Zack Greinke, who? The Seattle Mariners’ front office offered ace Félix Hernández a record-breaking contract that would make him the highest paid pitcher in MLB history, one-upping the signing that Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers completed earlier this offseason. This deal, which is a seven-year contract extension, will guarantee Hernández $175 million over that period. If you are a traditionalist, this definitely put a smile on your face – I am sure Tim Kurkjian is excited about it. This is the utopic story that we never see in sports anymore: boy meets city, boy likes city, city likes boy, boy stays in city and city and boy live happily ever after.
But are we not forgetting something? How about the fact that the Mariners are bad? Really bad. I will admit that I am a sucker for a good story of a player staying loyal to his team, but if you are a fan of the Mariners, don’t you want to win?
The Mariners’ Safeco Field is a notoriously terrible hitting park. Case in point, in the 2012 season, Seattle had a nine-road game stretch in which they scored a total of 66 runs. Immediately following this was a nine-game home stand where the offense produced a measly 23 runs.
To try and remedy this, the front office is bringing in the fences. Literally. They are moving the outfield wall closer to home plate with hopes that this will create more runs. They hope that more runs means high scoring games – higher scoring games mean a better chance to win and a better chance to win means more fans, who will bring in more money. We will have to see how this plays out.
The point is that the Mariners are bad at hitting. They finished last among 30 teams in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Not to mention, in the past three seasons, they have finished last in a division of teams that can really mash the baseball. The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels both finished last season in the top five of those same three categories mentioned earlier.
So why not go for some real batting talent? Bringing in better bats as well as moving the fences in would really show fans that you are committed to improving the situation at Safeco Field. Hernández’s trade stock has never been higher and this was a golden opportunity that the general manager completely whiffed.
I am not trying to slam Hernández either. He is a very likeable guy on and off the diamond. He is actively involved with charities in the Seattle community and makes many public appearances. It is also known that he has an affinity for the city that he has spent his whole career with and the city feels the same way.
It is nearly impossible to find a way to hate on him for his performance on the field. His resume touts four consecutive seasons with more than 200 strikeouts, an earned run average of 3.22, 98 career wins, a Cy Young award and a perfect game. Since 2006, Hernández leads the Mariners’ pitching staff in at least two of three categories: wins, ERA and strikeouts. From 2008 to 2011, he led all three.
This deal seems counterintuitive then. If he has been this good for this long, how is extending his contract going to make the Mariners better? It won’t. For a number of years, they had Hernández hurling the baseball on defense and Ichiro Suzuki scurrying around the bases and still they could not produce a quality team.
All signs point to one thing: batting. Without fixing this issue, there is no way the Mariners will be able to put together a team worthy enough for the postseason.
The intentions of this deal are sincere, which is the sad part. The fans are happy to see their King pitch, Hernández is happy to stay with a city he loves and the front office is happy that both the fans and Hernández are happy.
But I think everyone involved forgot one key thing: winning. Doesn’t winning make us happy? To the Seattle Mariners, it appears not.