BY Art Thiel 07:34PM 08/15/2012

Thiel: Mariners do a thing the best it can be done

It all worked for Felix Hernandez Wednesday. It all worked for the Mariners. It rarely happens that way in Seattle. Do not lose sight of the majesty of the moment.

The moment after perfection. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

As reporters-turned-kids squeezed into the press box elevator on the way to speak to history, the bald guy jammed in late into the giggle-fest.

“So,” I said, “do we credit Jack Zduriencik for not trading Felix Hernandez?”

Not missing a beat, Zduriencik put his cell phone to his ear and shouted to a make-believe general manager, “No! We will not trade Felix!”

As the laughter came and went, it occurred that for the first time in its history, one of baseball’s most forlorn, woebegone franchises dodged the up-turned rake, skipped over the open manhole, hurdled the barbed wire and did a thing the best that it could be done.

They found, nurtured, paid and kept a great baseball player, and he paid them back with perfection.

For a scintillating afternoon, he hung with the immortals. Cy Young. Sandy Koufax. Don Larsen. Randy Johnson. Roy Halladay. He took the Mariners, the 21,889 bloody-lucky ticketholders and the moribund crew of longtime followers on TV and radio with him. You can identify all of them, because the hair is still standing on their necks.

Well done, Mariners. Take a bow, and take a note.

Special people are worth it.

The Mariners won 1-0, but it was really 100-0. The Tampa Bay Rays were so far from hitting him they may as well have been spitting at the moon. Perhaps the unlikeliest aspect of the afternoon was articulated by the man who scored the day’s only run, shortstop Brendan Ryan. He said the Mariners’ typically inept offense actually helped make the day of flawlessness.

“If we’re up 8-0 all the focus is on the perfect game,” he said. “I was stressing (the need) for more runs. You try to dumb it down and not get too caught up in it. You see how good he is, how he and (catcher John Jaso) are on the same page.

“You don’t want to let doubt creep into your head. Your hands get hard and your feet get heavy.”

But Hernandez was so good and the defense so efficient that there wasn’t even a serious threat to perfection. Hernandez reached a three-ball count just three times, and no Tampa batter came seriously close to a hit.

The Rays’ first batter, Sam Fuld, lifted a long fly that left fielder Trayvon Robinson right fielder Eric Thames easily hauled in near the warning track. In the seventh, B.J. Upton hit a grounder that caused third baseman Kyle Seager to lunge to his left. But instead of being deflected or caught, the ball passed through and was played routinely by Ryan, whose hard throw beat Upton easily.

Hernandez was so transcendent, he even amazed himself.

Attempting to compliment the fan support in the post-game presser, he said,  “I was great,” to much laughter. But the man speaks the truth. He knew he had it in the pre-game warm-up and he kept getting better as the game progressed, striking out five of the last six batters.

“Today was special,” he said. “We could throw any pitch, any count. Unbelievable.”

That’s what blew away Eric Wedge.

“It was special for me, because it was it was 1-0 game,” he said. “As a manager, you know how fragile it is. He had such confidence in his secondary stuff, whether he threw it for balls or buried it for strikes. On the final batter, he threw a secondary pitch on a 2-0 count. Talk about great deal of confidence . . . ”

Asked to explain what makes Hernandez different, Wedge said, “There are a lot of talented  players, but the intangibles are what separates him — leadership, toughness and consistency is what separates him.”

Another theme running through the post-game conversation was genuine excitement for a player they care about.

“He’s one of the most humble stars in the game, the way he treats everybody,” said Ryan. “I’m very proud and happy for him. This is his home. He doesn’t hide that. He’ so down to earth. He’s approachable, looks you in the eye and does things the right way. It’s easy to pull for a guy like that.”

As the jubilance subsided, Hernandez, who was deliberately ignored by teammates in the dugout per baseball custom, disclosed that a bit of sadness. His wife and kids went home for a visit to their native Venezuela last week and missed the excitement.

“I am,” he said, smiling, “all alone.”

Not exactly. Wednesday night there is an entire town here waiting to buy him dinner, a drink, whatever he wants, in exchange for a nod or wink. Sports greatness is not often afforded this burg, and it walks among us for a free evening followed by an off-day Thursday.

Since pennants are few around here, perfection, even for a day, has to be savored, toasted and exulted; our Olympic moment.


YourThoughts

  • Joe Fan

    Great job King Felix!!  Let me be the first to say “I was at the game today; and I was witness to greatness!!”

    • Artthiel

       Hold that ticket. Five years from now, a million people will say they were there.

  • Joe Fan

    Great job King Felix!!  Let me be the first to say “I was at the game today; and I was witness to greatness!!”

    • Artthiel

       Hold that ticket. Five years from now, a million people will say they were there.

  • Jamo57

    There is a saying about baseball that is usually repeated whenever there is labor/ownership strife causing a shutdown, that no matter how much the suits try and screw it up the game always rises above. 

    The day started with the behavior of Mariner upper management staining this city’s ties to the franchise but Felix transcended the arrogant incompetence.  At least for this baseball fan he reminded me why I have loved the game since I discovered it back in 1962 when I was 5.  While I still consider myself estranged from this franchise, at least Felix helped me remember my love for the game.

    • Artthiel

       You know, soldiers find a way to love their brethren while having contempt for the govt. Think of it that way.

      • Jamo57

        Thanks Art.  I’ll take that to my Ms fan PTSD support group meeting this afternoon.

  • Jamo57

    There is a saying about baseball that is usually repeated whenever there is labor/ownership strife causing a shutdown, that no matter how much the suits try and screw it up the game always rises above. 

    The day started with the behavior of Mariner upper management staining this city’s ties to the franchise but Felix transcended the arrogant incompetence.  At least for this baseball fan he reminded me why I have loved the game since I discovered it back in 1962 when I was 5.  While I still consider myself estranged from this franchise, at least Felix helped me remember my love for the game.

    • Artthiel

       You know, soldiers find a way to love their brethren while having contempt for the govt. Think of it that way.

      • Jamo57

        Thanks Art.  I’ll take that to my Ms fan PTSD support group meeting this afternoon.

  • Matt712

    Never have I been so torn for a team… in support of the the guys on the field (coaches/manager included), yet in complete distain of higher ups. What a quandary… What do we do? And I’m so disappointed I wasn’t there because, had the organization had their (rhymes with spit) together, a sold-out Safeco Field would have sent this whole game into orbit… and I would most like been among them. Instead, I’m sitting here thumbing about hours later. Bittersweet. No, sweetbitter.

    • Artthiel

       Matt, stay in the moment. The comprehensive celebrations were in 1995 and 2001. Don’t let your dismay about the overarching problems diminish the joy you experienced yesterday. When you think about it, it’s no different than with work, kids, parents — everything in life.

  • Matt712

    Never have I been so torn for a team… in support of the the guys on the field (coaches/manager included), yet in complete distain of higher ups. What a quandary… What do we do? And I’m so disappointed I wasn’t there because, had the organization had their (rhymes with spit) together, a sold-out Safeco Field would have sent this whole game into orbit… and I would most like been among them. Instead, I’m sitting here thumbing about hours later. Bittersweet. No, sweetbitter.

    • Artthiel

       Matt, stay in the moment. The comprehensive celebrations were in 1995 and 2001. Don’t let your dismay about the overarching problems diminish the joy you experienced yesterday. When you think about it, it’s no different than with work, kids, parents — everything in life.

  • Bayviewherb

    When I lived in So. Cal during the 60′s I would attend every game Koufax pitched at home. I sa him pitch no-hitters, strike out 18 routinely and for a Dodger tream that had lost most of their veterans to retirement using darn near the entire Spokane roster to fill in. Koufax during his peak would win 1-0 or 2-1 most games and with just three days rest between starts. He seldom needed relief, going complete game most of the time.

    Today, I may have seen a pticher that finally measured up to Sandy.  

    • Jamo57

      I grew up in SoCal and only got to see Sandy once, in 1966.  Unfortunately he was yanked in the 7th in a loss to Pittsburgh.   After reading ‘A Lefty’s Legacy’ and learning of the physical toll he was enduring particularly in the ’66 season, I cherish even that memory.   That book is a great resource for seeing how far sports medicine has evolved.   If Koufax and Drysdale could have pitched with today’s ever-evolving knowledge and precaution, there’s no telling what they could have done.   

      On an aside, I’ve been very critical of the Ms senior management for their relations with the community but no one from the Dodger organization attended Koufax’s retirement press conference which was held in a hotel instead of Dodger Stadium.   Insensitive ownership takes many forms I guess. 

    • Artthiel

       Big fan of Sandy’s too. I heard toe echo yesterday.

  • Bayviewherb

    When I lived in So. Cal during the 60′s I would attend every game Koufax pitched at home. I sa him pitch no-hitters, strike out 18 routinely and for a Dodger tream that had lost most of their veterans to retirement using darn near the entire Spokane roster to fill in. Koufax during his peak would win 1-0 or 2-1 most games and with just three days rest between starts. He seldom needed relief, going complete game most of the time.

    Today, I may have seen a pticher that finally measured up to Sandy.  

    • Jamo57

      I grew up in SoCal and only got to see Sandy once, in 1966.  Unfortunately he was yanked in the 7th in a loss to Pittsburgh.   After reading ‘A Lefty’s Legacy’ and learning of the physical toll he was enduring particularly in the ’66 season, I cherish even that memory.   That book is a great resource for seeing how far sports medicine has evolved.   If Koufax and Drysdale could have pitched with today’s ever-evolving knowledge and precaution, there’s no telling what they could have done.   

      On an aside, I’ve been very critical of the Ms senior management for their relations with the community but no one from the Dodger organization attended Koufax’s retirement press conference which was held in a hotel instead of Dodger Stadium.   Insensitive ownership takes many forms I guess. 

    • Artthiel

       Big fan of Sandy’s too. I heard toe echo yesterday.

  • Bayviewherb

    I would feel better if management announced a long contract extension for the king. We have lost so many players that could field an all star roster. It’s about time we kept the winners and cut the losers like Chone Figgins. We have three catchers. That’s one more than we need. Hopefully, the team will thank Olivo and release him.Looking back at a potentially great player in Center Fielder **** that has been on injured reserve for the last two years. He’s been gone so long I can’t spit out his name. It’s time for him to either look for another team or enter a nursing home.

    • Artthiel

       Management would like a long-term deal, but Felix’s agent would be an idiot if he took it right now. Felix could win another Cy Young, and at 27, teams would throw fortunes at the Mariners. Not saying a trade should happen, hoping it won’t, but this team show little capacity to build any other way.

  • Bayviewherb

    I would feel better if management announced a long contract extension for the king. We have lost so many players that could field an all star roster. It’s about time we kept the winners and cut the losers like Chone Figgins. We have three catchers. That’s one more than we need. Hopefully, the team will thank Olivo and release him.Looking back at a potentially great player in Center Fielder **** that has been on injured reserve for the last two years. He’s been gone so long I can’t spit out his name. It’s time for him to either look for another team or enter a nursing home.

    • Artthiel

       Management would like a long-term deal, but Felix’s agent would be an idiot if he took it right now. Felix could win another Cy Young, and at 27, teams would throw fortunes at the Mariners. Not saying a trade should happen, hoping it won’t, but this team show little capacity to build any other way.

  • jafabian

    Based on the Humber perfecto, the combined no-hitter and this game it’s obvious that if the Mariners want a good pitching performance you play at Safeco in the day.  Amazing all three of those games have happened in the same season.

    • Jamo57

      I believe the combined no-hitter was on a Friday night.    But point well taken.   I remember in the 2000 playoffs when the Ms swept the White Sox, the WS were saying they couldn’t see the ball at all and the games were played in the day.

      • jafabian

        Be interesting if after a game like this will there still be calls to move in the fences?

        • Artthiel

           Yes. It’s still an unfair part for hitters, and I think ownership will cut some wood after the season.

      • Artthiel

         There is something about the brightness of the sun this far north  . . . but lacking my degree from Jeff Renner University, I’ll just throw it out there to add another log upon the Safeco fire.
        I must say that the 2001 team must have had a lot of cloudy days.

  • jafabian

    Based on the Humber perfecto, the combined no-hitter and this game it’s obvious that if the Mariners want a good pitching performance you play at Safeco in the day.  Amazing all three of those games have happened in the same season.

    • Jamo57

      I believe the combined no-hitter was on a Friday night.    But point well taken.   I remember in the 2000 playoffs when the Ms swept the White Sox, the WS were saying they couldn’t see the ball at all and the games were played in the day.

      • jafabian

        Be interesting if after a game like this will there still be calls to move in the fences?

        • Artthiel

           Yes. It’s still an unfair part for hitters, and I think ownership will cut some wood after the season.

      • Artthiel

         There is something about the brightness of the sun this far north  . . . but lacking my degree from Jeff Renner University, I’ll just throw it out there to add another log upon the Safeco fire.
        I must say that the 2001 team must have had a lot of cloudy days.

  • Lou Novikoff

    I was at the park yesterday and was among those sharing the wonderful moment.  Thanks for this account.

    Felix was perfect but your account was not—in one minor respect.  Sam Fuld, the first Ray hitter, flied out deep to right field to Eric Thames, not to Robinson in left.  Your perfect game thus was lost because of a piddly error.  Justin Smoak also made a nifty save when he dug a low throw out of the dirt at first base, thus keeping another Ray runner off the bases.

    The game, and the game the night before, when the Ms rallied in the ninth to beat the league’s best relief pitcher, could provide some needed momentum to this young team going into the final stretch of the season.

    May Felix stay whole, happy, and in  Seattle for the remainder of this baseball life.

    • Artthiel

      Lou, you’re right, E-writer. I’m not quite at Felix’s level. Will fix. Thanks for the sentiments.

  • Lou Novikoff

    I was at the park yesterday and was among those sharing the wonderful moment.  Thanks for this account.

    Felix was perfect but your account was not—in one minor respect.  Sam Fuld, the first Ray hitter, flied out deep to right field to Eric Thames, not to Robinson in left.  Your perfect game thus was lost because of a piddly error.  Justin Smoak also made a nifty save when he dug a low throw out of the dirt at first base, thus keeping another Ray runner off the bases.

    The game, and the game the night before, when the Ms rallied in the ninth to beat the league’s best relief pitcher, could provide some needed momentum to this young team going into the final stretch of the season.

    May Felix stay whole, happy, and in  Seattle for the remainder of this baseball life.

    • Artthiel

      Lou, you’re right, E-writer. I’m not quite at Felix’s level. Will fix. Thanks for the sentiments.

  • RadioGuy

    What a performance for the ages.  Except for that fly ball from Fuld at the top of the first, Felix toyed with the Rays like a cat toys with a catnip ball.  His pitches were just jumping and he showed total command out there…it’s sometimes easy to forget that with all the great stuff he has naturally at his disposal, Felix Hernandez knows HOW to pitch (much like Jamie Moyer used to).  I’m prejudiced, but this one was an all-timer because it wasn’t about luck.  It was about total dominance of a solid major league team.

  • RadioGuy

    What a performance for the ages.  Except for that fly ball from Fuld at the top of the first, Felix toyed with the Rays like a cat toys with a catnip ball.  His pitches were just jumping and he showed total command out there…it’s sometimes easy to forget that with all the great stuff he has naturally at his disposal, Felix Hernandez knows HOW to pitch (much like Jamie Moyer used to).  I’m prejudiced, but this one was an all-timer because it wasn’t about luck.  It was about total dominance of a solid major league team.

  • Seattlepsycho

    I woke up over here at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea and turned on the American Forces Network sports channel.  Pardon the Interruption was on then all of the sudden Safeco Field appeared. My first thought was oh man, something bad is happening to the Mariners again.  Dave Sims’ voice came on and began talking about King Felix heading into the 9th with a perfect game and I almost dropped my cereal.  It was incredible to watch live and congratulations to the almost 22K there in person. 

    I have only been to Safeco twice since it opened, an early April game in 2008 and the last game of the season last year. I hope to one day enjoy it during a day game in the summer perhaps even sitting in the King’s Court.

  • Seattlepsycho

    I woke up over here at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea and turned on the American Forces Network sports channel.  Pardon the Interruption was on then all of the sudden Safeco Field appeared. My first thought was oh man, something bad is happening to the Mariners again.  Dave Sims’ voice came on and began talking about King Felix heading into the 9th with a perfect game and I almost dropped my cereal.  It was incredible to watch live and congratulations to the almost 22K there in person. 

    I have only been to Safeco twice since it opened, an early April game in 2008 and the last game of the season last year. I hope to one day enjoy it during a day game in the summer perhaps even sitting in the King’s Court.

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