And so it was written that Felix Hernandez would be in a Seattle Mariners uniform for no less than seven additional years*, paying him a maximum sum of $175 million, just enough to feed Latrell Sprewell's family.
*Barring a trade to the New York Yankees, which Ken Rosenthal reports will happen any day now.
For those of you who simply are not fans of the Mariners, baseball, or even that I somehow managed to sneak in a Sprewell NBA reference from like eight years ago, I apologize. This isn't really about any of those things, so let me explain. The Mariners agreed to sign their ace pitcher to a more expensive contract than any given to a pitcher in the history of baseball. (If there was ever given that much money to a pitcher in another sport, I do not know.) It will guarantee that Felix can stick around until at least 2019, a period of time so long that even I might have had a girlfriend by then.
Yeah, that long.
Any time you talk about Felix, you start to talk about the greatest athletes in the history of Seattle. This is because Felix is making his way towards the top of that list. Despite the fact that he is only 26-years-old, Felix has already put together a great eight-year career. Only 31 players have won at least 98 games by his age, despite the fact that he plays for the Mariners, and he has the 5th most career strikeouts for any player in history by their age 26 season. Do you have any idea how old baseball history is? Old as shit, that's how old. (Of course, they didn't use to go for strikeouts just like how they didn't use to hit home runs, but there's still a lot of people that have pitched in the last 60 or 70 years.)
There is no telling where we will see Felix go from here. He could literally finish as the best pitcher in the history of the game or have something naughty happen to him. Lord strike me down for the second part of that sentence, but it's the harsh truth of sports. Doc Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela were two of the great under 25 pitchers ever, and they did not have a great final ten years of their careers. Other than Gooden of course throwing a no-hitter against Seattle when he was washed up in 1996. But either way, Felix will get paid like a son of a bitch and will still go down as one of the best that ever played in this city. The names on that list are arguable, but still rather short:
Felix, Griffey, Edgar, Unit, Ichiro, Kemp, Payton, Hersey Hawkins, kidding, Largent, Walt, Tez, Mirer, haha, Hasselbeck, Alexander. I mean, that's just a few names off of the top of my head. Some people would argue against maybe Alexander or even Ichiro, and I'm sure I forgot a few important ones too. But we are talking about some 40 years of history pared down to a few names. And then there was one more, and in just a single season we have to start to ask ourselves how much higher it could go from here.
Now listen, I could defend myself for days against the arguments that we need to stop putting Wilson on a pedestal that reaches the heavens from which he descended (he-is-our-God-I-WILL-worship-false-idols-damn-it) but you can't argue against certain facts. Like that he was voted by the fans as the best rookie in the NFL over two of the other great rookie quarterbacks in NFL history. Or that he didn't just have one of the best statistical seasons by a rookie in NFL history. Or that he didn't just win one playoff game already (the same amount as top overall picks Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, and Carson Palmer combined) while leading a furious comeback on the road against the Atlanta Falcons that was ultimately blown by the defense and an ill-advised Pete Carroll timeout.
Or that people are just talking a lot about Russell Wilson. We are obsessed. Which is fine and good and understandable. All I want to say is that it's hard to live in the moment and truly enjoy what you have when you have it. Wilson is only 2 1/2 years younger than Felix, believe it or not. I'm not saying he's old or that he's not going to stick around for a long time, it's just interesting. The good news: As long as he's healthy, he's going to be here for the rest of his career. Count on it.
While Felix was a bit of a concern for Mariners fans because his contract runs out by the end of 2014, and there was a good chance that Hernandez could have tested free agency and signed for $200 million or so by that time, the NFL really only runs under the guise of free agency. Yes, there will be free agents every year and some of them will be big name players that those teams don't want to lose, but one thing is for certain: You don't lose franchise quarterbacks that you want to keep.
Joe Flacco just won a Super Bowl on Sunday. He is an unrestricted free agent. He can sign for any team in the NFL that he wants to sign with and there are a number that would give him the $20 million per season that he desires. Is anyone talking about him as an unrestricted free agent? Nope. Why not? Because the Ravens will never let it happen. Thank you, franchise tag. This does keep teams from guaranteeing the safety of more than one player, but as long as one of those players is your quarterback and as long as you don't have another one (Drew Brees and Philip Rivers as one example) you are going to tag the quarterback. Hell, the New England Patriots got to slap the tag on Matt Cassel and trade him for a high second round pick.
Not only that, but in a sport where literally any play could be your last play, and where your rookie contract pays you shit compared to what you could be making when you hit free agency for the first time, Wilson and other franchise quarterbacks will sign extensions a year before they could ever test the market. Wilson might not be able to sign an extension until 2015, despite what his agent thinks, but believe you me that Wilson will sign an extension in 2015. This is the same reason that many quarterbacks don't even know what free agency is like until their mid-to-late thirties.
Whereas the MLB has free agency, the NFL has "free agency".
Josh Hamilton might have come with question marks and a huge price tag, but the Texas Rangers definitely would have given him a franchise tag if they could have and now he wouldn't be with the Angels. All that a team gets in return for losing a marquee player is a first round draft pick, maybe. But in football, Peyton Manning can't leave the Colts until he breaks a neck. Brett Favre can't leave the Packers until he finally annoys the shit out of the general manager to the point of manic depression. Joe Montana can't leave the 49ers until he's hurt and they have another Hall of Fame QB waiting in the wings.
Lookout Landing has a saying for Felix that goes, "Felix is ours, and you can't have him" except that it was always said with a tinge of, "Good Lord, please let this be true." You never knew if there would come a day when Felix finally threw his hands up in the air (besides when he finishes a perfect game) and says "Sorry, I can't do this Mariners thing anymore" and would we even have blamed him? You never knew if the GM would cash in on Felix like the Blue Jays did with Roy Halladay, or the Royals with Zack Grienke, or many many other examples because that's how baseball operates.
Well, football doesn't do many trades and players don't get much say because they almost literally can't afford to do anything but stay with the guy that brought him to the prom. Even if it's me. Even if it's the Lions. NFL executives are kind of genius in that way. "Hey, you are ours! Until we decide you aren't anymore because this shit isn't guaranteed!"
Russell Wilson is ours and you literally can't have him.
So let's all take this moment to be grateful for having potentially the best quarterback we've ever had. A player that might do things that no Seattle athlete has ever done. Maybe it all comes crashing down before you know it. Maybe it was all a dream. But...
Russell Wilson is our dream. Let's enjoy it and be grateful as long as we can.
Follow Kenny on Twitter where he's dropping mics like a bandit and losing followers like a Carrot Top parody account.