Best Marlins Player Miami 2014 - Jose Fernandez
Some sports stars seem to fit seamlessly into their cities, like left hands into well-worn mitts. Derek Jeter was destined for Yankees pinstripes. George Brett was made for the muddy modesty of the Midwest. And Wade Boggs embodied Boston with his blue-collar attitude and bizarre superstitions, like eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes before every game. Under Jeffrey Loria, however, the Marlins haven't had much of an identity. Ozzie Guillen was supposed to imprint some personality, but he confounded Cubans by loving Fidel and lost everyone else by, well, losing games. Last season, when white-bread manager Mike Redmond was plopped atop a flavorless lineup, the Fish's season looked sure to be blander than your abuela's overbaked bacalao. But then, on April 7, after losing five of its first six games, the Marlins called up a young pitching prospect by the name of Jose Fernandez, and an otherwise insipid season suddenly got spicy. By now, you probably know Fernandez's story: Born into poverty in Cuba, he tried to leave three times but failed and found himself in jail. On his fourth attempt, he had to dive overboard to save his mother from drowning. But they made it, first to Mexico and eventually to Tampa. On his Major League debut, Fernandez fanned a rookie record of eight opponents. In another game, he struck out 13 — only to do one better his next time on the mound. He won a team-best 12 games with a miserly 2.19 ERA and an absolutely stingy .182 opponent's batting average. His National League Rookie of the Year award was the diamond atop another 100-loss season. But the real reason Fernandez makes Miamians proud isn't his pitching prowess. It's that the kid has character. Sometimes he's goofy — dancing behind teammates during interviews, joking with opposing players, or celebrating Giancarlo Stanton homers like he just won the lottery. Other times, he's deadly serious. In his last start of the 2013 season, Fernandez was cruising to a win over the Braves when they started talking trash. What did he do? He smacked his first-ever home run in the direction of that godawful dolphin sculpture and then told the Braves they could ride that thing back to Atlanta. Sadly for Fish fans, his 2014 campaign was cut short by Tommy John surgery. But if there's a reason to hope for the future of the franchise, it's his long-term future with the team. Fernandez fits the 305 like an old leather glove.