There was once a celebration here. Amongst this tentative crowd, chests tight with mixed fear and worry, joy was here. There might be joy again, but time, circumstance both in and out of hand, have changed that. It’s funny in looking back, always funny, to think of how many little moments combined to change this mood. There is not always one, big thing. Yet, here we are, along our own little path we have walked alongside all gathered here to see the King upon the Hill. There is very little hope here. Someday, there may be hope again.
I can’t remember the last time I wrote something. Maybe it was a year ago. Maybe it was more, maybe less, there’s a way of being sure that I don’t want or feel the need to find. Much of that is due to not wanting to face what I might say. That I might feel again what I’ve been feeling for so many months. About what left me, without having any say in the matter. That circumstance is random and so is love and pain, both doled out as if there was no feeling in the universe, to us, waiting to feel what the dice chose. That there is a powerlessness to much of what we hold very dearest. That there is not always a reason. The coldness of the cosmos owes no explanation. Time has no fealty to you or me, just a trace like a river through our own mind. Of the million moments I look back on and wonder. There was never one big thing. There was simply the implosion of the one thing I had built my entire understanding of the universe around. For me, it was a person. For this King, it was baseball.
I am sure Felix Hernandez feels the same way about many things in his life. He can’t remember the last time he felt sure he would go out and pitch seven innings allowing two hits and two walks. The last time he felt sure the changeup would dive just so and the fastball would run in and out, however he pleased. There’s a way of knowing, but it isn’t worth checking. All that stands before him now is this road, made narrower by himself and Time. In looking back, there seems little to be gained. In looking forward, maybe everything. The past isn’t worth it. It isn’t worth what you’ve yet to become.
It isn’t worth it because you know what else has come between. You know what has filled the spaces between knowing and this current misunderstanding. There is a perfect explanation for why the crowd gathered feels more unsure than before, and it’s inexplicable. In 2019 Felix Hernandez, the King, is waiting to be dethroned. He leads his band towards fate, but that fate has yet to be revealed. It is an end, yet one we are not yet sure of, and likely a bitter one. Some of that fate is perfectly held, quite literally, within his hand. Some of it is quite beyond his control, too. Time, innings, the work of his days, all has caught up to him, and that part of him that made him King has cruelly failed him, slowly but entirely surely. Felix Hernandez takes the mound, a shell of what he once was, but a lion nonetheless.
Handed four early runs, Felix mostly cruised sitting around 92 on the fastball with his curve looking especially nasty. The changeup didn’t stand out, but he kept the ball down enough to be extremely effective. Given the errors he had to pitch around, the scoreline looks a little less gleaming than he maybe deserves, yet he still managed his first win since June 30th. What will get the King in trouble this year is when he starts to autopilot back into the mind of his former self, when his stuff was unhittable. You can almost watch him click into a different, less-deliberate mindset where his stuff becomes very devil-may-care. His leg kick gets a little wild, the windup gets lose, and he loses rhythm and balance. That’s where a lineup stronger than LAA will really tag him if he lets them. It’s hard to admit you aren’t what you once were. However, the pitcher we saw tonight will be more than serviceable in the bottom part of the rotation. It’s hard for that to be the bar, but that is what we get with this aged monarch. Know thyself, look upon your works and be warned.
And so, all of us got our first, last look at our living hero. The questions, some answered, some still left to be, won’t go away. We are unsure of so much with Felix. He is too. Yet we can be sure of this; the King left his throne today as we all finally released the air we’d held tight inside the lungs for months now. He didn’t trip on his cape, he didn’t miss a step or clang his sword upon the ground. Instead he left the game with his head held high. With a lead. The Seattle Mariners would win the game with some combination of raw offense and bad defense. Nobody gathered came to see that, though. They came to see their King.