It's easy to forget sometimes, but Felix Hernandez is only 25 years old.
It seems like he's been a Mariner for ages, yet at the same time it feels like he's been destined to leave Seattle for just as long.
Every year "King Felix" faces the same question...
"Will he or won't he be traded?"
Hernandez to his credit has remained steadfastly loyal to the organization and in an interview with the AP's Bob Baum, made sure to reiterate that feeling.
“I’m very happy with my career right now,” Hernandez said before working out Tuesday on a chilly Arizona morning. “I know I’m still young and still can learn something new. I’ve just got to keep learning and keep doing what I do.”
When asked about Seattle, Hernandez continued...
“'I’m not going anywhere, man,” he said. “I’m staying here for a long time."
He, his wife and their two children live most of the year in Seattle, with trips to his native Venezuela for Christmas and New Year’s, he said.
"I like the city,” Hernandez said. “I love the people up there. I love Seattle.'”
Sadly though, it's highly unlikely that Felix will remain in Seattle forever.
Historically, the record shows that with a few rare exceptions like Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner, Seattle's best often leave either via free agency or by trade before hanging up their spikes.
Yet is it because superstars like Junior, Big Unit and A-Rod all left that we assume King Felix is next?
If so, does it diminish his greatness?
Unfortunately for Mariner fans, the persistent rumors tend to perpetuate a feeling of insecurity as the team has historically served as a farm system of sorts to the Yankees and Red Sox of the world, continually feeding their quest for championships by supplying them their best players.
Can Mariner fans truly enjoy and appreciate Felix without the lingering doubt that he will likely end his career outside of Seattle?
Trading off Michael Pineda this past offseason to the Yankees in some ways fuels this issue. It almost seemed the Mariners front office didn't want to deal with the same aggravation Felix faces and made a preemptive strike to trade Pineda when given a fair return with Jesus Montero.
While it's hard to argue that the Mariners need hitting, the larger problem with the organization remains unanswered. Will this team ever have sustained success and in turn manage to retain its best players?
If not, why should fans continue to come to Safeco? Mariner fans are savvy enough to know what a good team looks like and should expect nothing less from the home team.
Meanwhile on the flip-side, will fans in the Bronx really appreciate what they're getting with Michael Pineda?
What often makes trades like the Pineda/Montero swap even more painful is when a player like Pineda, who was adored in Seattle, is chewed up and spit out if they somehow fail with their new club.
Even before he throws a single pitch for the Yankees, Pineda is feeling the pressure as Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan writes,
"No other team imports big-talent pitchers with such regularity, with such high hopes, with all of the complications that accompany wearing pinstripes. The failure of outsiders has taken on a mythical status in New York and become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you’re not a Yankee, it’s awfully difficult to come in mid-career and play to their standards."
Sadly it's a no-win for M's fans. Either Pineda goes to New York and becomes an ace or he falls flat on his face.
When applying this thinking to Felix, it becomes all the more painful after years of seeing him grow before our eyes from a pudgy teenager to a Cy Young winner.
Watching him succeed elsewhere after toiling in Seattle with mediocre Mariner teams would be almost too cruel, but seeing him leave and fail would probably hurt even more.
Until then, it's probably best to enjoy a master at work as he remains under contract though 2014.
Let's not forget that.
A lot can happen in that span of time and with a little bit of luck, perhaps the Mariners as a team can help quiet the ever-growing chorus of whispers while fielding a legitimate contender.
It's a long shot, but it's our only shot...
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