Sometimes there are things that happen that transcend the game of baseball. The tragic events of Sunday morning certainly trump the importance of pennant races or the quest for titles in fantasy leagues.
In the early morning hours, Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez was killed, along with two others, in a tragic boating accident off the coast of Miami. He was 24-years-old.
For someone taken from the world far too soon, it’s amazing to reflect on everything that he had already accomplished in such a brief time.
Fernandez dreamed of playing professional baseball and was going to whatever it took to make that dream a reality. As a child growing up in Cuba, the only way for that to happen was to defect from his country. Which he tried. And tried. And tried. Three times, Fernandez set to the sea and was unsuccessful in reaching the mainland. Once, he came within 10 miles of Miami before he was turned away. Each time he was jailed for being a traitor to Fidel Castro. On one of the occasions, the young right-hander spent several months behind bars.
Finally, in 2008, Fernandez finally succeeded in his escape attempt. During the escape, in the dead of night, a woman fell overboard from their overcrowded speedboat and into the Caribbean Sea. He immediately dove in after her and pulled her to safety, saving her life. Unknown to Fernandez at the time that he leapt from the boat, that woman was his mother.
The 15-year-old, along with his mother and stepsister, eventually landed in Mexico. The three migrated undetected through the backwoods of Mexico for over a month before finally crossing into the United States through a border crossing in Laredo, Texas.
After that harrowing ordeal, they eventually made it to Tampa, Florida where they reunited with his father who had successfully defected three years prior. His safety and freedom finally secured, the focus was back on his true passion, baseball.
Fernandez became a dominant force at Alonso High School, pitching his club to two state championships. He was drafted by the Marlins with the 14th overall selection in the 2011 draft and given a $2 million signing bonus. In his first full season in the minor leagues, he was nearly un-hittable. Fernandez compiled a 14-1 record, 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 158/35 K/BB ratio over 134 innings.
He was so good during Spring Training the following year that he forced his way into the Marlins’ Opening Day rotation. Rather than take his lumps at the big league level, he hit the ground running. As a 20-year-old, he pitched with the poise of a savvy veteran while commanding an absolutely devastating arsenal. He went 12-6 that year with a 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 187/58 K/BB ratio in 172 2/3 innings. He was named to his first All-Star team that July and took home Rookie of the Year honors in the National League. He also finished third in the Cy Young balloting.
Fernandez continued his dominance for eight starts into his sophomore campaign before he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. That meant a date with Dr. Neal ElAttrache for Tommy John surgery and 12-18 months of rehabilitation. There was no guarantee that he’d be anywhere close to the dominant force he was upon his return.
So naturally, Fernandez rehabbed like a maniac and returned before the All-Star break the following season. Rather than struggle with inconsistency and poor command, typical hallmarks as pitchers work their way back from the procedure, Fernandez picked up right where he left off. He made 11 starts in 2015, again posting a sub-3.00 ERA and whiffing 11 batters per nine innings.
Fully healthy and ready to rock in 2016, Fernandez was once again one of the top all-around pitchers in baseball. In 29 starts, he registered a 2.89 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 253/55 K/BB ratio across 182 1/3 frames. His 2.29 FIP ranks atop all National League hurlers, as does his 12.5 K/9.
Talent-wise, Fernandez was already a superstar on the field. He had the potential to be one of the greatest of all-time. With his passion, determination and work ethic, there’s no doubt that he would have gone on to have a Hall of Fame career.
The 76 starts that he did make in his big league career were exhilarating. The joy and exuberance with which he pitched were second to none. Every start by Jose Fernandez was appointment viewing for baseball fans around the globe. For that, he will be sorely missed.
He was also an all-star off the field. Fernandez was a hero in the Cuban community and provided hope and inspiration to countless young ballplayers. He was loved and respected by his teammates and peers alike.
Fernandez’ last post on Instagram shared with the world his excitement over the fact that he was set to become a first-time father. It’s a tragedy that his child will never get the chance to know first-hand what a truly amazing individual Fernandez was.
The entire baseball world is mourning this tremendous and incomprehensible loss. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends, the Marlins organization and to baseball fans everywhere.
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Win for Vin!
The Dodgers wanted to send legendary broadcaster Vin Scully home with a win for his final home broadcast on Sunday, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
For most of the afternoon, it looked though a win wouldn’t be in the cards, until Corey Seager came through with a game-tying triple in the seventh inning. The Rockies then took the lead, as David Dahl homered off of Kenley Jansen in the top half of the ninth inning, meaning there would need to be other heroics to send the Dodgers’ faithful home happy.
After the first two batters struck out in the bottom of the ninth, the 22-year-old phenom delivered again with a solo shot off of Rockies’ closer Adam Ottavino to tie the game and force extra innings.
It was there, that Charlie Culberson smacked a walk-off homer to give the Dodgers the memorable victory. Not only were they able to send Scully home with a win in his final broadcast from Los Angeles, but the victory also officially clinched their division title in the National League West.
After the victory, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts got on the microphone and delivered a heartfelt message, telling Scully that “we love you, and this is for you”. Scully then delivered a farewell message to the Dodgers fans in attendance, thanking them for their love and support throughout his outstanding career.
The Dodgers will now use the final week of the regular season to get healthy, line up their playoff rotation and battle the Nationals for playoff seeding.
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American League Quick Hits: Ryon Healy clubbed his 12th home run as the Athletics trounced Colby Lewis and the Rangers… Jharel Cotton allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out five in a victory there… Eduardo Rodriguez punched out a career-high 13 batters over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Rays… Matt Boyd gave up four runs without recording an out in a disaster loss to the Royals… Dustin Pedroia went deep in his second straight as the Red Sox beat the Rays in extra innings… Joe Musgrove twirled seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Angels… Nelson Cruz blasted a pair of home runs, but was forced to leave Sunday’s game against the Twins with soreness in his left wrist… Jose Bautista homered for the third time in four games as the Jays rallied to beat the Yankees… Zach Britton converted his 46th consecutive save on the season and lowered his ERA to 0.54… Carlos Rodon racked up 11 strikeouts over eight shutout frames in a win over the Indians… Sonny Gray (forearm) will return to the A’s rotation on Wednesday against the Angels, but is only expected to work 1-2 innings… Adam Eaton missed his second straight start after his collision with the outfield wall on Friday.
National League Quick Hits: Jon Lester fired 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball against the Cardinals to earn his 19th victory of the season… Bryce Harper left Sunday’s game due to soreness in his left thumb. He’s considered day-to-day… A.J. Cole was ejected from that ballgame after throwing at Jung Ho Kang. Kang faked a tag at third base on a play where Harper was sliding in, and that’s where he sustained the injury… Mark Melancon rebounded from a blown save to work a perfect inning against the Pirates, earning his 43rd save… Brandon Finnegan hurled five scoreless innings to earn a victory in his final start of the 2016 season… Asdrubal Cabrera plated four runs in a 17-0 rout over the Phillies… Robert Gsellman fired seven shutout innings in a victory over the Phillies, punching out eight… Jarred Cosart underwent an MRI and X-ray on his injured elbow and is expected to miss the remainder of the season… Brandon Crawford returned to the Giants lineup after missing four games with a dislocated pinkie finger… Reds manager Bryan Price admitted that it’s unlikely Homer Bailey will return this season… Starling Marte missed yet another game due to his nagging back spasms… Rubby De La Rosa is set to visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday and could potentially require a second Tommy John surgery… A.J. Pollock (groin) still isn’t running at 100 percent and may not return before the end of the season.