This was supposed to be a column about the National League Cy Young race. I’ve been putting it off for a few weeks while I looked at Mets pitching development, but I’ll outline what I was going to do. I was going to compare Noah Syndergaard to Max Scherzer (and perhaps Madison Bumgarner or Kyle Hendricks), and come to the conclusion that Syndergaard was having a better 2016, when put into context with some advanced metrics. Then I was going to tell you there was a pitcher having an even better year, the major-league leader in DRA, FIP, and strikeout rate, and suggest that was the real best pitcher in the National League for 2016.
That pitcher was Jose Fernandez.
Before I went to sleep Saturday, a few folks noted on Twitter that Fernandez had been pushed back from his scheduled Sunday start to Monday night against the Mets. It was mostly in the context that it made Sunday’s Mets tilt against the Phillies a must-win, since you could never expect to beat Fernandez at home. For his career, Fernandez was 29-2 with a 1.49 ERA at Marlins Park.
Over the course of the season, whenever the Mets had an upcoming series against the Marlins, I’d look ahead and plot out the probable pitchers. The Met fan in me hoped they’d miss Fernandez. The baseball fan in me hoped they wouldn’t, so I’d have an excuse to see him pitch. Sometimes it was the excuse to skip a minor-league game I didn’t really want to go to, or to watch baseball instead of doing something else. Jose Fernandez was that kind of pitcher.
Last year, Jose Fernandez asked a question on Twitter: “If you were given a book with the story of your life, would you read the end?” Fernandez is no longer with us, but his death is not the end of his story. He may yet—and now more than ever, should—posthumously win this year’s Cy Young. The Marlins will surely retire his number and permanently honor his memory at Marlins Park. Many have already suggested baseball create a Jose Fernandez Award. These are all fitting tributes, but perhaps the most fitting of all is the unanimity of positive feelings towards Fernandez from both inside and outside of baseball.
Sunday was baseball’s worst day in decades. But one of the simple truths of baseball is that it goes on. Every game but the Marlins/Braves game did go on. I was at one of them, and it was certainly weird at the beginning, but a few innings in it felt like every other game.
Even the Marlins will forge on Monday against the Mets, because what baseball does is continue on. That game will not be like any other game, and playoff implications be damned, I won’t be rooting for the Mets.
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