Perfect. There’s no word like it. It is what it is, and what it represents is the pinnacle of whatever it describes.
Now, Felix Hernandez, dubbed King by his fans, can have that word next to his name.
Felix Hernandez. Perfect.
As a lifelong fan of the Mariners, getting to experience that was so far beyond exciting that there’s no real word to describe it. Sadly, I didn’t get to see it when it happened; thanks to a busy work schedule, I didn’t even know a thing about it until I got in my car after work and heard the post game press conference. When I watched the replay later that night, knowing what happened didn’t make the experience any lesser. In fact, knowing the outcome made the giddy anticipation of the wonder to come grow larger and larger with every out.
I’ve watched Felix for a long time now, and I’ve seen him get locked in, his stuff working beautifully, and just flat-out dominate lineups on many occasions. But this… this was something different. Something special. Very early on, you could tell that something was happening. That Felix might have that little bit of extra something to make the night truly special. And boy did he.
Watching Felix develop over the years has been a treat. He’s gone from a kid with wonderful stuff, but who could get a bit predictable, to one of the premier pitchers in the game. The fact is, this sort of performance hasn’t just been hoped for, it’s basically been expected to some extent. That it has now happened, at Safeco Field, is just… well, special doesn’t even begin to describe it, but for now, it will have to do.
The way Felix went about things on Wednesday… it was clear early on that he was bound for something great. He was using every pitch in any count, and was placing everything exactly where he wanted it. His changeup was especially effective, and even just thinking that it was coming kept Rays hitters (or “missers” that game, I guess) completely off balance all night long. And when Felix decided to turn it up another notch in the sixth inning, he became untouchable, generating a ludicrous nineteen swinging strikes the rest of the way, after getting just five before that. His offspeed stuff, notable the change and his excellent curve, was simply untouchable.
Seeing that, experiencing that, was an experience unlike any I’ve had in the twenty years I’ve been watching baseball*. Both the fan in me and the player analyst in me were thrilled and exciting beyond words to see what I was seeing. That it was arguably the finest pitcher I’ve ever laid eyes on doing it only made it all the more of an event to treasure.
The scary, exciting thing? Felix is just 26 years old. He’s just now hitting his physical prime. He’s got a lot of miles on his arm, but based on what we’ve seen of him so far, it seems as though the best is yet to come. Felix Hernandez is special, and in case you’d missed it before, it’s absolutely been confirmed now. To borrow a phrase from Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing: Felix is ours, and you can’t have him.
*Sidenote: typing that made me feel old.