Few choose to stay
Imagine if you could take 20 years of time and spit out a baseball team with all the different star players that the Seattle Mariners drafted and let get away during those two decades.
Imagine David Ortiz in the lineup everyday for Seattle, Randy Johnson as your ace, Jason Varitek catching, Alex Rodriguez at short, and Adam Jones in center after Ken Griffey Jr graciously moved to left to finish out his career?
In the not so distant past identifying, drafting and/or acquiring young, talented players has not been the Seattle Mariners problem.
It’s been keeping them around that is the problem.
Edgar Martinez is the anti-Seattle Mariner if you go by the Mariner track record of player retention.
Here’s a guy that came up with Seattle, spent YEARS in the minors with Seattle, finally fought his way to the show with Seattle, played his heart and guts out for Seattle until he was a walking medical chart and now has a street named after him in Seattle.
It’s too bad that the only other street in Seattle associated with the Mariners has to do with their hall of fame broadcaster, Dave Niehaus. And that folks, is a tragedy.
This is what the boogered up system that Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association has cooked up for us in Seattle. Free agency, lack of salary caps and minimums and competitive imbalance all create the perfect storm that sends players in search of dollars instead of cities that want them to revere them as legends.
Enter Felix Hernandez
It wasn’t even a year ago that Felix Hernandez did what the baseball world thought in today’s game had gone the way of the dodo bird. Felix signed a huge, 7 year, 175 million dollar contract to stay in Seattle .
Nobody, and I mean NOBODY saw that happening.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” a tearful Hernandez said as his wife, Sandra, and kids, Mia and Jeremy, watched. “I want to stay in Seattle. I love the city, and I want to stay here.”
I remember thinking I was in the twilight zone or maybe I shouldn’t have had that last slice of pizza before I went to bed. It had to be a dream.
Part of me still expects to wake up from it.
It’s certainly not conventional baseball wisdom to say the least for a baseball player of this era to want to stay. Hernandez was scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season along with Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw setting up the biggest free agency pitcher extravaganza in baseball history.
Hernandez has accomplished something that no other Mariner has done before. Yes, he’s become a legend now in Seattle but he’s done so long before his playing days are done.
Felix is 27 years old. His prime has only just begun. As good as Griffey Jr was he was not this at 27.
Is it reduced expectations that make this so enamoring or are we so starved for a new baseball hero in the Emerald City that we’ll worship the first King who would dare sign on the dotted line?
By staying when 99.9% of players in his shoes would have walked Felix Hernandez not only broke the baseball cycle of free agency, he became a legend before his time.
It wasn’t the Kings Court promotion that did it.
It wasn’t the perfect game.
It wasn’t the bobblehead night or the poster night.
It was the power of the pen that was truly mightier than the sword.
It scratched out his name on that contract to stay and the rest was history.
I’ll meet you at the corner of Edgar and Felix and we can discuss it more there.