SEATTLE -- Goodbye was inevitable.
This mutual parting of ways, at least in the beginning, seemed unimaginable to those who can remember what it was like when it was good.
Yet the sobering reality of the end to this relationship became apparent three years ago.
On Thursday night, Felix Hernandez will make his final start for the team that pulled him from poverty in Venezuela, developed him into a prospect phenom, helped him become a superstar, made him the face of the franchise, paid him exorbitantly for those efforts and his unflinching loyalty, allowed him to often operate by his own rules, watched as he started to fade, tried -- though too late -- to convince him (and eventually force him) to change and now will bid farewell.
Cheers mixed with tears will permeate the night. The sinking feeling of our own impermanence will be unavoidable.
But it wasn't supposed to end this way.
Hernandez will leave the Mariners without ever pitching in the postseason. His legacy and Hall of Fame hopes have likely been wounded beyond healing. For many years of his prime, the Mariners were negligent in surrounding him with mediocrity based largely on the people that made baseball decisions and the people that paid them to make those decisions.
In a cruel twist of his baseball fate, when the Mariners finally surrounded him with requisite talent, Hernandez, despite the expectations, couldn't lift his team into the postseason because of his below-standard performances. He wasn't the lone reason they missed the postseason in those years, but had he been able to summon the real King Felix, his baseball resume wouldn't have that glaring absence.
Hernandez's career arc is fascinating and tragic. It's Shakespearean in its triumph and turmoil. Meteoric rise followed by a steady fall with no vindication in the end.
"I've thought about it, but I don't want to talk about it," he said. "Not yet."