The idea of a swan song is very interesting. To know that you’re doing something for the last time has to be taxing on the heart, especially when it’s something you’ve been at for a decade or more. For Felix Hernandez, that night was Sept. 26, 2019.
If nothing else, the 2019 Seattle Mariners season was exciting. Fans got to see countless new faces as the old guard continued to fade away. Ichiro retired after the initial Japanese series to start the year, but far fresher in the mind is Felix’s potential final start in a Mariner uniform.
Despite the Mariners being far out of the playoff picture, they put out their best fight to the end, which admittedly wasn’t that good. Seattle kicked off their final series of the season against the Oakland Athletics, with King Felix taking the mound. He put up 5.1 innings, a respectable amount on par, if not better than usual this year. He allowed three runs on five hits, all of them earned. He struck out three, walked four, and gave up a home run to Matt Chapman in the second inning. The A’s only needed those three runs to win the game 3-1, meaning Felix got to go out the same way he came in: with no run support.
All in all, the game was nothing special. The A’s ended up with their playoff spot and the Mariners hoped to leave this year behind. Still, tears flowed and celebration commenced as the Mariners said farewell to their king. It was the end of an era. Having pitched for Seattle since 2005, Felix was the last remaining member of the Mariners from when legendary broadcaster Dave Niehaus was still alive.
Despite the struggle in the last few years, Felix is and will remain a Mariner legend. He put up numbers in his prime that were the best in baseball at that time, and he was awarded a Cy Young for his efforts. He leads the Mariners in all time wins with 169, 2,524 strikeouts, 2,729.2 innings, and games started with 418. On top of his one Cy Young, he finished top five in the award voting five times. To this day, he is also the most recent player to pitch a perfect game, which he did back in 2012.
As I reflect back on his legendary career, it’s hard to not feel bad for him. He gave his blood, sweat, and tears for the Mariner organization and didn’t have one playoff game to show for it. It’s a real let down to not know what he was truly capable of in the biggest moments, but maybe it isn’t the end for him. It’s likely the end of his career with the Mariners, but Felix is determined to keep playing. He doesn’t want to retire, which reminds me warmly of Ichiro’s career. After Ichiro didn’t make the playoffs since 2001, he left the team for the Yankees in 2012 where he would make the playoffs again and return to retire as a Mariner. Felix might never pitch for us again, but I’d like to see him retire as a Mariner, when he’s ready.