained, so be it. I know I’m not alone on this

  31. Bremerton guy on August 12th, 2013 8:04 pm

    I’m not defending Jack Z, I’m responding to your initial post when you said that the front office always takes the lesser applicants for GM and manager. I don’t think that’s right. They have chosen good candidates for the right reasons, and most of those choices have turned out bad. It’s not because they’re satisfied with mediocrity, and I don’t think that each one of their decisions can be viewed in the rearview mirror and characterized as poor at the time it was made. I think a lot of it CAN be attributed to tremendously poor luck. Of course, even though his hire can now be defended as having been a decent, if not good, decision at the time, Bill Bavasi had a lot to do with the current state of the franchise. However, and I agree with you on this, Jack Z has made a host of questionable moves and should be accountable for those. At this point I’m on the fence about whether he should be extended or cut loose at the end of the year. And as for Wedge, there’s always a lot of grumbling on this site about his game decision-making, as well as what role he might have in team composition, but those kinds of grumblings will occur with any manager. At the time, I think Wedge’s hiring was very defensible. Again, at this point I don’t know whether he should be replaced, or if he is replaced, whom he should be replaced by.

  32. Eastside Suds on August 12th, 2013 9:17 pm

    Bremerton….I had to look back at my post…”A front office who have (again…reportedly) settled for lesser applicants for team leadership (ie, Bob Melvin, Jim McLaren, Don Wakamatsu, Bavasi, Wedge, etc).

    As you can see, I don’t have Jack in that list. I do feel that way about our recent managers. Wak may have been a Saber-student, but he wasn’t able to manage a clubhouse, for which metrics can’t really measure. Wedge makes mistake after mistake. There were other options for manager during the past 10 years for sure.

    Like I said (typed??), I was totally on board when they hired Z back in 2008. After the FA’s he brought in that winter, I thought we were good to go. I just don’t see anything resembling a forward moving, move us to the next level direction for this franchise.

    Again, I think we all have to be evaluated upon our success and we haven’t had any, IMO to speak of since 2009. No question he gets kudos for the re-stocking of our farm system which was decimated by Bavasi. But, there is more to this job than drafting talent.

    I really feel to get to the level of competitiveness that we all deserve, our ownership will need to look at where we have been and where we are headed.

  33. Willie G on August 13th, 2013 8:19 am

    Funny, almost exactly one year later on April 17th, 2013, Felix gave up a run and 5 hits, and struck out 12 over 8 innings against the big bad Tigers (and of course didn’t get a win). History repeating.

  34. jak924 on August 13th, 2013 8:42 am

    Tough road trip coming up. Maybe two wins.

  35. Westside guy on August 13th, 2013 9:33 am

    Remember how, just a few weeks ago, the Mariners were beating up on bad teams and people interpreted that to mean the Mariners were a playoff-bound unstoppable juggernaut?

  36. Eastside Suds on August 13th, 2013 10:01 am

    My dad and I had an argument over that very thing Westy. He is forever the optimist. I usually am as well until it comes to our AAAA club. They can’t beat “good” teams with any regularity….yet.

  37. SeattleSlew on August 13th, 2013 10:43 am

    People are just silly like that. I remember people praising Z because Franklin and Miller were hitting and they thought we were going to the playoffs.

  38. Westside guy on August 13th, 2013 11:45 am

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m still high on the long-term potential of the young guys. But they’re going to have to go through growing pains – the league has now adjusted to them, and they’ve got to learn to adapt (Franklin especially).

    I’m still not convinced, long term, that Ackley won’t turn out to be our best bet for second base – but I do feel like Franklin will probably be all right, and Miller too (I think Miller’s a safer bet). Now if Smoak and Saunders can hold onto their gains, and Zunino turns into the catcher he looks like he’ll turn into… then a bunch of the holes are filled.

    (Note that I don’t mention Seager, even though he’s young, since most of us are confident he’s already a lock)

  39. gnaztee on August 14th, 2013 2:55 pm

    Let’s not overstate what Felix did here. He was tired, he came out. This kind of thing happens every day at every level. He’s not special because he made that decision, though he is certainly special for other reasons.

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