Mariner LogoOK Seattle Mariner fans…who remembers the 1998 season, Randy Johnson’s last season as a Mariner? Well, technically it was only two thirds of a season; the Mariners traded Randy at the deadline to the Houston Astros because he was going to be a free agent the next year and they weren’t going to be able to re-sign him. Do you remember that? Do you remember Randy saying the Mariners didn’t respect him because they didn’t make him a competitive offer? Do you also remember that for the first half of the 1998 season before he was traded Randy had 9 wins and 10 losses for the Mariners with an ERA north of 4.0, numbers decidedly un-Randy like, and that after he was traded to the Astros he went 10-1 for them down the stretch with an ERA just over 1.0 while helping them to the playoffs?  Does anyone besides me remember all that?

 I sure do. The whole scene just really pissed me off. I was upset at the Mariners for their inability to communicate with and keep the man who was becoming arguably the best pitcher in baseball. And I was upset with Randy for basically tanking the first half of the season with the Mariners, a fact that was proved by his performance for the Astros in the second half. It is observable that a person usually reserves their largest upsets in life for those they liked and admired the most; the magnitude of the upset matches the magnitude of the affinity broken; and I really liked and admired Randy Johnson. Notwithstanding the tendency of people to always claim they were at historic events even when they weren’t, I really was at Randy’s historic no-hitter against the Tigers in 1990, the first no hitter in Seattle Mariner history. His last strike out to end that game is indelibly inscribed in my memory.

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson

And who can forget his magnificent performance in the Mariners magical run of 1995 and his heroism in coming out of the bullpen in the final game of the playoff series against the Yankees that year after he had started and won game 3 two days earlier?

Who can forget these things? I sure can’t, and that is why I am glad that the Mariners this time have stepped up and signed their ace Felix Hernandez to a contract extension guaranteeing he will be a Mariner for the next 7 years. I am not even going to talk about money in this article. Who cares? What I care about is that I can go to The Safe (Safeco Field) or flip on the TV and watch one of the best pitchers in baseball, a man who before it is all through may become one of the best ever in the history of the game, pitching for my team, the Seattle Mariners. If Jackie Z (Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik) succeeds in putting an offense around him, with this signing we already have our pitching ace in place, a definite requisite to making it to the playoffs and World Series.

Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik

Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik

And make no mistake, Hernandez is an ace. Over the last 4 seasons he has been at or near the top of all Major League pitchers in strikeouts, innings pitched and Earned Run Average and at 26 years old has already garnered one Cy Young Award and 4 All Star appearances. Last season he led all of baseball with 5 shutouts. He has never been seriously injured and is just coming into his prime. His stuff on a normal day is electric and on a good day is unhittable, as the Tampa Rays experienced last year when Felix mesmerized them at Safeco Field with a perfect game, the third no hitter and first perfect game in Mariner history. Rays hitter Elliot Johnson describes what it was like trying to hit Felix that day: “…they all look like fastballs out if his hand, but it winds up being a breaking ball, or that split-finger looking change-up—whatever that that thing is.”  Elliot Johnson, as you can see, was utterly baffled by Felix’s mastery, as were all the Rays that day.

But there is one other reason I am glad for this signing. When news of Felix and the Mariners reaching agreement on this deal was announced, I heard that several eastern baseball analysts, I don’t even know who, commented that it was bad for baseball for Felix to stay in Seattle. The reason, they said, was that the Mariners sucked and Felix would never get the chance to be in the playoffs on a national stage or get to be seen by the rest of the country at large. Great players, they said, need to play in places where the whole country can appreciate them, and that just does not and will not happen in this far, ‘off the beaten track’, Northwest outpost called Seattle. That is what I heard that they said.

Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez

Well you know what I think? I think these eastern “anal-ysts” can take their biased and invalidating baseball views of Seattle and stick ‘em deep where the sun don’t shine, if you take my meaning. What are we supposed to do? Sit here in Seattle keeping our best players for 5 or 6 years and then turn them over to the Yankees, Red Sox or Angels so they can go to a World Series with someone else? Screw that! We are trying to win a World Series here for God sakes! It can be done and this Felix signing shows a real intention by the M’s to do it and for that reason I applaud it…loudly!

In closing, I want you all to know that I have forgiven Randy Johnson for his dumping of us fans and the Mariners during the ’98 season. I have had a harder time with Mariner management, but I am dealing with it. But I am really glad that I will not have to go through all of that upset again with Felix Hernandez. Now…let’s get on with it and win a World Series.

 Wouldn’t that be something?!

By Mark Arnold

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2 Responses to A Far Cry from Randy Johnson—Felix Hernandez Will Stay a Seattle Mariner—by Mark Arnold

  1. Right on!!! Great perspectives and great article!!!!

  2. Mark Arnold says:

    Thanks Steve! Now I am hearing that the Felix signing is not quite done yet, so I may have jumped the gun here in announcing it as done. (The reports I read said it was). Nevertheless I got to air some frustration…fun! L Mark

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