Jose Fernandez – The Legacy

Life, much like a game of baseball, is an adventure.

Each adventure begins with hope and excitement. Unknown opportunities that lie ahead. Each time a new one begins no one can imagine how it will possibly be unique. Yet like a snowflake, no two are ever the same. At the end of each the immediate reaction is to reflect on the recent; the ending. In the case of life we turn directly to death. This is why I’ve waited a few days to write this post.

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
The late-great Yogi Berra

Over the weekend the game of baseball was hit with tragic news. The 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and already-turned superstar, Jose Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Truly devastating news. Grief has been felt across all demographics of people throughout this week. Thousands of news articles with proceeding events have surfaced about the accident. But one accident should not define the legacy of a great individual. For the rest of this piece I will not linger in sadness. After reading and learning about him over the past few days I feel it necessary to lend a hand in the telling of his legacy. Here’s the powerful story of a great man.

The Escape

Jose Fernandez was made for Miami, and he knew it.

He first saw his ‘home’ in 2008, while on a boat just off the shoreline — the lights dominated the whole western horizon outlining the goal destination. He didn’t know much about the city, but he knew it had Cubans. He was Cuban. He also knew it had baseball. He played baseball. Those were the only two things he needed. He had been told life there was easy, and from others that it was hard. Either way, he knew he had to go. This wouldn’t be that time though.

As his boat drew closer to the shore, yet another pair of lights began approaching at a much quicker rate. His heart sank. This escape was over. It was the US Coast Guard. If were part of the fortunate to make it through the highly patrolled waters and step on US land, you could stay. If you were caught in the waters, you were sent back to Cuba.

Fernandez and Co. were caught offshore. Prison sentences awaited the group back in Cuba. This didn’t bother nor worry Fernandez in the least though. He’d been through it before. After all, this was his third attempt at it. Never once discouraged by his thwarted efforts, Fernandez was driven to escape for good.

Three times, they set off for Miami. Three times, they failed. Fernandez was a 15-year old boy in prison for attempted escape. And there were no scaled down versions of prison in Cuba. No Juvenile Detention Centers. He was in prison alongside the country’s most hardened criminals. Murders, rapists, child abusers – you name it. The food served was best defined by the lack of color. Calling it gruel is potentially serving it lightly. They were given the bare minimum to survive. It was as if life didn’t exist inside the prison confines.

Once he was released from prison, his mom had developed a new plan for escape. This plan was different though. They wouldn’t take the typical route north. Instead, they would travel south to depart from a beach near the city of Trinidad. They also wouldn’t head in direct route to Florida. No, this time they would set off for Cancun. It was a longer, more treacherous route, but with significantly less policing. The waters were dramatically tougher, but they felt the risk was worth it to avoid the prestigious US Coast Guard. Twelve of them in total including: Jose, his mom, his stepsister, and his grandmother, would cram into a small vessel in the dead of night.

In his first three attempts there were other people lining the shores waiting for their boats. That was often tried the north-side of the island though. This was the south. Nobody else stood nervously awaiting for their boat to arrive this go-round. A calm stillness set the tone. It was just past midnight when a rain began to fall. The group scurried for dry cover. They found a cave. Their feet were gashed by the sharp rocks lining the floor. The cave sat eerily close to a heavily-policed lighthouse. Fernandez thought it was genius. They’ll never suspect us here, he later told a reporter. An offshore light then beamed into the cave. They instinctively ducked. Pausing for a moment of silence. Then the phone rang. It was their ride.

Jose jumped in the water to check the depth. He was roughly 6 feet tall and couldn’t touch. It was clear. The captain carefully maneuvered the boat into the cave’s waters. Once all parties had boarded they sped off. Leaving the island was the easy part. They all knew what lay ahead.

Not long afterwards that they made it to international waters. A houseboat was waiting for them. “Turn around and look,” the captain told the escapees. “This is the last time you’re ever going to see Cuba.” Yeah, right, Fernandez thought. He had believed this each of the last 3 times he’d attempted to leave. All 3 times he was headed back to Cuba days later. He kept his hopes in check.

The houseboat provided was enormous. Far more than what Fernandez felt necessary. With its’ excessive height, the boat it made for an extremely nauseous trip. Waves crashed into the sides causing standing passengers to fall over. It all led to Fernandez becoming extremely seasick. A nausea that caused him to go unconscious for nearly 24 hours. With his stepsister by his side he eventually came to. The sickness would soon be the least of his worries though.


While chatting with the captain the boat was hit by an invasive wave. With everything happening so fast Fernandez only recalled hearing the screams. The wave had swept a woman overboard. There wasn’t time to think. He saw the body in the water. He jumped in. A spotlight highlighted the thrashing of the woman about 25 yards away. She was struggling to stay afloat. “Stupid big waves” Fernandez later remarked, continued to roll in. Raising and dropping the two of them sometimes two or three stories with each cycle. He managed to reach her. She grabbed on to his left shoulder. It was at this moment he noticed who the woman was. She was his mother.

At the age of 15, Jose Fernandez saved his mother’s life.

The group finally made it to the Mexican coast. This meant very little though. In Mexico there was no leniency for making it to land like there was in America. If you were a Cuban defector, you were sent back. End of story. So the group had to continue hiding from detection. They stayed in a mansion with dozens of other defectors. It was the trafficker’s house. The false documents took time to be made.

After a little more than a week in the house the group boarded a bus. Hours into the bus ride the bus slowed to a stop. Five people dressed in police uniforms walked alongside. He we go again. One by one they pulled the Cubans off. They lined them up and eyeballed them. They took whatever they wanted. Jewelry, hats, shoes, etc. The group sensed the end of their run. They were OK with going back to Cuba. They weren’t OK with dying though. With automatic rifles at their sides, the officers screamed at them. Demanding to see their papers. The Cubans seized up in terror. But just when all hope seemed lost, they were put back on the bus and on their way again. It never seemed real. Fernandez would later ask his relatives if that actually happened or if it was just something his mind had constructed.

The bus crossed into Texas soon after. They went through the processing. The papers were looked at and they were on their way. It was insanely simple. They had done it. They had escaped Cuba. They were in America. A dream fulfilled. Joy engulfed the group. They cautiously danced as to not draw attention.

They were free.

The Man

Fernandez was infectious. He lit up more than just every room or stadium he walked into. He lit up one of the brightest cities in America. His smile elicited accompanying smiles from everybody. Take this clip with All-Star Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki as a brief example of his joy, skill, and exuberance in both the game and life.


Since the fatal accident on Sunday, we have further found out that a bag washed up on shore a mile from the crash. The bag was filled with Jose Fernandez autographed baseballs. It turns out that Jose would often carry around this bag so that he would always have a ball to give to a kid no matter where he was or what he was doing. Think about that. 24 years old and that aware of his impact. That’s powerful. That’s special.

Fernandez also felt it was vitally important to learn the English language. In Miami it is easy to get by with just Spanish, but he knew that if he was to have the relationships in life, whether it be with teammates, fans, or sponsors, that his ability to speak the native language would be crucial. Within just a few years of being in the States he was nearly fluent.

An Unshakable Bond

I cried.

Jose Fernandez was everything you look for in a superstar. His death was a loss for all of us. It also serves as a sharp reminder that, like a game of baseball, we don’t have a clock ticking down reminding us how much longer we have left. Putting off your good deeds until tomorrow won’t serve as your legacy. Do what you can in your short time in this world to make it a better place. Only one person can write your life story. Write something to be proud of.

Rest in Peace Jose Fernandez.


Chaos Theory: The American League

Here we sit, 5 days from the end of the season and yet there are still 6 teams vying for the final AL Wild Card spot. Some lead the field as favorites. Others find themselves as long shots. It’s your classic horse race situation.


And they’re off!

Crush Davis 3:2 Odds
bal_1200x630This power driven horse has the ability to dismantle it’s competition on any given night. Durability and focus have long been its’ downfall.

Remaining Schedule: @TOR (2), @NYY (3)

Scenario: The O’s control their own destiny. If they win out, they’re in. However, with 5 games remaining (all on the road) against the Blue Jays and the Yankees it’s no easy task.


Miggy’s DD 2:1 Odds
det_1200x630This veteran horse was bred on the most expensive of budgets, but is there enough mentally to pull away on the home stretch?

Remaining Schedule: CLE (2), @ATL (3)

Scenario: Detroit finds themselves just a game behind Baltimore and one ahead of Seattle. Cleveland may start resting players with their AL Central Title wrapped up so a split at the very least looks likely. That leaves most favorable weekend series of the group, 3 in Atlanta. Anything less than a sweep down there likely spells trouble.


Seattle Not So Slew 6:1 Odds
seaA perennially contending horse with a knack for always getting out kicked in the final stretch.

Remaining Schedule: @HOU (2), @OAK (4)

Scenario: Seattle was in a very similar situation two years ago. They have 5 games remaining, all on the road, and they sit only 2 games out of Baltimore and 1 back of Detroit. While it may seem fortune has given them a favor with 4 against the A’s, Seattle is a game below .500 against divisional opponents this season. They’ll need some help from New York and Atlanta if they have any hopes of playoff baseball.


Lost Potential 12:1 Odds
hou_1200x630A horse with immense promise and potential that just hasn’t run like itself all year long.

Remaining Schedule: SEA (2), @LAA (3)

Scenario: The Preseason Darlings of The American League haven’t been as fortunate as their National League version (CHC). Sitting 2.5 games back of front-running Baltimore, the Astros need to make a move fast. They are in danger of falling out of contention by the end of their series with Seattle. Winning out only keep their hopes alive. They need help from New York, Atlanta, and Oakland.


Bronx Baby Bomber 40:1 Odds
nyy_1200x630The genetics are in place for this horse to become one of the greats, but we’re still a year or two out.

Remaining Schedule: BOS (2), BAL (3)

Scenario: Not many of you could name 5 contributing Yankees on the current roster, but since they traded off all of their valuable pieces they’ve kept their heads above water way longer than any of us would have imagined. They seem poised to reestablish themselves as AL bullies in the coming years with a new crop of talent. However, without help from Atlanta, Oakland, and Los Angeles, winning out would just act to spoil Baltimore’s playoff hopes.


Once a Legend 200:1
kanInjuries have plagued this once elite horse all season long. He’s been counted out before though…

Remaining Schedule: MIN (2), CLE (3)

Scenario: Oh boy. Get ready for this one.
Kansas City needs:

  1. To win out.
  2. Baltimore to lose out.
  3. Detroit to go 1-4 or 0-5.
  4. Houston & Seattle to split and then get swept.
  5. Win Game 1 against (BAL/DET/NYY)
  6. Win Game 2 against (Winner of the other play-in game)
  7. Travel to Toronto for 1-Game Wild Card Game.

Might be time to call Rick Moranis.

An appreciation for the Royals three-year run

If you are a Royals fan around my age, which is 24, there have been two baseball realities throughout your life.

Your first reality is watching a team wither away by June, July or August throughout your childhood, giving way to the football season. You watched mediocre pitching all summer. You saw great hitters leave in Free Agency.

You glared at the television and complained about how bad they were with your father even though you could be doing something else like reading a book or putting off homework for the next day of school by playing outside.

You sat in an ¾ empty Kauffman Stadium watching the best players in baseball come through, wishing one day, maybe, the Royals will field a good team.

Your second reality is the same one all Royals fans have enjoyed for the last three years: a championship baseball club.

That’s something I thought I would never see. But after I left the 2014 Wild Card game, when the Royals came back from a 7-3 deficit over the Oakland Athletics, I could feel something change.

Not only did the players believe, but a pent up fandom was about to explode in Kansas City.

Fans started to learn about the game of baseball. They began to care. They cleaned out athletic apparel stores all across the metro for every hat, T-shirt or jersey they could find.

It’s truly enjoyable to watch this team and Kansas City the last three years.

And as the Royals have struggled down the stretch the last few weeks struggle, through the last few weeks of the season, all I can say is that it’s OK.

It’s OK not to be back in the World Series. It’s OK that the Royals will not defend the title. It’s OK they are not in the playoffs.

Now am I mad that Ned Yost still thinks it’s 2011 and Joakim Soria can pitch in pressure situations? Yes.

Am I mad that Daniel Richard Duffy was passed over as a starter at the beginning of the season for Chris Young and Kris Medlen? Absolutely.

Am I mad Alex Gordon is not going to get more than 50 RBIs this year? Of course.

But that doesn’t mean you get angry at this team for falling short or let it overcome all the wonderful memories of the past three years.

It’s hard to play this many baseball games and maintain a championship level, especially when you don’t have consistent starting pitching.

517 games in three years is a hell of a clip and eventually you are going to wear out. The Royals are still on pace for the 4th best season in the last 30 years.

What fans have to remember now is that the first reality will not be in play for many years again.

The Royals have an established core that allows them to contend for division titles and playoff berths until the next decade.

Even when Eric Hosmer leaves next year for a new city and Lorenzo Cain is no longer an All-Star, and Wade Davis finally becomes human again, the youth on this team gives me faith that they have a product that’s worth investing my time to watch and support.

That’s not something I could have said four or five years ago.

So I realize everyone’s passion and pain, but people can go a little farther back in the past and remember the numbness of being irrelevant in Major League Baseball.

That was a lot worse than the place the Royals are now.

Now I have a new reality as a Royals fan, and it’s a good place to be.

That’s What Speed Do

The MLB game is slow.

That’s not even an opinion. It’s fact. The product IS slow. However  like most everything, it’s your interpretation of the statement that defines where you stand on the topic. To some this statement screams boring and dull; to others it elicits feelings of tranquility and joy. I side with the latter. I’m an old-school die hard fan of (what I like to call) a beautiful game. I turn my head every time I pass a ball field. I get happier in life at the end of March. Baseball is embedded in my blood. You could make games 8 hours long and I’d still watch. Which is exactly why changing the game to suit my needs doesn’t make sense. We need to change the game to suit the needs of those who don’t naturally see the beauty in the game. Let’s open the door for others to see the beauty of it, and let’s not take 4 hours to do so.

We all have something we are passionate about; baseball is mine.

I know what I’m about to say is cliche, but bear with me here. I’m going to ask you to pause reading this for a couple seconds as you close your eyes. (Duh Tyler, you can’t read with your eyes closed) With your eyes shut think I want you to think about your passion. It could be travelling the world, taking photographs, playing music, etc. This is your self-indulgence. It’s what you daydream about. It’s what makes you feel alive.

Take a few seconds, close your eyes, and set your mind on whatever it is that you truly love to do.

Now I want you to think about it a little more critically. I’m guessing you could name a few things off the top of you head to improve it. After all it is something you’re passionate about. Maybe you want airplanes to give you the ability to lay down as you travel the world? Or for them to serve restaurant quality food? Or the hotels to provide full kitchens and living rooms? What I’m getting at is that you know the aspects that make your passion awesome but you also know the prevalent errors as well.

Which leads me to the Major League game right now. There’s a need in place. Games are too slow. The casual fan is losing interest in the product. I’m not talking about the game of baseball as a whole, just the professional product.

Did you know that in the beginning stages of the game it was considered “un-gentlemenly” to, as a pitcher, try to make a hitter swing and miss? I’m serious. It’s because the rules of baseball meant for the ball to be put in play. Nobody ever talks about how slow the game is when the ball is hit. Hell, they’d have no ground to stand on if they did. Think about it. A 90+mph pitch being the hit as hard, if not harder by a batter that then runs 15+mph down the line to race another 90+mph throw from a fielder who is 120 feet away to force a play that the human eye has mistaken enough times that slow-motion cameras have now been called into the rule-book to render the correct judgement. To which they sometimes still side with the call on the field because nothing was “conclusive.” That’s fast. That’s exciting. That’s a ground out to the shortstop.

Earlier Starts

There is absolutely no reason that games are regularly ending anywhere from 10:00pm to 11:00pm locally. Kids are asleep, some parents too. You are forcing your audience to choose between a life necessity (for some an indulgence) and your product. Not wise.

It’s why I think the NFL does so well. They play once a week and all but 2 or 3 games are played during Sunday afternoons. This allows a game to run an hour long without notice (Sorry 60 Minutes, except on the west coast) because the difference between 3pm and 4pm on a Sunday is nothing. However, the difference between 10pm and 11pm on a Tuesday is a groggy Wednesday. Which then leads to a real tough decision Wednesday night when 10pm rolls around and that night’s game is 3-2 in the 7th.

The Royals have implemented 6:05pm home games during school months this year. It makes complete sense. But I want to see it taken one step further. Let’s make all home games 6pm local start times. Not just for the Royals either. All of the MLB. Give yourself an extra hour cushion. If it means people coming from work aren’t able to get there until the 2nd or 3rd inning that’s better than having them reluctantly leave in the 7th or 8th.

Would you rather have the salad at the beginning of the meal or the desert at the end?

Who’s to Blame?

It’s easy to blindly point the finger at the TV Networks. Let me say this right now, TV is not the culprit here. TV games are suppose to have 2 minutes and 5 seconds allotted to show advertisements between innings. However, because of the way that teams meander out of the dugout to take the field, pitchers throwing 8 pitches before every inning**, major league infielders taking hand-thrown little league ground balls from their first baseman, and all the while the umpires (in place to mediate the game and its action) just standing there watching aimlessly, we now average north of 3 minutes for commercial breaks. Trust me, given the TV contract agreements, if the players were ready to play after 2 minutes the TV networks would show the games.

Right now:

9 Innings = 17 Half Innings = 17 Minutes of Wasted Time/Game

That’s merely asking the players and umpires to abide by the initial TV agreement for allotted time between innings. Not hard.

Quick side-tracking elaboration.**

We live in a era of the pitch count. Rarely do pitchers exceed the 110 pitch mark anymore (regardless of the circumstances). Franchises live in fear of being the team that blew out multi-million dollar arm. So why in the world do we need pitchers to be throwing 8 pitches before every inning? That’s 48 pitches in a 6 inning start. Think about that. If a pitcher goes 6 innings and throws 100 in-game pitches, he’s actually throwing 148 total pitches! Why not throw 3 warm-up pitches between innings and save 20+ for the game, let alone the time it would save between innings?

By doing this it would limit the portion of the game most (including myself) find extremely tedious; pitching changes. If starters were able to go 7 innings instead of the current 5-6 during their quality outings we could effectively skip the need to play the game of match-ups with the middle relievers. Obviously there would still be some of that, but more innings from starters (without more pitches) does directly correlate to less innings from the 1-inning ponies in the pen.

The Average Pitching Change = ~3 Minutes

1 Game = 2 Teams = (-) 2 Pitching Changes = 6 Minutes Saved

Stay in the Box

The first major rule change implemented by new commissioner Rob Manfred stated that all batter’s must remain in the batter’s box throughout the duration of their at-bats. Simple enough. Essentially put in play to keep the Nomar Garciaparra’s and David Ortiz’s from doing their mindless between pitch rituals. It made sense. It also worked. 12 minutes were shaved off of the average game last year. But without umpires enforcing it in 2016, we’ve seen average game length take a dramatic spike back to the mean this year. 10 Minutes of Wasted Time/Game.

The fix here is simple, keep the batter’s in the box and let’s play ball.

I did nothing here to change the structure of the game. I didn’t even add a clock (pour one out for the other old-school, clock-fearing homies). All I did was utilize the rules we have in place. In doing so we collectively saved approximately 33 Minutes per Game! Also, by starting games at 6:05pm we are effectively ending these, now shorter games, at an average time of 8:40pm. That makes each game more accessible to families during week nights and adults on the weekends.

I love this game, and I want others to as well. These changes aren’t hard so let’s get them done.