After last night’s game, Mariners’ manager Ken Wakamatsu criticized his putative ace, Felix Hernandez:
“Sometimes you’ve got to ask guys to step up. I didn’t think he stepped up today.”
This afternoon, the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker lays down the serious artillary fire. After an extended recap of Roy Halladay’s career arc and an assertion that Hernandez should be doing the same things Halladay did and does, Baker says:
The point is, we’re getting to the stage where maturity has to stop being used in the same sentence as Felix Hernandez. It’s still a valid excuse to a certain point. But that point is getting slimmer and slimmer. Which is why Wakamatsu called him out last night. He’s trying to fire Hernandez up. Hernandez does care about being a staff ace — that much I’m certain about. Those of you who say he doesn’t care really have no clue. I’ve seen him up close. He sounded casual last night, but you could tell he was mad at himself. That’s all fine and good.
But when you’re the staff ace, that’s not enough. When a team is relying on you to stop losing streaks and win, it’s not enough to try. You have to get the job done. You have to execute. You have to hone your routine to the point where it brings you that consistent level of excellence and things like delivery times are not even a concern.
If it sounds a little unfair, then maybe it is. But that’s the price of being a staff ace.
From reading both Baker pieces, the game story, and about a million comments from Mariners fans, I’ll agree that no, Hernandez probably wasn’t as prepared for last night’s game as he should have been. He was easily distracted when runners were on base (and there were a lot of runners) and, as Dave Cameron notes, he didn’t bring out his highly effective changeup for some reason.
Still, it seems like a bit too much piling on one guy for a team that is loaded with problems right now. No one except Russell Branyan and Ichiro are hitting this year. They’ve got only three starters, one of whom you have to figure will turn into a pumpkin soon, and their closer has been atrotious. To lay everything at Hernandez’ feet like Baker seems to be doing here is a little too much for me.