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Originally published Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 8:01 PM

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2012 newsmakers: Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez's perfect game was the highlight of another difficult season for the Mariners.

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When I think of the M's this season, I hear Han Solo's voice in my head: "I've got... MORE
Geoff I think this is the last off season Felix is giving the Mariner F.O. to put up or... MORE
The Mayans say: New Era! But with all the new faces on a short term deal, it does... MORE

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In many ways, the mid-August perfect game Felix Hernandez threw against the Tampa Bay Rays at a sparsely-filled Safeco Field was not the highlight of the Mariners season.

The real highlight came six days later, when Hernandez stepped back on a mound for the first time in front of 39,204 screaming fans clad in yellow T-shirts to honor their "King." It was a glimpse of all that is possible for the Mariners, who won their seventh in a row that night in what became an eight-game August streak with a homegrown ace on the hill and an energized crowd cheering for games that suddenly mattered.

But, alas, the fun stopped in September when the Mariners faced a string of contenders, went 11-18 and finished in last place in the American League West with a 75-87 record.

The M's traded for Kendrys Morales and signed Jason Bay but were outbid for the big free agents. The King, just 26, is still in Seattle, though.

There was talk at the winter meetings of a Hernandez contract extension, but that was shut down quickly. As 2012 draws to a close, there is no sense of how close Seattle is to a new pact with a pitcher whose deal runs out after 2014.

And that next deal Hernandez signs — whether with Seattle or elsewhere — could largely determine how his 27-up, 27-down mid-August performance is remembered. Will history view Hernandez's post-perfection "Felixing" pose — balanced on one leg, arms raised to the heavens in victory — as the launching of a new Mariners era, or just another fleeting moment in a franchise's lifetime of missed opportunity?

Geoff Baker

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