On the heels of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez’s tragic death Sunday, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com wonders what might have been had his life not been cut short at the age of 24. The fun-loving Fernandez’s upside on the mound was limitless, writes Stark, who opines that the Cuba native could have been the next Pedro Martinez. To back up such high praise, Stark notes that Fernandez’s lifetime 150 ERA+ ranks first among right-handers whose careers began since World War II (minimum 70 starts).
More reactions to the death of Fernandez, whose loss has the baseball world in mourning:
- Speaking of Martinez, the 44-year-old Hall of Famer and three-time Cy Young Award winner said Sunday that Fernandez was a “better talent” than he was (Twitter link via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald). That’s quite an endorsement from Martinez, hands down one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the sport.
- In emigrating from a communist country to emerge as an elite pitcher in the United States, Fernandez became the embodiment of the American Dream, offers Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. It wasn’t easy for Fernandez, who ended up in jail three times as a young teenager after failed attempts to immigrate to America. The fourth try, which came in 2008, was successful, but Fernandez had to dive into the ocean to save his mother from drowning as they fled to Mexico. Years later, in 2015, Fernandez became a proud U.S. citizen, as Passan details.
- On the field, Fernandez recorded the best FIP of any modern era pitcher – Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax rank second and third – per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Off the field, Fernandez brought happiness to those around him, writes Heyman. “He just could bring a smile to everyone’s face,” former teammate Steve Cishek said.
- At a tearful press conference Sunday, Marlins manager Don Mattingly added, “I see such a little boy in the way he played. Such joy. When you watch kids play Little League, that’s what I think about.” Stated owner Jeffrey Loria, “Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest. Jose left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us. At this difficult time, our prayers are with his mother, grandmother, family and friends.”