Thoughts on José Fernández, joy, humanity

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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:

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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
BY A. E. HOUSMAN

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.

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MLB Power Rankings: A Belated Opening Day Preview

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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

Taking a Swing at Sports

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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:

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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.

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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 03/24/15

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The below is a brief aggregation of recent blogging work authored by yours truly, craftily curated for your perusal, scrutiny, and/or the fulfillment of duties pertaining to loyal readership:

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The World Should Not Tolerate Modern-Day Slavery in Qatar – In which I call FIFA chief Sepp Blatter many mean names and lament the sad state of affairs surrounding the already-tarnished 2022 World Cup. We’re seven years out from this confounded tournament and the whole thing’s already a grade-A categorical cock-up. Beyond the pig-faced corruption and portended poor playing conditions, we’re somehow sitting here in the year 2015 and Qatar is harnessing straight up slavery to build infrastructure for a major international event. If our leaders are really as dedicated to eradicating modern-day slavery as they like to think they are, the 2022 World Cup needs to become a more major battlefield in that effort.

In The Tinder Age, Even Bad Dates Can Be Useful – In brief, technology allows for people who go on dates to increase the scale of their dating to the point where a reasonable sample size of events can be collected and analyzed in a relatively short amount of time. This means even the worst dates can still be treated as building blocks for introspection and analysis. I should note someone on Facebook said there was a How I Met Your Mother episode about this but I wouldn’t know anything about that. Nor do I know all that much about Tinder dating outside of the enjoyment derived from treating it as a leisurely spectator sport. The late Greg Giraldo had a great routine about online dating that applies well to Tinder, though not vis-a-vis yours truly as I’m rather pleased with my current relationship status. I imagine the routine rings true though to many who got hitched pre-Tinder:

Tinder and modern online dating are pieces of a greater trend in which, as mentioned, broader swaths of data allow for keen and precise analysis. Ever since I got into baseball sabermetrics, the idea that seemingly unquantifiable elements could be condensed to a string of integers has astounded me. High school mathematics would have been so much more fascinating if we had presciently conjured up analytics rather than drill binomials. I think in the shower a lot about how my math teachers could easily have hooked me if they had just thought to explain the why.

How People Analytics Can Kill Pointless Meetings – Staying for now within the subject of analytics, a piece focusing on a brand of analysis that seeks to optimize work methods and company policies. The folks behind VoloMetrix (which sounds like the sort of analytics company a Bond villain would run) glean insight from a data pool consisting of over 1 billion work meetings. That’s an astounding number of meetings. Think of all the bored people. That’s billions of bored people. Billions. Bless their forsaken souls.


Beginning soon I’ll start posting more regularly. This will include some book reviews and other basic updates that I hope you find, at minimum, readable. I begin work on a first draft for a new musical parody (check the Now Playing page for more info) and I think it’d be fun to keep readers informed of how that process goes, so perhaps keep an eye out for that too. RM