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Filled with highs and lows, career of Felix Hernandez is 'greatness tinged in melancholy'

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez celebrates after throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays, in a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Seattle.

Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez took the mound for the final time Thursday night in Seattle. The All-Star pitcher and Cy Young Award winner has thrown a perfect game and a no hitter in the 15 years he has spent in Seattle. But along with those highs came some lows.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about the career of King Felix.  


"There are a lot of great numbers and feats in Felix's career," Thiel said. "He's a six-time All-Star, had a no-hitter and, of course, the perfect game in 2012."

Thiel said the memory of that day is still clear, even seven years later.

"I woke up that day and said, 'I'm going to work at home.' And then all of a sudden I said, 'You know, Felix is pitching today.' He'd really been pitching well. And I thought, 'Man, I should go.'

"That was the day he pitched the perfect game and it was just wonderful. And that still is the last perfect game pitched in the Major Leagues. It's a real rare thing and Felix hit an apex moment with that and it was altogether remarkable.

"There was a lot of individual achievement in his career that I think deserves every fan's salute."


Thiel said Hernandez has demonstrated a passion for the game — slapping his glove and pumping his fists when he struck out a big hitter. And who can forget him pointing to the sky after he completed his perfect game?

Along with the accomplishments came some lowpoints in recent years. For example, Hernandez was removed from the team's starting lineup last year and demoted to the bullpen. 

Thiel said Hernandez has been somewhat reluctant to embrance analytics that could have helped him improve his pitching. And he said the team wasn't able to support him with offense when he was at his best. 


Hernandez was loyal to Seattle. Thiel said that's one of the things fans will remember most about him. But he was never able to make it to the playoffs, prompting Thiel to sum up his career with these words:

"There was greatness tinged in melancholy. It's been great to have Felix around for 15 years. I wish the end could've been more upbeat. We can't help things like age. I just wish it could have been a more salutary outcome." 

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Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.