José Fernández’s absence weighs on the Marlins

A few weeks after the campaign ended, Giancarlo Stanton traveled to Rio de Janeiro to spray a street mural in tribute to José Fernández.

The pain over the tragic death of the star pitcher continues to blossom in the Miami Marlins as he faces the 2017 season. During the year, players will wear a patch with a black circle and Fernandez’s number 16 stamped to the left, Close to their hearts.

The Marlins lost much more than a pillar of the rotation on September 25, when the Cuban right died in a nautical accident, happened in the last weekend of the last campaign.

Fernandez was not only the centerpiece of the pitcher’s body but had a special charisma, was adored by the fans and exerted a great influence on the costumes.

“We’re not going to count on his smile or the energy he brings,” said Stanton, the right fielder, who has remained as the team’s benchmark.

How to replace Fernandez? You really can not.

“We invested a lot of time during the winter trying to measure the size of that huge shadow,” team president David Samson said.

In the recess, Miami tried unsuccessfully to sign the closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jensen. The two free agents did not take the bait. That the Marlins were interested in reinforcing themselves with luxury relievers amazed the world of baseball: should not the first thing be the rotation? In any case, they added Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to complement closer A.J. Ramos.

With Fernandez, the Marlins were a set on the threshold of fighting in the East Division of the National League, despite the fact that their last season with a positive balance dates back to 2009. Without Fernandez, the chances are more remote.

“We will never forget Jose, but we have to play games. We have a good team, and we want to take that step forward,” said Samson.

That step would consist of entering the postseason for the first time since winning their second World Series title in 2003. That, too, was Fernández’s goal.

In a campaign where their stadium will host the All-Star Game, the Marlins believe they can do it and the frugal club has increased payroll spending, shooting it from the $ 70 million invested last year to a projection barely over 100 For 2017.

ON SALE?

When the green light was given to increase the expense, immediately arose the conjectures that the plan of the owner Jeffrey Loria was to have a competitive team in order to make it more attractive for possible buyers.

And it turned out that for the first time since he bought the franchise in 2002, the New York art dealer intends to sell it.

The name of Loria, 76, also sounds to be nominated as the new US ambassador to France.

THE STANTON STREETS

Although he won the San Diego Home Run Derby with a record 61, Stanton’s year was disappointing, the second followed after signing a 325 million contract for 13 seasons. He started well, but by mid-June he averaged .193 and eventually finished .240, the lowest of his career. He missed a month or so in the final stretch due to an injury to his groin, an absence that affected the bump that led to the Marlins.

Miami needs to be again the slugger who in 2014 led the league with 37 home runs and was second in the MVP vote. The injuries have limited him these last two years, to 74 games in 2015 and to 119 in 2016.

His constant presence in an alignment that includes his fellow gardeners Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich is critical. The rest remains intact, with third baseman Martín Prado, J.T. Realmuto, second baseman Dee Gordon, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarría and first baseman Justin Bour.

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