Long live Jose.
Just a day after losing their star pitcher in a boat accident that also claimed the lives of Eddy Rivero and Emilio Macias, the Miami Marlins played exactly how two-time All-Star Jose Fernandez would have wanted them to: with a mindset focused on winning and appreciating what they have.
Thanks to seven combined hits from Dee Gordon and Justin Bour, a strong effort from the bullpen, and an undying sense of unity, the Miami Marlins moved back to.500 with a 7-3 win over the rival New York Mets. In a game that Fernandez originally was supposed to start, Adam Conley went three scoreless innings and let the bullpen, led by an emotional David Phelps, take care of things for the final six.
First-year Marlins manager Don Mattingly, the bench coach for the 2006 New York Yankees when pitcher Cory Lidle was killed in a plane crash, had nothing but praise for his team on Monday night.
“I’m just proud of our guys, just the way they hung together. It was not scripted. No one tells you how to handle it. There’s nothing that tells you how to handle it. They just stuck together and went out and played. I think they really wanted to honor Jose the way he played and how he went about things — just that joy that he had when he played, that confidence and that energy. I really think that was the focus of these guys, honoring him.”
Gordon, who served an 80-game suspension this year for a violation of the league’s drug policy, got things started in the first inning with a solo home run off Bartolo Colon. As the Marlins’ official website reported, Gordon spoke with a heavy heart after the game.
“It was for [Fernandez], because he loved to hit as much as he loved to pitch. I thought that was just my way of showing him that, ‘I love you. I miss you. I’m always going to miss you.’… Most definitely the most difficult game I ever played in. I just kept looking over and for [Fernandez’s] name. How does he not show up here today? Every time I see his number, his name, I keep hearing his voice. Honestly, selfishly, I wanted him to say, ‘I got y’all.’ I keep waiting on that moment.”
The loss of Fernandez, a Cuban refugee and a former first-round pick in 2011, is a major blow to an organization that had finally begun to re-discover their winning ways. With just two more wins, the Marlins will have cracked the 80-win mark for the first time since 2010, when the team went 80-82. A 4-2 finish in their final six games would mean Miami’s first winning season not only since 2009 but in their new stadium and since they changed their name from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins.
Jose Fernandez, however, will not be a part of that. Early Tuesday morning, USA Today reported more details about the tragic boat crash.
“Authorities said signs of drugs or alcohol were not present at the crash site. Toxicology reports are pending. [Will, a close friend of Rivero] Bernal and others described Fernandez as under some stress Saturday; the Miami Herald said the impetus was an argument with his girlfriend, who is pregnant with their first child. Yahoo Sports reported that Fernandez asked Marlins teammates to join him on the expedition, but they declined. Fernandez contacted Rivero sometime after the Marlins’ game against the Atlanta Braves, which ended at 10:30 p.m. ET, and Rivero left a birthday party to join him. They picked up Macias on the boat thereafter…. Authorities still have not stipulated which of the three were driving the boat, nor is it clear that they have made that determination. Bernal told Yahoo Sports that Rivero did not have a boating license.”
More details are expected to come in the next few days, though a lack of drugs or alcohol at the crash site is as much of a positive as one can take away from this tragedy.
The loss of Fernandez is heartbreaking, but the death of one of baseball’s best young players may also have an impact in a world where he still exists. As the sole licensed baseball simulator out right now, Sony San Diego and their employees have a tough decision: Do they remove Jose Fernandez from MLB The Show 16 in the next roster update, or do they keep him in to preserve his legacy?
In the past, companies will normally keep deceased players in the games even after the final roster update. Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, who died in a car crash in April of 2009, and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, a man who shot himself in December of 2012, remained in MLB 09: The Show and Madden NFL 13, respectively, before being omitted from the next game in the series. Whether this is due to a form of censorship or just out of respect is unknown, though it is possible removing a player due to a death in real-life could affect the ESRB rating.
Removing, or patching out, Fernandez from the video game falls into a gray area, especially with him rated as one of the higher overall players in the entire game. Adenhart and Belcher, for as good as a human franchise player could have made them with development, weren’t a 95 overall with a 92 stamina rating, 92 strikeouts per nine innings rating, and a 99 break rating. Fernandez was the guy you wanted to use online against your friends if the servers were working, the guy you wanted to add to your Diamond Dynasty team and make the ace.
There’s also the moral implications of taking a player entirely out of a game due to death. Adenhart and Belcher stayed in their games, but when former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely for his domestic abuse scandal, EA Sports quickly removed him from Madden NFL 15 and changed his Ultimate Team name to Baltimore halfback #25. To some, removing a player from a game due to death may essentially put him on the same level with a man who assaulted his fiancee.
So far, there’s been no word from anyone about taking Fernandez out, and it does make sense to keep him in the game. The other licensed game from Major League Baseball, RBI Baseball 16, will likely keep him in as well. Fernandez was well-loved and one of the best pitchers in the game, not to mention there’s no proof or evidence that the death was brought on by drugs or alcohol. They may be different games made by different companies, but Sony patching Fernandez out while EA kept Jovan Belcher in may not look too good at the end of the day.
In the latest roster update, Fernandez is still the Marlins’ ace with a 95 overall rating and is still on the active Major League roster. There are no decreases on his overall rating either, though teammate David Phelps went from a 78 to a 74. When the game first released in late March, Fernandez was a 93 overall and has seen upgrades in nearly all of his categories, especially his strikeout per nine innings.
The best thing to do if you still have MLB The Show 16 is to go to the Roster Vault, download one of the Operation Sports rosters (ideally the ones with the Hybrids), and keep the file saved. If Sony does decide to patch Fernandez out from online play, then you still have a chance to win a World Series for the late Cuban right-hander.
Fans should also expect Fernandez to appear in next year’s game with some kind of tribute by way of a Diamond Dynasty card. You won’t get to play with him using the default rosters, but with how electric he was on the mound, it’d only make sense for Sony to create a Jose Fernandez throwback card.
[Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]