NEW YORK -- Felix Hernandez said Monday that his feelings haven't changed. He still wants to be a Mariner.
He still wants to remain a Mariner.
"Why not?" he asked me.
Why not? I can think of 15 reasons why not, 15 reasons why the Mariners must be the most miserable team to play for right now.
Make that 16 reasons now, after a 10-3 Mariner loss to the Yankees that was so ugly that it seemed to explain the 15 straight losses that came before it.
If you believe King Felix and his teammates, they don't agree with me. They don't want out. They just want a few wins.
They want one win -- fast.
They've set a club record already, with 16 straight losses. They've lost more consecutive games than any team since the 2005 Royals lost 19 in a row, more consecutive games than all but six teams in the history of the American League. They've lost fans, they've lost admirers, and they've lost believers among baseball people who had started to think a month ago that general manager Jack Zduriencik might be building a future contender.
"Their offense is absolutely non-existent," said one scout who watched the Mariners last week. "They've got Miguel Olivo hitting cleanup -- Miguel Olivo! [Justin] Smoak is still sort of a prospect. And Chone Figgins? I might as well be playing third base for them."
Olivo hit cleanup again Monday night, going 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .220. It was the 36th time he has hit cleanup for the Mariners this year, after hitting cleanup a total of 11 times in his nine previous big-league seasons.
You'd think that any player who could get out would want out. You expect to walk into the Mariner clubhouse and see players checking the CBSSports.com Eye on Baseball blog.
It's not like that, or at least it wasn't like that Monday.
"I'm very proud to say I'm a member of the Seattle Mariners," Doug Fister said.
Unlike Hernandez, who the Mariners have consistently declared off-limits in trade talks, Fister seems to have some chance of getting dealt this week. The Tigers and Reds scouted him last week in Toronto, and the Tigers continue to have a scout following the Mariners. Fister starts Tuesday night against the Yankees, with the weight of the 16-game losing streak transferred to his shoulders.
The Mariners seem more interested in talking about Jason Vargas, the pitcher who started against the Yankees on Monday. Vargas allowed eight runs (four earned) in four innings, in an outing that wasn't as bad as all that, but wasn't real good, either. Fister has more value. Erik Bedard, who comes off the disabled list to start Friday against the Rays, could have value, as well.
Both Fister and Vargas have losing records with a decent ERA. Fister is 3-11 despite a 3.30 ERA, and he's 0-6 since the beginning of June, with a 3.38 ERA and a .578 opponents OPS.
As that scout said, the Mariners' offense is basically non-existent. It's why their 43-59 record isn't exactly a surprise, even if the way they got there is.
The M's were 43-43 when the losing streak began. They were just 2 1/2 games out of first place.
If you'd asked shortstop Brendan Ryan then if there was a chance that they'd lose the next 16 games, he'd have told you no.
"Zero percent," Ryan said. "I don't even know how many stars have to be aligned for this to happen. It's Friday the 13th, and a full moon. Every day.
"With our pitching staff, it would have been much more believable to win 15 in a row."
The strong starting pitching is the reason the Mariners got to 43-43 in the first place. But even then, they seemed to be playing over their heads, an idea that manager Eric Wedge basically agreed with Monday.
"I don’t think we were as good as we looked back then, and we're not as bad as we look now," Wedge said.
Wedge pointed to the Mariners' young talent (eight players have made their big-league debut with the M's this year), and insisted that the long-term plan remains solid.
"Grand plan, big picture," he called it. "We're building something here."
And he said this 16-game losing streak will end up being part of it.
"We'll be stronger for it," Wedge said. "This is something you'll never forget, that you'll draw from. Having lived through this makes you stronger.
"Believe you me, they'll be a whole lot tougher after going through this."
Perhaps they will be, but the way the Mariners have played over the last week isn't exactly encouraging. Three times in the last week, they had runners get picked off (including Ichiro, who fell for the third-to-first move that never works).
But they don't seem to be blaming each other, and they don't seem to want out -- at least not openly.
"We've got a good group," Wedge said. "They're together. They're good teammates."
They may be good teammates, but they're not a good team.
At this point, maybe they should trade King Felix, but they don't want to. And if you believe him, he doesn't want out, either.
Not even after 16 in a row.