Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My comment to Larry Stone on the Felix situation

Posted in response to this article...


Glad to see you fixed this to reflect Shannon as a 710/ESPN employee. I'm one of the people still pissed at how KOMO booted her out (and sooooo thankful her fans' lobbying efforts were rewarded when she was hired on at KIRO :-)

I really hope being the runner-up in this year's Cy Young Award contest really opens a lot of non-Internet-blog-savvy M's fan's eyes to how awesome he truly is. It's no secret that I'm one of the loudest "don't give him his crown yet" skeptics in the blogs, and it's certainly not because I'm a "Negative Ned..." But I'll still give Felix the credit he deserves for being absolutely amazing this season.

I'll give Felix his well-due credit, but I still don't think he's "arrived" yet. He's one big step closer, sure, but he's not quite yet in the same vein with the fans as "Griffey" "A-Rod" and "Randy" as Larry associates in the article. Certainly I understand the comparison - young, budding world-class superstar very close to free agency (and very close to earning the monster top-tier free agent contract).

But I just don't think Felix has achieved their level of superstardom yet. I believe he will, definitely, don't get me wrong, but I'm just saying he's a notch or two below those guys, relative to where they were when the same dilemma was forced upon the M's with those three.

For one - people don't pay to go see Felix. Or at least the attendance spike isn't noticeable yet. Certainly you hear about it and we talk about upcoming "Felix Day" on the Internet, but a lot of Internet M's fans either already have season tickets or live out of the area where it's inconvenient (at best -- if not downright impossible) to get to a game spur-of-the-moment. People knew when Randy was pitching. They'd stop what they're doing and make their plans around his pitching schedule. I haven't quite seen this (outside of the blogs of course) with Felix.

People are starting to talk about him more and more, certainly. Casual fans in the office, say, are starting to talk about him. But not QUITE to the same level as Ichiro or Griffey (or, heck, even Willie Bloomquist back when he was still a Mariner).

He's not a "living legend" in their minds yet. They're aware of the hype, generally, and they'll certainly talk about a good performance. But I don't think this is quite true:

"Now these same fans have given their heart to this regal Venezuelan fireballer, and they fret about his future in Seattle — rightfully so. For this is the winter that will almost certainly seal his future with the Mariners."

It's been talked about in the media more and more, so yes, casual fans are starting to pay attention. But I don't see Felix as having won the hearts of as many fans as young Griffey, A-Rod, and Randy all did. Certainly the niche "Vote for Felix" t-shirts are out there, and more and more people are buying Felix jerseys (another sign of player popularity). He's arriving, definitely, but he hasn't arrived like those other three had yet. Certainly those of us who pay attention to the M's on the Internet recognize him, but there are a whole heck of a lot of casual M's fans who pay at least a glancing pass of attention to the Mariners who don't hang out on the M's vast and deep Internet corners.

Maybe it's unfair - those others are upper-tier HOF talent (yes, even A-Roid) and the years they were playing within comparable situations to Felix that Larry mentions were much more prosperous days (95, 97 playoff years) whereas 04 and 08 were both franchise disasters (turning casual fans' attention away). Times are different, too. I'm just saying that I don't think Felix has quite been welcomed into M's fans hearts nearly as deeply and as widespread as those other three players.

And then there's this guy named Ichiro. And, well, Griffey. But, then, A-Rod, Randy and Griffey had each other, and Edgar and Buhner (and Dan Wilson's cute butt) to contend with.

I'm not saying that Felix isn't good and doesn't deserve to be locked up by the Mariners (I really really really want to keep him, in spite of inherent risks of giving long-term contracts to pitchers). I'm just contending that I don't think he's quite become the hometown hero/superstar that a lot of people think he has yet.

Hopefully he will while he's still here. But it might take some sort of post-season moment, or something über-epic (anyone remember Daisuke's first home game in Boston???) for him to be deeply entrenched into the hearts of ALL Mariners fans to the level that Griffey, A-Roid, and RJ were at when this dilemma came up in their situations.

Let's not forget Edgar, Ichiro and Buhner, too, though, as models of success in keeping the hometown hero home. Buhner was soooooooo close to leaving Seattle for Baltimore in his free agency year, but the M's were able to keep him. Edgar was the rare example of a HOF-level player staying with one team forever. Ichiro probably will go back to Japan and play or retire rather than play for another MLB team.

So there is hope. Not everyone is anxious to chase the highest dollar amount. Let's also not forget that Felix chose the Mariners over "MostMoney" before, when he signed his original contract (first link I could find was this one, but it's common knowledge:

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