Hernandez's loyalty has earned him a special place in Mariners fans' hearts.
Seattle Mariners fans, we are an insecure bunch.
You see, we love our players, but more importantly, we desperately want our players to love us back.
It's an inferiority complex to be certain, a perfect storm of a lack of national media attention during the few seasons where we have played well and of being burned by some of our biggest stars.
The No. 252 holds significance to us because that's the number of millions that golden boy Alex Rodriquez left the Mariners for to join the division-rival Texas Rangers. Say Astros or Reds, and the first thing I think of is Randy Johnson or Ken Griffey Jr. forcing trades because they wanted out of Seattle.
It's also one of the reasons why we revere Edgar Martinez, a Mariners lifer who still makes his home in and owns a local business around the Seattle area. More than any other fanbase, we want the players to love Seattle, to validate our little corner of the country and—most importantly—to spurn the hated east coast teams and their fans who we feel act entitled to all of the talented players in the league.
And this is why we treasure and love Felix Hernandez, the phenomenal talent who signed with Seattle as a teenager and who has become our biggest star and one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Rather than test free agency and go to any contender that he chose to, Hernandez signed a five-year contract extension to stay with the team that hasn't sniffed the postseason since he made his major league debut. He did so because he loves the city and owns a house in the Seattle suburbs where he lives during the offseason.
In short, being in this city means more to him than chasing a ring somewhere else, even if it means toiling behind an offense that regularly provides him no more support than a couple of runs a game. And to us, that means more than anything else.
That's why we take so much joy in Hernandez's personal accomplishments, because we feel like he deserves more national recognition for his talents than he gets. It's also why we fiercely defended him during the 2010 Cy Young race, when some pundits were still arguing the archaic notion that pitcher wins and losses are a meaningful statistic. (Here's a fun game: mention Hernandez and win totals to any Seattleite. Guaranteed, the first thing they say back is, "If Felix had the Yankees' offense, he'd win 25 games every year.")
Wednesday night's perfect game will be the highlight of our 2012 season, not just because it was the 23rd perfect game in the game's history, but because of who threw it.
More than any other Mariner, we want Hernandez to succeed for Hernandez's sake, to give baseball fans across the country a chance to marvel at his devastating breaking balls and a fastball that can still touch 95 MPH in the ninth inning.
By choosing loyalty above all else, we fans feel like there should be some karmic justice that elevates Hernandez to the top of the world. So we will continue to cheer and root for Hernandez with a special amount of intensity, and bristle every time a national pundit suggests that we trade him.
He remains buried on a team that some people legitimately think is located in Canada, but performances like this one will guarantee that baseball history will never forget how good Hernandez was. And quite simply, he deserves it.