The other night at Minute Maid Park I witnessed a milestone take place as Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, also known as King Felix, recorded his 100th career victory en route to a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
Of course there will be those who say that any milestone that occurs against the Astros for the foreseeable future should carry an asterisk by it based on the level of competition being put on the field by the Astros in relation to the skill level of other teams. I do not share that view however as the game of baseball has shown time and time again that anything can happen once the cute little kid stares into the camera and screams “play ball.”
So, milestones both good and bad that occur against the Astros should carry no special stigma to them and in every way should count in both personal and overall team statistics. And as we all know baseball is certainly a game that likes its statistics.
So let us talk statistics for a moment and look at just how big of an accomplishment King Felix’s feat is.
To put it into perspective there are only 31 active pitchers with at least 100 career wins. Consider that each of the 30 teams carries five starting pitchers on average and that basically means that only one out of every five pitchers in the Major Leagues has at least 100 wins. Andy Pettitte is the current active leader with 248 wins. The all-time wins leader is Cy Young with 511 wins.
In a sport where injuries can sideline even the most promising of pitchers it is truly a feat worth celebrating when a pitcher has the longevity to reach the century mark in victories.
I would love to say that I had the foresight well in advance of the potential historic night to ensure that I was in the ballpark to witness it but my presence at the ballpark was definitely the result of a series of random events that were not at all under my control.
The first factor that allowed me to be in the stadium to witness win 100 was of course the fact that Felix Hernandez’s spot in the pitching order just happened to coincide with the first game in Houston.
It also didn’t hurt that he had lost a couple of starts earlier in the season to have him holding steady at 99 wins when he arrived in Houston.
Another factor of chance and coincidence that fell into play to allow me to attend the game was a free ticket promotion kicked off by the Astros as a way to a) fill the stadium on a Monday night and b) try to save face during a public relations nightmare related to their new cable network and the fact that only 40 percent of their television territory can watch the games.
With game day upon me I glanced at the pre-game notes as I always do when attending a game and that was where the pieces fell into place and I realized that not only was I going to see a really good pitcher but it was on a night that had the potential to be big.
In my various years of watching baseball I had never really gotten to see any of the “elite” pitchers in the game during their prime. One of my biggest regrets was never getting to see Roger Clemens pitch in his prime.
While the opinions are split down the middle on the Rocket today, few can argue that in his prime he was a force to be reckoned with and his seven Cy Young Awards can certainly give weight to the argument that he was one of the best.
In addition to Roger Clemens, I would have also liked to have seen Nolan Ryan pitch in person but that was not in the cards for me either.
So getting to see Felix Hernandez pitch, after he threw a perfect game last season, was my first chance to see one of the “elite” pitchers up close and personal.
I will admit that as I took my seat for the game thoughts of witnessing a no hitter or even a perfect game were going through my head.
Of course, the no hitter and perfect game bids were quickly extinguished as Astro catcher Jason Castro hit a two out double in the bottom of the first inning.
So while my quest to witness a no hitter or perfect game will continue I can say that I was there for the 100th win of Felix Hernandez’s career.
He could go on to have 200 more wins or he could never notch another win in his career. That is one of the great equalizers in the game.
No one knows when the “elite” will fall back to earth either through injury or a variety of other means where that magic ability to make the ball dance across the plate and avoid contact with bats suddenly goes away and a pitcher once thought unhittable starts looking like a batting practice pitcher with players lined up to take them deep.
To see an example of an ace brought down to earth one need only look at the case of Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants. His fall from the ranks of staff ace to average looking pitcher has been painful to watch but definitely shows that no one is immune to “losing their stuff.”
Next up on my “elite” pitcher bucket list is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers will be in town in early May and there is little doubt that if Verlander is one of the pitchers scheduled during the three-game series I will once again be front and center to scratch another “elite” pitcher off of my bucket list.
Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about royalty and kings has me tasting a Whopper for some reason.
Copyright 2013 R Anderson