Late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was voted the NL Comeback Player of the Year by his peers in the annual Players Choice Awards of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Marlins president David Samson, who spoke eloquently about Fernandez the morning of his death, feels lasting affection for Fernandez, and anger. Samson recalled seeing the toxicology details for the first time and said he “had an idea of what would be in there, because when you’re on a boat at high speed at 3 in the morning — no matter who’s driving — the assumption is there’s alcohol involved.”
“If you’re referring to the other substances, I was blown away. My first [reaction was]: ‘Is it traces? Is it a lot? Is it true?’ And then I got distracted from myself and said, ‘It doesn’t matter. He’s still never coming back.’ And all of that probably happened in 10 seconds.”
There’s also the matter of financial security. NFL players don’t have a long shelf life, and injuries can derail an entire career in the blink of an eye. Taking advantage of breakout seasons and nailing down guaranteed money for multiple years is a huge priority, especially when players are in the middle of their prime.
The franchise tag doesn’t afford them that opportunity — sure, they get a huge salary, but it’s for just one year, and who knows what happens in that one year. Even if they get through the season healthy and still playing well, they have to do this all over again in the offseason, except they’re a year older. It’s a vicious cycle.
So what can players do if they’re tagged?
“I saw a lot of moving parts in his swing that aren’t always there when he’s going good,” says the NL exec. “He was over-rotating and trying to create power instead of staying compact and working through.”