The death of pitcher Jose Fernandez “set everything back years” for the Marlins and precipitated the trades of Giancarlo Stanton and others, according to former Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich.
“It changed everything,” Yelich told Barstool Sports. “I’d still be there. Stanton would still be there. We’d all still be there this year if that didn’t happen. We would have been gearing up making a playoff push.”
Instead, nearly two years after the death of Fernandez and two others in a boating accident off Miami Beach, the Marlins have new owners, a diluted roster and are wallowing near last place as they gear up for the season’s second half.
“I think it just set all the events into motion a little bit earlier than maybe it would have happened,” Yelich said.
Fernandez was the undeniable pitching ace of the Marlins. Without him, the Marlins had no shutdown pitcher in 2017 to go with a potent lineup that contained a marquee outfield of Yelich, Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.
The Marlins floundered, Jeffrey Loria sold the franchise to a group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter and some of the team’s top players were traded as part of the rebuild.
Yelich was dealt to the Brewers in January, a month after Stanton was traded to the Yankees. Ozuna and second baseman Dee Gordon were also traded.
“We tried to make it work last year and patch it together and see what we could do, but it was such a big loss, not only personally... but organizationally and for the fan base and for the team,” Yelich said. “It was just too much to recover from.”
Yelich said once the shock of Fernandez’s death wore off, the players knew change was inevitable.
“When something like that happens in a small-market organization, you can’t replace it, and it set everything back years,” he said. “Once that happened, we all realized a few days after that that this is going to change everything for everybody, and everybody’s path is going to be different.”
FANS GET POOR MARKS
Fans of the Marlins and Rays — Florida’s two big-league teams — were deemed to be the “worst” in the majors, according to a poll of 240 players by the subscription-based The Athletic.
When asked “Which city has the worst fans?”, the Marlins and Rays ended in a tie, with each receiving 19.7 percent of the responses. New York came in third at 13.1 percent.
“Worst,” of course, can be defined in any number of ways, from the least supportive fan base to the rudest and most obnoxious. The Athletic made no such distinction.
The Marlins and Rays rank last and next-to-last in attendance, respectively.
Miami and the Marlins fared only slightly better when players were asked “What is the worst city/ballpark to visit on the road?” Oakland led the way with a resounding 36.2 percent of the votes, followed by Tampa Bay (15 percent) and Cincinnati (8.5 percent). Miami was among cities that also received votes.
But Miami and Marlins Park also received votes for “most fun city/ballpark,” where players gave the edge to Seattle.
The Marlins return to action Friday when they travel to St. Petersburg to face the Rays. Dan Straily is slated to take on Nathan Eovaldi.
Following Straily in the rotation: Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards, Jose Urena and Wei-Yin Chen.