King Felix, 26, further embedded himself in Seattle sports history by chucking the Mariners' first-ever perfect game. In the aftermath, if it wasn't before, the strength of the bond between player and club became overwhelmingly clear.
We'll get to that in a second, but first, his performance deserves a bit of attention. Felix struck out 12 of the 27 batters he faced—only Matt Cain, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson have struck out more hitters in a perfect game. In short, it was one of the greatest games ever pitched.
Check out the final out.
His control was amazing, and he had every pitch working. It was an absolute thing of beauty, and highlighted why Felix is the best weapon in baseball.
He typically gets better as the season rolls along, and this year it is as apparent as ever. This game is a great example, and consider in his last 12 starts he is 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA.
This is something that has perennial playoff contenders drooling over—getting a dominant pitcher who will be at his best come playoff time.
Why Felix's Name is a Trade Rumor Fixture
All of those above reasons are a big part of why Felix is such a valuable asset, and why his name always appears so often in rumors come the trade deadline.
It has been years since the Mariners have even sniffed the playoffs, and while this team has some young talent, it is hard to envision them making the playoffs before Felix's current contract expires in 2014.
At that point, the logical conclusion is that Felix will head to New York or Boston or another big-money franchise that will pay him well over $100 million to take his services to their club.
Players like this don't stay in a place like Seattle, but this one will.
Why the King's Court Will Remain in Seattle
The Mariners won't hesitate to open up their checkbooks for Felix. They did so when they extended his contract to the tune of $78 million in January 2010, and Felix went out and won the Cy Young that season.
Felix could have turned down that extension and hit the free-agent market that year. He likely could have gotten a more lucrative deal, but he was comfortable with that offer and the Mariners—the franchise that signed him in 2002.
Hernandez is invested in this organization. You can get a good feel for that by this quote from Mariner pitching coach Carl Willis, which came following Phillip Humber's perfect game against the Mariners earlier this season and was captured by The Seattle Times' Larry Stone
[Hernandez] was telling them, "This is going to work. This is going to be OK." Obviously, he didn't have to do that. But he has a passion for the game, and he has a passion for the Seattle Mariners. It's real. You might hear about it, but I don't think people grasp how deep that is.
This is not an athlete biding his time waiting to head for greener pastures.
Also, as Stone points out, Hernandez and his wife and children have made a home in Seattle, and by all accounts he has enjoyed his time there.
All of this was driven home again after Felix pitched his perfect game. There was nothing but pure joy as he celebrated with his teammates.
He deflected credit in the postgame press conference to his catcher John Jaso for calling a great game, and while giving an interview on the field he looked at the fans and said, as Stone quoted, "It's unbelievable. It's for you guys, for you!"
And there were fans—there are always fans when Felix pitches. The Mariners have even established a spot down the left-field line for the "King's Court" where the fans in that section get a yellow Felix Hernandez T-Shirt and root on their King.
Felix is more than the Mariners' most dominant player. He is the face of the franchise, the clubhouse leader, and the main attraction. It is hard to put any kind of monetary value on this kind of impact.
As we continue to near the end of his contract, the Mariners will once again, just like leading up to the 2010 extension, work on extending Hernandez before he even hits free agency. Both sides will approach those negotiations with a fair and open mind, and they will get a deal done.
Following today's perfect outing, Bob Nightengale of USA Today got a great quote from Mariners chairman emeritus John Ellis pointing to this.
This is one of the reasons why we retained Felix, because of his loyalty to the franchise. He has grown up with us, and supported it all of the way. He's meant as much as anybody to our program.
So when it comes to affording a Felix, the only thing the Mariners can't afford is to lose him.
As for teams still hoping they can pry him away in a trade, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, as Nightengale quoted, had an answer for them following Wednesday's game as he teasingly yelled into his cell phone, "No, we're not trading Felix!"
This has always been Zduriencik's response to this question, and it's not to play hardball—it is because they have no intention of parting with him or letting him get away via free agency.
King Felix is far too important to this franchise for them to let him get away, and he refreshingly is happy to stay and help turn around the franchise that helped him mature.
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