José Fernández was larger than life. That is what Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told CBS Sports last week regarding plans to erect a 10-foot-high memorial statue to the pitcher outside the team’s stadium.
That José Fernández was larger than life is an opinion shared by many who follow baseball, and with good reason. In 2013, his first season in the majors, he won the National League Rookie of the Year award and finished third in Cy Young balloting. He was clearly destined for greatness.
But his dreams and life were cut short in the early hours of Sept. 25, 2016 when the boat he was traveling in with two friends crashed into a jetty and capsized, killing all three men.
The circumstances surrounding the accident reveal that in certain respects Fernández was smaller than life. A toxicology report released after the crash indicated that the 24-year-old Fernández — who is believed to have been operating the vessel — had cocaine and twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system. In addition, investigators allegedly uncovered evidence that the boat was speeding and being operated in a reckless manner.
In February of this year, the families of the two men in the boat with Fernández sued his estate for $2 million each.
The shadow these events cast on Fernández’s baseball legacy is undeniable. When asked about them by CBS Sports, Loria replied:
I know Jose to be a different kind of person. I know there were reports. I know a different person. I know a kid who was fun-loving. I didn’t know a kid who was involved with anything bad.
It sounds as though Loria is wearing blinders. He “knows there were reports,” but does he deny them?
Is this where we have come as a culture?