About three years ago, Mike Hargrove stood in Seattle as skipper of the Mariners, a jaded man.
Who could really blame him? The ire of Hargrove's cynicism at the time: Felix Hernandez.
"When everybody in the world is getting carried away by this kid," the Mariners one-time manager confessed about the organizations prized prospect, "you're the one guy who can't."
Back then, Hernandez was 21-years old and three years into this major league career. That's when he went 14-7. That's when Seattle actually had run support. That's when Hargrove and the rest of the league conjured up visions of Doc Gooden with the New York Mets and gently scattered scuttlebutt not about when Felix would win his first Cy Young Award, but how many he'd actually compile during his career.
Three years later, King Felix (11-10) is still waiting to be officially christened the best pitcher in the American League - at least by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of American who will cast 28 ballots to decide the AL Cy Young winner.
You're probably not going to like what you read. Consider yourself warned. Then again, this won't exactly come as a newsflash around Seattle.
Hernandez should win the Cy Young this year, but he won't.
That is no disrespect to Boston's Clay Bucholz, David Price in Tampa, or Minnesota's Carl Pavano. It's more about the league-wide respect for what C.C. Sabathia has accomplished in New York. He is 19-6 for the Yankees, the only 19-game winner in the majors, and no doubt the best pitcher on a staff poised to pitch deep in to October. It's hard to argue against what Sabathia has done this season, but that's not going to keep anyone from debating the topic of who should receive the honors: C.C. or Felix?
This shouldn't just be about wins and losses. Chances are it will be.
There was talk recently that no one has ever won the Cy Young Award in baseball with less than 15 wins. That's a swing and a miss.
In 1981, Fernando Valenzuela won the award with a 13-7 record in a season where he also netted Rookie of the Year honors with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tom Seaver of the Cincinnati Reds was second in balloting that season after going 14-2, with a 2.54 ERA. Valenzuela tallied 70 first-place votes, compared to Tom Terrific's 67 second-place votes. Unlike Hernandez and the Mariners though, the Dodgers and Reds were outstanding teams. Tommy Lasorda and company finished second in the National League West, and Cincinnati finished first in the National League West.
And then there are the 2010 Seattle Mariners and Felix with his whole 11 wins.
Seattle is easily the worst offensive team in the league, and they fail to shed that lousy label when Hernandez starts. The Mariners are averaging just 3.32 runs per game when Felix takes the mound, the the second-worst support any AL starter . Still, Hernandez ranks first in the AL in innings pitched (219.1), strikeouts (209) and his 2.30 ERA is good for second-best in the AL behind Buchholz (2.25).
Will this season be 2009 all over again for Hernandez - who came in second in AL Cy Young voting?
Kansas City's Zack Greinke (16 wins) won the award last season, even though Hernandez had more wins. So why not Felix - who still has five scheduled starts left - in 2010?
Greinke proved one thing last season when he took home the award: you don't have to pitch for a winner to be recognized as one. King Felix was second in balloting and went 19-5, the most wins in the American League, while the Royals went a measly 65-97.
This season the Mariners are trying to avoid losing 100 games, which could torpedo Hernandez's case.
And in a season where Seattle lost their manager by firing Don Wakamatsu back on August 9, lost their most famous player in franchise history when Ken Griffey, Jr. retired earlier in July, and lost their moral compass in acquiring Josh Lueke in the Cliff Lee trade with Texas, the Mariners will likely suffer one other major loss at the end of the season.
The AL Cy Young award for King Felix.
For more from Wendell Maxey, visit Beyond The Beat.