Jose Fernandez exceeded the expectation of many in his major league debut and it's clear that he's the type of player that Marlins fans can turn to for a distraction from an otherwise depressing season.
For a team known as much for its misfortune and head-scratching organizational strategy as its two World Series titles and weird, center field monument thingy, the Miami Marlins have themselves a special talent in 20-year-old Jose Fernandez. For now, though, let's try to move past the cynicism that usually follows in regards to any player of promise wearing a Marlins uniform. Instead, let's shift our focus to a world run not by a man named Jeffrey Loria, but instead one run by a young, inspiring, flamethrowing righty with a power fastball and devastating curve.
It's clear that after the first week of games in the 2013 season, the Miami Marlins are what some experts would call "a baseball team that is bad at playing baseball." Of course, things could be worse, but it's safe to say the current squad probably won't be raising any banners this season. What the Fish lack in wins, however, is a young man by the name of Jose Fernandez. A phenom. A bonafide ace in the making.
Before I go any further, I realize that you're probably reading this as some sort of Nicholas Sparks-esque tribute to a guy who has pitched all of five innings of his professional career above High-A ball. And while you'd be mostly right in that assessment, the point I'm making is not that Jose Fernandez is some type of mythical being devoid of flaws, but rather that Jose Fernandez is the type of player who can make fans briefly forget about whatever the culture surrounding their team may be at the time.
I grew up a fan of the Seattle Mariners and I still remember how intense the buzz surrounding Felix Hernandez was as he neared his major league debut back in 2005. Before the guy had even thrown a single pitch in the major leagues, he had already been given the nickname "King" Felix. The 2005 season was another horrendous 90-plus loss season for the M's, but the presence of Felix Hernandez gave fans something to look forward to every fifth day. There was an undeniable energy and giddiness any time you got into a conversation about Felix, which has only grown greater since the creation of the King's Court, a perfect game, Felix's continued dominance on the mound and dedication to the city of Seattle.
I'm not saying that Jose Fernandez is a direct comparison to King Felix, but Fernandez, like Felix, is clearly a guy that you can't help but take your eyes off of when he's on the mound. I discussed in last week's post how Fernandez brought an undeniable swagger to the mound and it was apparent in Sunday's debut against the Mets. One moment for me stuck out in particular. In a two-strike count, Fernandez shook off Rob Brantly's first sign for a breaking ball and instead proceeded to blow a 97 mph fastball with late tailing action for the strikeout. I'm sure Fernandez was able to do that plenty in the minor leagues last season, but these are major league hitters he's facing now. Major league hitters make it to the major leagues because they at the very least can hit a fastball. A 20-year-old in his first major league start thought, "this guy can't hit my fastball and I'm going to prove it."
Oh, and pitches like this are kind of nice, too:
I understand that this is the tiniest of sample sizes to draw from and I'm in no way advocating living in a la-la land where we remain oblivious to the other struggles currently facing the Marlins. We'll have plenty of opportunities here at Fish Stripes to get into those issues throughout the season, and I must say that our staff does a pretty darn good job of it. But just as we've advocated with #minorvictories, we still have to take the time to appreciate something that not too many teams have the luxury of possessing on their roster (insert joke about how he'll be traded eventually here). Even if it's only for five innings on every fifth day. Just like Felix and every other pitcher before him, Fernandez will have his share of struggles but that'll only serve to make the "wow" moments even more impressive (see: Ike Davis strikeout).
I think Rich Waltz made a good point in the broadcast of Sunday's game. He mentioned how much energy surrounds King Felix starts and the raucous environment of the "King's Court," and how Fernandez pitching should bring a similar kind of energy on his turn to start. Therefore, I suggest that we create that kind of environment for Jose Fernandez starts right here at Fish Stripes. Let's call it "Jose Fernandez Day," until someone far more witty and clever than I finds a better name for it. What do you say?