On the day of what would have been his 25th birthday, Jose Fernandez remains in the mind of Miami Marlins fans.
A friend of mine recently asked me if Jose Fernandez were really as good as everyone says he is. He’s never followed baseball closely, and only knows what he does about Fernandez and the Miami Marlins from watching on the periphery.
He asked because when many pass away, their memory is aggrandized. Their achievements are revered and inflated, while their shortcomings are ignored. Post-mortem, it’s easy to say that Jose Fernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The difference is, nothing that is said about Jose Fernandez now, wasn’t being said when he was alive.
I can’t speak on who Jose Fernandez was as a person. I never spent any time around him. The closest I got was watching him pitch on a number of occasions, the last time being when I made the trip to Cleveland to watch him pitch against the Indians.
But as a ballplayer, he was everything people say was now. A bonafide ace, Fernandez wasn’t on his way to being a star, he already was one. He was already one of the top five pitchers in baseball and rising. He would have been 25 years old today, not yet entering his prime as a ballplayer.
Unfortunately, all we are left with is projection. Fernandez was dominant in a way that few pitchers are when they enter Major League Baseball. He seemed to genuinely love his job, and appeared grateful that he got to do it.
At only 24 years old, his list of achievements was growing at a rapid fire pace. Perhaps more impressive than winning Rookie of the Year, was the way he returned from Tommy John surgery: dominant as ever.
Proof in the pudding
If you need any tangible proof that Fernandez was the teams most valuable player, look at the 2017 roster. The Miami Marlins have been playing better baseball lately, and find themselves only five games under .500. But they’ve done so with a makeshift rotation and patchy bullpen work.
It’s safe to say that Jose Fernandez would have won at least five games this season. The team would undoubtedly be jockeying with the two-headed monster in the wildcard, possibly with the Nationals for the division.
As a result of Fernandez’s death, the team made a number of corresponding moves in the offseason. They signed Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke, Junichi Tazawa, Brad Ziegler, and traded for Dan Straily. It still hasn’t been enough.
In just a few short years, Fernandez left an indelible mark on the Miami Marlins organization, and baseball as a whole. He ignited the fan base Major League Baseball hoped would rally behind a Miami baseball franchise when they awarded one to the city.
I gave my friend a long-winded and emphatic answer in the affirmative. Probably with far more information than he was looking for.
Jose Fernandez would have been 25 today. The city of Miami continues to grieve the lost of a talented young man who had the world of baseball in his palm. Now a cautionary tale, Marlins fans cling to the memory of his dominance on the mound.
Happy birthday, Jose.