For the last ten years, there has been one constant in lackluster after lackluster season for the Seattle Mariners and that has been Felix Hernandez taking the ball on the first day of the season. Today Mariners manager Scott Servais announced that the Mariners would be going in a different direction on Opening Day in 2019.
Felix is scheduled to start an exhibition game in Japan and then another exhibition game in Seattle before taking the ball for real on April 1st against the Angels.
“I am disappointed, but I understand [the decision],” Hernandez told ESPN. “I did not have a good year last year, so I understand that part. But only that part. It hurts me because of all the years that I’ve been here, but that’s the way baseball is. This is a business.”
It is a business and when you go 8-14 with an ERA of 5.55 then you definitely do not deserve to take the ball on the first day of the season. In a season in which the Mariners have admitted that they are not competing for a playoff spot, it seems a little cruel to not give the man one last Opening Day. Felix is on the last year of his seven-year and $175M contract. There is no big loss if he gets shelled in Japan against the A’s. Let Felix pitch Opening Day. Consider it a Lifetime Achievement Award.
After all the years the King has suffered through some of the worst run support in the history of the league the man deserves one final go at the top of the rotation. He won a Cy Young in 2010 in spite of his team. Felix in most other competent franchises would be nearing 300 wins.
Felix has been loyal to this franchise despite it only sniffing the playoffs a couple of times. Without him, they don’t even get a sniff. Hell, they’re still in the box watching the ball go over the plate for another called strike three.
UPDATE: Marco Gonzales has been announced as the Opening Day starter.