Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Warning Track: Jose Fernandez Shouldn’t Win Cy Young Award

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As great as Jose Fernandez was in 2016, his death does not justify the idea that he should win the Cy Young Award.

As baseball fans across the country awoke on Sunday morning, absolutely gut-wrenching news had begun to spread through social media.  Late last Saturday night, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident.  Fernandez was just 24 years old.  He was the face of the Marlins franchise, but he stood for so much more.  Jose Fernandez exemplified what it meant to have fun while playing professional baseball.  His passion, intensity, and boyish joy that he brought to the ballpark was so unique compared to every other player in the league.  Fernandez had already become one of baseball’s best pitchers since his début in 2013.  Who truly knows what the future held for the Marlins’ ace?

Since his passing, there has been some speculation that Jose Fernandez will now win the 2016 National League Cy Young Award.  In fact, ESPN Senior Baseball Writer Buster Olney believes Fernandez will win:

Fernandez was certainly in the midst of a remarkable season before his tragic death.  In 29 starts, Fernandez won 16 games while posting a 2.86 earned run average.  Maybe his most impressive feat this year was that he struck out 253 batters in just 182 and 1/3 innings.  Fernandez’s dominance kept the Marlins alive for much of the season, especially when slugger Giancarlo Stanton was struggling mightily at the plate.  Personally, I have no issue with Jose Fernandez being considered for the Cy Young Award.  His numbers certainly illustrate his efficiency in his final season.

But seriously, take a step back for a minute.  Were you even considering Fernandez before his death?

Like I said, I think he had a pretty tremendous season.  But Fernandez’s death would not justify someone else losing out on the award that they deserved.  Prior to Sunday morning, Max Scherzer was the popular choice to bring home the hardware, and with good reason.  The Nationals’ ace leads National League starters in strikeouts and WHIP while ranking 6th in ERA and 2nd in innings pitched, wins, and batting average against.  The only real knock on “Mad Max” is that he has allowed 28 home runs this season.  Outside of that, he has been the N.L.’s most productive pitcher, and he has only gotten better as the season has gone on.  Since the all-star break, Scherzer has gone 8-1 with a 2.51 earned run average.

If not Scherzer, then maybe you prefer Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs.  The 26 year-old right-hander doesn’t overpower his opponents; his average fastball velocity is under 90 miles per hour.  Hendricks has relied on pinpoint control this season, and in turn, he has only walked 43 batters in 29 starts.  His 1.99 ERA leads the big leagues, and he would join some élite company if that number stays below 2.00:

Coming into 2016, Hendricks was overshadowed by Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester.  He was viewed as a mid-rotation starter, but he has emerged as a third ace for the Cubs.  Scherzer and Hendricks would both make for better choices than Fernandez.  So would Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets and Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants.  Syndergaard has battled through a bone spur in his right elbow for much of the season, but he hasn’t missed a beat.  He has 218 strikeouts in 30 starts while keeping his ERA at a lowly 2.60.  Unlike Scherzer, “Thor” has been exceptionally good at preventing the longball.  He leads the league in HR/9, and his Fielding-Independent Pitching numbers also are the best in the N.L.  Bumgarner has tailed off since the all-star game, but his 2.71 ERA and 1.02 WHIP make him worthy of the Cy Young Award.  He also has 246 strikeouts in 2016.

No matter how you spin it, Jose Fernandez does not deserve the Cy Young Award.  If I haven’t convinced you of that yet, then consider this: How would Fernandez feel if he won the award partly due to his untimely and heartbreaking death?  As the entire sports world has discussed for days now, Jose Fernandez was the ultimate competitor.  Sometimes he played like a little kid, but he always respected his adversaries.  Based on his competitive nature and passion for the sport, Fernandez would not want to win the award while someone more deserving was passed over.  There are dozens of other ways that he can and will be remembered.

I am all for honoring the late, great Jose Fernandez.  I, an 18 year-old New York Mets fan, cried on multiple occasions throughout the week as I watched countless tributes to number 16.  Fernandez’s impact on baseball was transcendent.  It is very uncommon to see a player with such a high level of talent leave a greater legacy than just his statistics and awards.  Fernandez has done that, just like Roberto Clemente did following his tragic death in 1972.

The Miami Marlins have paid the ultimate respect to Fernandez by retiring his number.  In the coming seasons, perhaps as soon as next year, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will likely introduce a new award dedicated to the memory of Jose Fernandez.  The recipient of the award should be someone who demonstrates an outstanding love and passion for the game.  Jose Fernandez will leave a unique legacy behind.  But he should not win the Cy Young Award.