Thoughts on José Fernández, joy, humanity


The sudden and tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez on Sunday has impacted me more than I expected for someone I never knew.

I realize there are plenty of reasons for this: He was young and full of joy; he was a Cuban-American who looked like me and my family; he was an elite athlete destined for greatness; he left a loving mother, abuela, girlfriend, and unborn child. And now he’s gone.

This enthusiasm has been extinguished:


What a gift, to be capable of such unbridled happiness.

There have been plenty of touching tributes to Fernandez these past two days. The one linked at the top of this article is one of the best; Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explains why he hopes his son can grow up to love life as Fernandez did. I recommend it.

Another great one: Grant Brisbee at SB Nation, “Jose Fernandez was pure joy.”

The aforementioned Cameron appeared on the Fangraphs Audio podcast yesterday with host Carson Cistulli to discuss what Fernandez meant to baseball. They expressed their hope that Fernandez’ sense of joyousness represents the future of baseball, replacing the rigid “unwritten rules” culture of the game. I commented on the podcast page, but figured I’d put it up here as well:

Great podcast, guys.

While listening, I thought of Brandon McCarthy’s poignant tweet Sunday:

You get the feeling that there are so many players who wish they could display the enthusiasm Fernandez showed, but for any of a myriad of reasons, can’t. We often forget just how much work and strain goes into becoming a major leaguer. The sacrifices. The training. For a guy like McCarthy, the struggle coming back from injury. Baseball is special to people like McCarthy, but is it fun anymore? It’s their job, after all. The sheen must wane after a while for most.

So I think this is what made Jose special: It’s not so much that he chose to have fun playing Major League Baseball — something so hard that only a thousand people in the world are able to do it — but because we was *capable* of having fun. Something innate, not elected.

A very special case, and a ray of light far too soon extinguished.”

I want to share this tweet below, featuring what is also my favorite photo of Jose Fernandez. I think it demonstrates the incredibly likable person he was.

Anna and I watched the Marlins/Mets game last night. If you missed it, you missed some of the most touching and beautiful human drama I’ve ever seen. Fernandez’ teammates took the field for the first time without him, on the day he was scheduled to pitch, each wearing a jersey with his name and number on the back, and won 7 to 3. Dee Gordon came up to bat in the leadoff spot, took a pitch from the right-handed box while imitating Fernandez’ batting stance, and then hit a monster home run (his first of the year) from the left-handed box. We were speechless. Gordon cried all around the bases and then bawled his way to the dugout. Within, his teammates embraced him one-by-one.

That was just one moment in a very special night. In a show of empathy and brotherhood, the Mets walked out to the middle of the field pre-game to comfort and embrace the Marlins. During the game, several of his teammates imitated Fernandez’ over-the-top dugout celebration. After the victory, the Marlins circled the pitcher’s mound arm-in-arm before leaving their hats on the rubber.

I’m going to get a little sanctimonious here for a second, and I apologize for that, but much of this was happening at the same time as the presidential debate, which I’ve not been shy about decrying as a toxic spectacle.

And it struck me that this baseball game, which was a moving display of human grieving and catharsis, could be happening at the same time that a bloodthirsty nation watched (and hate-watched) a reality show featuring two candidates who more resemble totems of societal rage than anything else. I could put more thought into what this means as a whole (I’ve toyed with an idea that Aristotle would have much preferred the baseball), but I’ll leave it at this: I’m glad I skipped the depravity of #debateculture in favor of a night of humanity.

To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Here’s My Summer Reading List

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Magic City by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History by Simon Winder

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team by Ben Lindbergh & Sam Miller

Available: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Hookups, Love and Brunch by Matteson Perry

MLB Power Rankings: A Belated Opening Day Preview


Rejoice, baseball fans: Opening Day has arrived.

Below I’ve compiled some 2016 Preseason Power Rankings, based on a fine-tuned amalgamation of gumption, ESP, and side-eyed glances at PECOTA and Fangraphs. Why is it being rolled out days after Opening Day? Who cares!

As an eternal reminder, yes of course I’m biased against your team. Your team sucks. And I hate it. And that’s why it’s ranked so low. Get over it.

(Special thanks to Geoff Young for his help.)

Continue reading

Failsafe 2016 MLB Predictions


You heard it here first, folks.

AL East
1. Red Sox
2. Blue Jays
3. Rays
4. Yankees
5. Orioles

AL Central
1. Tigers
2. Twins
3. Royals
4. Indians
5. White Sox

AL West
1. Rangers
2. Astros
3. Mariners
4. A’s
5. Angels

NL East
1. Mets
2. Nats
3. Marlins
4. Braves
5. Phillies

NL Central
1. Cubs
2. Pirates
3. Cardinals
4. Brewers
5. Reds

NL West
1. Giants
2. Dodgers
3. Padres
4. Diamondbacks
5. Rockies

Wild card: Twins, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Nats

DS: Giants over Mets, Cubs over Nats, Rangers over Red Sox, Twins over Tigers

CS: Giants over Cubs, Rangers over Twins

WS: Giants over Rangers

MVPs – Buster Posey and Mookie Betts
Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber
Rookies of the Year – Corey Seager and Jose Berrios

Here’s All the Stuff I Read in 2015


Goodreads is a flawed website and I don’t entirely trust it not to sell my deepest, darkest literary secrets to the Russian mob, or whomever, but it’s still pretty useful in arranging and encouraging my reading habits.

According to my Goodreads stockpile, I’ve read an average of 45 books per year over the past five, with a busy 2014 being a down year (19) and an incomprehensible 2011 setting the curve (66). Thus 2015, with its 45 completed books, was, in a way, decidedly average.

To summarize my decidedly average year of reading, here’s a list of all the titles I consumed, plus blurbage. I’ve ranked them in order of enjoyability for your consuming pleasure. Early warning: There’s a lot of Game of Thrones and Freakonomics ahead. Strange bedfellows and all. This was also the first year in which most of what I read was non-fiction, which is what the kids call “adulting” these days. Continue reading

Taking a Swing at Sports


Obi-Wan’s reaction to being told Grantland was no more.

Let’s go over all the things since last I wrote.

-At the beginning of the month I joined up with the folks at Crooked Scoreboard, a kooky sports-humor site. I’m mostly doing part-time social media manager stuff, though I’ve also authored a couple pieces:


DeMarcus Cousins Dreams of Playing in the NBA: This is an Onion-esque troll job in which I imply the Sacramento Kings are not a real NBA team.


Four Rookies of the Year Who Ended Up Being Really Lousy: In which I show off my embarrassing wealth of useless baseball trivia.

My photoshop skillz are all over the Legends image too.

Also, this piece isn’t mine but I wish it was: What Disney Princesses Would Look Like If They Were Black, And Members Of The 1984-85 76ers. That’s the platonic ideal right there.

Please go and check out the site. It’s still in its infancy but it’s got legs. Follow on Twitter and Facebook so you can boost my traffic so I don’t get fired.

-At the same time I’ve moved more into an editorial role at Big Think. I wrote one piece this week (not worth linking) but I’m mostly focusing on packaging for Facebook and Twitter.

-We’ve just wrapped preview week at STC for Kiss Me, Kate. If you like big ol’ Broadway musical type of shows and happen to reside in the Washington DC area, consider coming to see it.

-I reached my Goodreads reading goal for the first time in three years. Selling my car was the best thing that ever happened to my reading habits. Between bound books, e-books, and audiobooks I’ve gone through 41 titles so far in 2015. I’ll post more about that soon, as I like to rank everything I’ve read in one post.

-Sorry for this boring update. If I had any jokes left in me I promise they’d be here.

Recent Writings: Millennials So Millennial That Millennials Start to Hate Millennials

AirSmug city.

Quick link over to Big Think where my latest piece analyzes Airbnb’s disastrously tone-deaf San Francisco ad campaign. Put simply: the residents of SF are about to vote on whether or not to restrict the short-term rental market, which is Airbnb’s bread and butter. The ad campaign’s ostensible purpose was to persuade folks to vote against the measure by detailing all the good things SF does (or can do) with Airbnb’s generated tax revenue. Unfortunately, as you can see from the image above, the tone they opted for was “simpering, smug-ass douchebag.”

The rest of the piece delves into some other recent Silicon Valley PR snafus and basically says this:

The Ubers and Airbnbs of the world are a source of great pride for many millennials because they (we?) see themselves and their own values embodied in them. The recent Silicon Valley boom does feel like a new world order; young ideas are taking hold and (some) young people are thriving because of it.

The problem: These companies too often operate with a snotty sense of entitlement that leads to the belief that they’re above rules and decency. Remember when Uber execs were threatening journalists who dared to investigate the company? Stuff like that isn’t just because Uber’s CEO is a douche. Entitlement and swagger are important pieces of these companies’ cultures — for better and for worse.

The crux of these pieces is this: Sooner or later, the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world are due for a reality check.

Off-topic update — Since I went a few months without posting here I’ll note a few life changes:

-Recently switched jobs from Studio Theatre to the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Still living in DC. Still a House Manager. Still writing for Big Think, obviously.

-Have put myself on hiatus w/r/t playwriting as I focus on knocking down my student loans from undergrad. Tough to work 2 jobs and still put your all into writing when you’ve got other important commitments as well. I’m hoping to maybe re-emerge for Fringe 2016.

-I’m going to miss Donnie Baseball but managers are hired to be fired and life goes on.

Carry on.

Recent Writings: Back to the Future Day


Zemeckis, you lying bastard.

Brief update: My latest at Big Think is relevant to today, 21 October 2015, because it’s the day Marty McFly traveled to the future and forever cursed a generation with unfairly high expectations of the future.

Not only do we not have hoverboards, a bunch of Nike executives apparently LIED like a bunch of BIG FAT LIARS about self-lacing shoes. Also the Cubs are on the brink of elimination and they’re facing an almost-certainly insurmountable 3-0 deficit to the Mets. Daniel Murphy is definitely Griff/Biff in this awful alternative timeline.

Maybe the biggest bummer? Where are the retro 80’s diners? The 80’s are to us what the 50’s were to the 80’s yet cultural nostalgia for Elvis and milkshakes trumps nostalgia for Depeche Mode and Donkey Kong. It’s not right, I tell ya.

There’s probably a deeper post somewhere in that thought germ but it’s not happening tonight.