Jose Fernandez, Statues & The Perils Of Being A Fan

When Jose Fernandez died near the end of last season, like everybody else, I thought it was a great tragedy to have one of the great, young ball players cut down as he was coming into his prime.

And then the police investigation concluded.

In my mind, this no longer was a tragedy, but a matter of pure stupidity. Alcohol and cocaine in his system while operating a boat at way too high a speed with way too little visibility which killed not only himself, but two other men as well.

Sure, it’s still sad to see three lives ended, but you can only feel so bad when the damage is self-inflicted. We all knew the Jose story about how he came over from Cuba. How he dove into the water risking his own life to save his mother who had fallen overboard. It was and still is an amazing tale of the lengths people without freedom will go to to be free. It’s inspiring. It also seems like a waste considering the manner in which he died.

I’m not a Marlins fan, but I am a baseball fan and, as such, truly enjoyed watching him pitch and perform on the baseball field. I also really loved when he hit a homer against the Braves and pimped it so hard that Brian McCann – the self-appointed sheriff of the unwritten rules of the game – took offense and the benches cleared. Because fuck Brian McCann.

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When the news came out last week that the Marlins were planning to erect a statue of Fernandez in his memory outside Marlins Park, I found it an incredibly hard pill to swallow. How could they possibly do such a thing to memorialize a man whose life was cut off so suddenly because of such a dumb decision that left a family without their loved one and an unborn daughter fatherless?

It seemed as if I was in the overwhelming majority on that as well. Most of the comments and reactions I read on articles posted by ESPN and Yahoo and various other sites seemed to convey similar arguments against the statue. I say majority because it wasn’t everybody. There was a noticeable contingent of people, be they Marlins fans, fellow Cubans or just plain, ole Jose Fernandez fans, who were very in favor of the statue because of what the player meant to his team, his community and his people. They were willing to, maybe not overlook the circumstances around his death, but accepting of that as just a footnote to a story of an otherwise beloved individual who impacted them in some way.

And that came off crazy to me.

Until…

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This is Jose Reyes. He came to the Major Leagues in 2003 with MY team, the New York Mets. From the day he arrived, I was a fan. He was young, exciting and seemed to be having the time of his life in every game. He became the best shortstop in the history of my favorite club and when he left for greener pastures as a free agent, I watched many slide shows of his finest Met moments to the tune of Adele’s “Someone Like You”. (Not even a joke.)

Reyes eventually returned to the Mets last season, but under very different circumstances. After the 2015 season, Reyes was involved in an incident while vacationing in Hawaii where he apparently got physical with his wife that resulted in injuries and her being transported to a hospital. There were never charges filed as Mrs. Reyes declined to cooperate with law enforcement, but something happened. Not the good kind of something either.

Jose Reyes was suspended by MLB from the beginning of the 2016 season because of this and – upon his reinstatement – was unconditionally released by the Colorado Rockies who chose to eat the remaining guaranteed money on his contract (a pro-rated $22M for 2016 and $21.46M for 2017) rather than have him remain a member of their ballclub. He was signed by the Mets, the team that raised him, where he had enough goodwill built up with the organization and fan base that it was probably the only destination he could go without the backlash being too severe.

A situation like Jose Reyes’ puts you in a tough position as a fan. You want your team to win. You want your team to get the best players available and, let’s be honest, Jose Reyes was definitely an upgrade on the roster for where the Mets were at the time of his signing. Baseball players – and athletes – in general are no saints. They get into all types of shit just like anybody else. But there’s a fine line between womanizing or partying and beating your spouse to the point where she needs to be hospitalized.

You don’t want to trivialize the situation by any means, but Reyes never had an issue before that. Maybe it was just a one-time thing. But a one-time thing is still very not OK. But remember when Jose was leading off during that awesome 2006 season? You loved him! Yes, but all the evidence seems to point to him beating his wife whether there were charges filed or not.

I want to be able to cheer for Jose Reyes, but every time I do, I catch myself and remember what he – allegedly – did. And that sucks because, as a fan, he’s brought me incredible joy for over a decade. It’s just something I’ll never be able to fully put out of my head while he continues to play for my team.

Which brings me back to Jose Fernandez. The idea that people would support such a statue seemed absolutely ludicrous to me. Until I remembered my own struggle with wanting, trying (choosing?) to remember the best of Jose Reyes.

I can just imagine a little kid in ten years walking with his dad and coming up to the statue of Fernandez and having the following exchange:

Kid: Dad, who’s this?

Dad: This is Jose Fernandez. He was on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers maybe ever before he made some bad decisions and died.

Kid: Oh…how are we supposed to feel about this?

Dad: I don’t know, son. I don’t know.

In this day and age, we know and hear everything about everybody. When it comes to the stories like these, it shows that it’s not always a good thing. Sometimes, you just want your heroes to stay your heroes.

Joe

ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

Twitter: @MaximusSexPower

Game 7: Thor Can’t Defend Midgard Alone

Noah Syndergaard is really good at baseball. We can agree on that, right? The rest of the Mets right now, however, are not on the same level of performance.

The team dropped their fourth straight last night – this one by the score of 2-1 to the Miami Marlins – and wasted an absolutely scintillating performance from the 23 year-old fireballer in the process. Thor went 7 innings, allowing just one run and striking out 12 Marlin hitters in the process.

Syndergaard was on fire right out of the gate, sporting his trademark high 90s fastball and his array of low to mid 90s breaking and offspeed stuff. Two starts into the season and you can already see the dramatic improvements he’s made since last season. He hasn’t sacrificed velocity, but has refined his complimentary pitches which include a 95 MPH slider that is just absolutely unreal. It’s even more impressive when you realize that Thor didn’t really have a slider at all last season.

He was dominant, but got into trouble in the 4th inning thanks to our old friend, BABIP. If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re my mom and don’t have a clue as to what BABIP is. It stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play and is exactly what it says it is. Obviously, you have a better chance of getting a hit if you actually make contact and the Marlins did exactly that. They hit nothing solid off Syndergaard, but a couple of soft grounders JUST out of the reach of infielders and a lobbed dinker into right field led to a run that would be the only one Noah would surrender.

Unfortunately – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the Mets weren’t able to do anything with the bats despite having Miami starter, Jose Fernandez, in plenty of trouble early in the game.

They got on the board early with a run-scoring single from Lucas Duda, but ran themselves out of a potentially big inning when Duda was thrown out at second trying to stretch said single after a bobble in right field by Giancarlo Stanton. They followed up the first inning by loading the bases in the second, but David Wright hit a routine fly ball to Stanton ending the threat.

Fernandez then settled in and retired ten in a row before being removed after 5 innings and 90 pitches by manager, Don Mattingly, as he is still in the early stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery and isn’t being overextended especially on a particularly chilly evening in Queens.

Bottom line, the Mets haven’t been good. You can say it’s early and you can say the schedule was odd, but at some point, you can’t just keep making excuses. The Royals (the same Royals that beat us in the World Series last November) had the same schedule to start their season and they’re 5-2. Every day that goes by means we’re one more day removed from it being early. Seven games turns into 15 in the blink of an eye. And before you know it, 15 turns into 50 games. They need to get their shit together and quickly.

Remember, we’re not just competing against the Nationals here. In a short, postseason series or even a one-game Wild Card play-in, the Mets have a great chance because of the pitching staff they’ve assembled, but first, they have to get there. They currently have the second-worst record in the National League and, though I obviously expect that to change, we’re looking at an expected seven teams (Mets, Nats, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Giants) competing for five playoff spots. That doesn’t even include any kind of Cinderella team or a better than expected season from a team like the DBacks that could throw even more chaos into a race.

The point of this? While it may not yet be time to jump off a bridge, this is not something you want to see for very much longer. After the getaway game with Miami this afternoon, the team heads out on a 9 game road trip. They cannot still be playing this brand of baseball by the time they return home.

It’s not like it’s one player’s fault either. The offensive ineptitude is a complete team effort as there hasn’t been anybody in the lineup that has established anything resembling and consistency through the first 10 days.

If you’ve read my stuff back into last season, you know my feelings on Terry Collins. I don’t like him. Players have to play, but it’s his job to put those players in the best situation to succeed. I don’t believe for one second that he does that and can point to numerous examples (in just the World Series alone [and no, I actually give him the benefit of the doubt on the Harvey call in game 5; he was screwed no matter what he decided]) where he’s made very questionable tactical decision that have cost runs, innings or games.

While I’m not going to kill Terry quite yet, I do question the lineup he’s rolling out everyday right now. It comes off awkward and inefficient to me. Right now, this is what TC seems to be attached to:

  1. Granderson (L)
  2. Wright (R)
  3. Cespedes (R)
  4. Duda (L)
  5. Walker (S)
  6. Conforto (L)
  7. Cabrera (S)
  8. d’Arnaud (R)

I’m not a fan of that construction. Neil Walker is not a prototypical run-producer and seems out of place in the five-hole. By the same token, Travis d’Arnaud has shown an ability for power and potential and we all came into this season expecting him to take the next step in his growth by becoming the impact bat he’s been projected to become for years.Burying him in the 8th spot in front of the pitcher isn’t doing anybody any favors right now especially when there’s nobody on base in front of him. If I had my way, I’d roll out the following:

  1. Granderson (L)
  2. Wright (R)
  3. Conforto (L)
  4. Cespedes (R)
  5. Duda (L)
  6. d’Arnaud (R)
  7. Walker (S)
  8. Cabrera (S)

You’ll notice that the first thing I did was go lefty-righty-lefty-righty the whole way through. I don’t swear by that manipulation, but I do think it’s appropriate for the talent we have available.

I assume that most people would question my usage of Michael Conforto in the three-hole most. He’s young and while he LOOKS like a future star, he doesn’t have the track record to back it up yet. It’s a fair point, but Conforto has a good understanding of the strike zone, handles the bat well and does have pop. Plus, hitting in front of Cespedes should give him an opportunity to see more fastballs with men on base. I don’t think of Conforto as a 30 homer guy, but a consistent 15-20 is a very real possibility and with his gap-power could become a 100 RBI guy in the mold of – wait for it – Keith Hernandez. Keith was an MVP and a case can be made that he should be a Hall of Famer and I’m not saying Conforto is a future that, but their swings and ability to split gaps with some pop seem comparable.

I also like Walker and Cabrera near the bottom. Both are consistent, professional hitters. At this point, you’re not projecting anything with either of them. You’re getting what’s on the back of their baseball cards. They’re steady. Walker’s talents are put to better use in the 7 where he’s not expected to be an RBI man. Asdrubal Cabrera can be useful in a few spots (I wouldn’t hesitate him to use him at 2 depending on other players’ days off and such), but in the 8, he rounds out what looks to be a balanced lineup that takes advantage of the talent at hand.

We have a few hours to go before the getaway game with Miami. Hopefully, we’ll pick one up before hitting the road.

Also, the NHL Playoffs start tonight: LET’S GO PENS!

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com