Yesterday, the game of baseball lost one of its brightest young stars when Miami Marlins starting pitcher José Fernández died in a tragic boating accident at the age of 24. The entire Cardsblog staff, on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals community, would like to offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Fernández and the other victims, as well as the entire Miami Marlins community.
Many moving tributes to the Cuban-American righty have already been published by nearly every major news outlet, and I would highly recommend that you take some time to read those if you haven’t already, to get an idea of what an incredible player, teammate, and human José Fernández was. We don’t have any new stories of Fernández that haven’t already circulated the internet over the past 24 hours, but the Cardinals family has, in fact, endured a similar situation in 2014 with the passing of Oscar Taveras.
Granted, Taveras never reached the heights that Fernández was able to reach in his short career, but that’s not to say that being a major league star wasn’t a possibility. Also, the mourning of Taveras’ death was clouded by the news that his fatal car crash was most likely a result of drunk driving, something that has already been ruled out in Fernández’s case.
In either case, a young, charismatic baseball player lost their life at a time where it seemed there was so much ahead of them. So much potential. It is devastating to lose someone that has already been able to make an impact, but even more so when they had the ability to continue making that impact.
Both Fernández and Taveras had long and hopefully prosperous careers ahead of them. The heartbreaking realization that a teammate who was just starting to figure it all out will no longer have the opportunity to have that dream realized is enough to make even the most grizzled of veterans break down and become mortal.
Youth and potential are attributes sought after by general managers for obvious reasons. Potential signifies the ability to contribute in a meaningful way in the future, while youth indicates the window of contribution to be long and prosperous. It’s these qualities that make the loss of a person like Taveras or Fernández that much more devastating.
Forget about baseball for just a minute. It’s difficult, I know. These two individuals were going to be genuine role models for young children for years to come. Under different circumstances, they would routinely spend their summer nights making grown men jump for joy for the foreseeable future. But no more.
In 2014, the Cardinals were forced to mourn in solitude, not being able to lean on a teammate as their season had ended in the prior weeks. Today, each and every member of the Marlins will inevitably experience a surreal and sickening feeling together as they walk into the clubhouse to be greeted by the locker of #16.
They’ll have to go about business as usual, although it will be anything but. Tonight, the phrase “playing with heavy hearts” won’t begin to describe the feelings of the men who fill that clubhouse. Tonight, Fernández was scheduled to take the mound.
Awards and statistics feel insignificant on days like today, but it suffices to say that Fernández had all of the talent in the world, and each time he toed the rubber it felt like he was going to do something remarkable. But it was more than just his extraordinary talent that made José Fernández stand out. It was his charisma and love for the game of baseball that made him the most engaging pitcher in the game.
Jose Fernandez was a joy to watch perform, and he will be sorely missed by so many.
Photo by Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports