RIP Jose Fernandez (1992-2016)

An awful tragedy struck baseball this morning. As I flipped on ESPN for SportsCenter, they confirmed the tragic death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. He was only 24.

It was reported that Fernandez was in a boat accident along the Miami Beach coast. Two other people died in the tragedy. Seeing the reporters on ESPN discuss it including the renown Hannah Storm made me feel empty. It’s still hard to believe a few hours later as they play baseball that a talented and special pitcher is gone at such a young age. The magnitude is a huge blow to baseball.

Sports tragedies have a way of bringing everyone together. Baseball is close knit. The decision was made by the Braves and Marlins to cancel today’s game. One that was easy to conclude. How could they play? Our thoughts and prayers go out to Fernandez’ family. He was a great story. A Cuban defector who saved his Mom’s life after she went overboard, he became an 11th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.

At 20, Fernandez was in the majors throwing heat. He went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA while fanning 187 in 172 and two thirds innings, only allowing 111 hits. He captured NL Rookie of The Year and finished third in the NL Cy Young. The only young flamethrower similar was Dwight “Doc” Gooden, who took the league by storm his first two years winning the Cy Young in his second year with a 24-4 record.

Unfortunately, arm problems limited Fernandez the next two years with Tommy John surgery costing him most of 2014 and 2015. He still returned last year and was 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 64-plus innings. He only made a combined 19 starts spanning ’14-15.

This season, Fernandez showed flashes of greatness that made him a dominant starter. He recently won his 16th game against the Nationals going eight shutout innings and fanning 12 on Sept. 20. Fatefully, it would be his final start. Expected to pitch Sunday, he was pushed back to tomorrow to face the Mets.

Then came the sad news this morning that he was gone. A big right-handed pitcher who had every tool to become the next great starter. We’re talking Cy Youngs and possibly 300 strikeouts in a season as well as 20 wins. Instead, we’re left wondering why he was taken so soon.

Fernandez was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA with 55 walks and 253 K’s in 182.1 innings while permitting 149 hits. He was amazing. In only four years, he was 38-17 for his career with a 2.58 ERA. In 471 innings, he gave up 357 hits with 140 walks and 589 strikeouts.

It’s hard to put into perspective just how special he was. I loved watching him pitch. I always believed he’d become the best pitcher in baseball, eventually supplanting Clayton Kershaw. When you learn about how good a person and teammate he was, it makes it even sadder.

I’m reminded of the Spring Training boating accident that Bobby Ojeda was involved in with two other Indians. He survived while teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed.

There’s rarely a happy ending when such tragedies strike. This is the worst case scenario. I am sure baseball and the Marlins will donate and raise money for Jose Fernandez’ family. But it doesn’t take the pain away. They lost their baby.

RIP Jose Fernandez (1992-2016) 😦

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Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.

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