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Felix Hernandez: The Mariners' blushing new bride

The pitcher's staggering new contract means the perennial favorite will be sticking around Seattle.
King Felix Hernandez pitching at Safeco Field

King Felix Hernandez pitching at Safeco Field Mike Tigas

Felix Hernandez brought his Cy Young award to a Mariners' media session.

Felix Hernandez brought his Cy Young award to a Mariners' media session. Seattle Mariners

It felt like the right boy and right girl announced their engagement to the joy, relief and surprise of their many fans. Fans who so wished it would happen and so knew it wouldn't.

Today, Felix Hernandez was the blushing bride, creating a high tide of tears that dampened the pant cuffs of everyone at the Wednesday press conference announcing his new deal with the Mariners. Hell, shirt cuffs were wet.

Hernandez gets a $6 million signing bonus, then his salaries will be $19M in 2013, then $22M, $24M, $25M, $26M, $26M and $27M. Since none of us is likely to receive $175 million for our services  certainly, no baseball pitcher in major league history had  Hernandez was free to set the standard for grateful appreciation. He may have retired the trophy.

"You see, I am shaking," said Hernandez, who paused for 20 seconds, searching for a grip. "To all the people of Seattle who trust me and believe in me — I will not let you down.”

"I do this because I love this city and want to be here. I don’t want to go nowhere else. It was a decision I’ve made for a long time."

No cynicism, sabermetrics or common baseball sense could stand against Hernandez's simple sincerity. Dude wanted to play baseball in Seattle for the rest of his career. The only ones who wanted it more were the Mariners’ owners and staff, sick to death of a decade of emotional bludgeoning.

The club doesn't care how it looks to the baseball world or the real world. It cares that Felix cares and that many fans care. This deal wasn't about getting better as a team; the man was already under contract for two more years. This was about try to get well by stopping the bleeding from self-inflicted wounds.

The man most vilified for the condition of the Mariners, CEO Howard Lincoln, made a rare public appearance to say, essentially, he was thrilled to have his operation wanted.

"I think it's important more than anything that he wanted to be here," Lincoln said. "He was expressing this over and over and over. That's pretty unusual. How many players tell you to your face, 'I'd really like to stay here'? That makes you feel pretty good."

The feel-goods Thursday started with Hernandez's emergence from the elevator on Safeco Field's ground floor. He was greeted by chants and cheers from dozens of Mariners employees dressed in the yellow T-shirts from the "King's Court" marketing masterstroke. He teared up immediately, saying later the moment “will always be there in my mind my whole life.”

He continued to the press conference, where his voice wavered from the start. GM Jack Zduriencik provided the grand intro: "You run into people in your life who are special people. I haven't met a guy with this man's character. His loyalty and dedication to his teammates and city is unbelievable. He's a great man."

Hernandez begins his ninth major league season this month as a hugely accomplished pro, yet he has zero inclination to try someplace new; a contention regularly disbelieved by many locals, who have grown used to being backhanded by dozens of eagerly former Mariners.

"I don’t want to go to a place I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel comfortable," he said. "I want to be in a place I feel great, I feel comfortable. I feel good around the people and Safeco Field, around the city of Seattle. That’s why I do this.”

He even kidded Zduriencik that he wanted the GM to start work on a contract extension. Imagine what he might have said if the Mariners had kept Safeco Field's fences where they were.

As to the contract, Zduriencik reported that the $175 million amount was correct, the deal was fully guaranteed and included a no-trade clause, a club first. He also reported that the medical and training staffs signed off on Hernandez's health-worthiness. But there was indeed concern about his pitching elbow, enough to prompt inclusion of an unusual clause in the contract.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Feb 14, 11:17 a.m. Inappropriate

If Felix is so in love with Seattle, why didn't he give the M's a "hometown discount" instead of agreeing to the biggest salary ever given to a MLB pitcher?

This is a really stupid mistake by the M's. They don't have to payroll to put a competitive team around Felix. Even the Yankees, with a payroll about double that of the M's, regret some of the huge contracts they have on their roster.

And the no-trade clause just stupid beyond belief. The M's front office is just incompetent in the extreme.

Wait til Felix has some Barry Zito years: 2007 11-13, 4.53 ERA; 2008 10-17, 5.15; 2009 10-13, 4.03; 2010 9-14, 4.15; 2011 3-4, 5.87.

Just as Ichiro's huge contract was an anchor around the M's neck, so will Felix's even more enormous contract be an obstacle that makes it harder for the the M's to build a contending team. Even at his best, Felix has not been able to make the M's contenders. What will happen to the M's fortunes if he gets hurt, or just has some poor seasons, while making $25 million per year?

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Feb 14, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

The Mariners can surely milk this. Maybe they should have a Felix Bobblehead Night for every home game he pitches over the next seven years, with a free trip to Cooperstown for every fan who can claim perfect attendance and can show all 140 Felix bobbleheads to prove it.

woofer

Posted Sat, Feb 16, 5:59 p.m. Inappropriate

The "no trade" clause means the Mariners can't trade Felix unless he agrees, yes? if he is not doing well but the Yankees want him anyway (Ichiro was not doing so great when Gotham called) then he will take the trade.
I have a feeling that Mariners players may be generally willing to leave Seattle and that the "no trade" clause
will be invoked rarely.

kieth

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