The Miami Marlins, their fans, and the whole baseball universe lost when Jose Fernandez suffered his elbow injury and was forced to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery today. This was a loss greater than anyone could imagine, but here at Fish Stripes, we are eternally looking at the #minorvictories of the world. Yes, we could (and did!) talk about how Fernandez's injury might affect his contract negotiations, but sometimes there is more fun to baseball than to analyze your favorite team. Sometimes, you just want some unbridled joy when you turn on your computer screen.
Sometimes, you just want to see GIFs of Jose Fernandez doing awesome things.
Now, you get that. I looked around and found some necessary and purely wonderful Jose Fernandez GIFs to take with you any time you need a picker-upper from a bad day remembering his injury. Remember, Jose Fernandez is magic, and we are to always celebrate that. Get to it Marlins fans!
A Jose Fernandez Fastball
Here's just your run-of-the-mill Jose Fernandez heat, this time to Jayson Werth. It's worth particularly mentioning because so many of Fernandez's nasty GIFs are from The Defector, so it is easy to forget that he has a ridiculous fastball.
No offense to his wicked fastball, but Jose Fernandez's charm as a devastating pitcher comes in witnessing his curveball. You see, the magic of Fernandez's curveball is that it can make hitters on both sides of the plate look foolish in two separate ways.
1) Swing at a pitch that clearly was not where it should have been.
Dee Gordon falls for this as the curveball dives towards his knees. And by "towards his knees," I mean it almost hits his knees, and he still swings as though it was in the strike zone. To be fair, of course, Gordon is fooled only a little worse than Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who sets up low, raises the glove as though the curve was going to drop in the strike zone, then rushes down low and in backhand-style once he realizes the final destination of the pitch.
Oh, and it doesn't matter which side of the plate you hit from. For lefties like Gordon above, the pitch dips into your ankles or knees with wanton disregard. But it works like a slider against righties like Yasiel Puig.
That curve starts off looking like a fastball low and outside, but Puig quickly finds out that it's actually a pitch in the dirt about a foot off the plate. It bounces near the heart of the plate in terms of depth, but out in the left-handed batters box, leaving Puig to contemplate whether a benevolent higher being would allow such a pitch.
2) Appear as though it is aimed at your head and drop casually into the strike zone.
Pitcher Jeff Manship experiences that whirlwind of a ride first-hand here (The next two GIFs provided by FanGraphs).
Of course, anyone can fool a pitcher into jumping out of the way. That's noting special, show me what else you got, Jose!
Oh I see, you've fooled Troy Tulowitzki before too. Tulowitzki appears to think this one is headed for his arm, and he moves his back into the way in order to dodge that oncoming heater. It turns out the curve, which in the TV camera angle does indeed appear to head towards Tulowitzki's elbow, calmly drops into Jeff Mathis's glove for a perfect inside strike.
The Defector may very well be the nastiest, possibly the best pitch in baseball. Very rarely can something dominate in two different ways so consistently. Miami has to hope Fernandez returns with the same nasty pitch.
Those Defensive Skills
That last GIF wasn't the first time he fooled Troy Tulowitzki either.
The defeated look on Tulowitzki's face. The smile on Fernandez. The nod. The "yeah, that's right." Tulowitzki's bat coming to the ground as he tries to ask if that really happened. It's all perfect, and it's all exactly what should happen in
Defeating Former Marlins
Sometimes, you challenge a fastball-hitting guy with a fastball you just cannot beat. Jose Fernandez has a ridiculous fastball. You remember that next time. Remember it well.
Sometimes, you throw a curveball so dangerous-looking that a guy who doesn't hit breaking balls just tries to sell it like it was coming for his head. It rarely works against the Defector!
Defeating a Mortal Enemy
Oh, Chris Johnson, Jose Fernandez has not forgotten your insolence either!
I'll bet that 83 mph curve in the dirt that looked like it was headed for the middle of the plate will get Johnson thinking about Fernandez's stuff in his nightmares. Jose Fernandez's fastball spits on Johnson's swing at that pitch. Don't poo-poo Jose Fernandez's stuff, Chris Johnson. Never.
But despite the nasty, filthy stuff Fernandez hurls on a regular basis, there is still a measure of innocence and playful fun that he has. It goes beyond the ridiculous celebrations.
Sure, those help, but it's not the only thing that we care about. It's the little things that make Jose Fernandez so enjoyable. The combination of confidence and playfulness that is rare in today's athlete. In a world where everyone is taking baseball so gosh darn seriously, it is fun to have someone be this dominant, know that they are dominant, and still get the adoration and respect of opposing hitters.
Never let it be said that Hanley Ramire does not know how to have fun playing baseball. This pitch is an amazing piece of art, it thoroughly fools Ramirez for a strikeout, but all both players are left to do is sit and smile. Hanley flashes a pearly white smile, and Fernandez responds with a laugh himself, because that's how hitters and pitchers should react.
And beyond the Defector and that fastball and that defense, that is what makes Jose Fernandez one of the game's greats. The pitches are devastating, sure, but they are fun for readers and fans and for the players who face him. Aside from last season's home run debacle with the Braves, there has been nothing but respect between Fernandez and the hitters he faces. When guys strike out and laugh in response, you know you are a delight and that you will succeed in this league.
Jose Fernandez, we will miss you this year. Come back stronger than ever. And flash that innocent, brash, winning smile again for us all.