When we started to hear rumblings earlier this week that the Marlins would be open to trading Jose Fernandez, I was incredibly skeptical. There were plenty of reasons to doubt this initial report from Craig Mish:
Growing sentiment around Baseball and internally with the @marlins is Jose Fernandez will be traded this offseason.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) November 17, 2015
First, Mish is not typically the kind of guy who would break this kind of rumor. He was also almost immediately contradicted by Marlins beat guy Joe Frisaro:
Two highly placed sources tell me Jose Fernandez is not being shopped or discussed to be shopped. Will that changes, who knows? #Marlins
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) November 17, 2015
Also, it was hard to swallow from a baseball perspective. The 23 year old former Rookie of the Year had successfully bounced back from Tommy John Surgery, is under team control through at least 2019, and has a 2.40 ERA with 336 strikeouts in 289 innings. There is no scenario, barring injury, in which he is not one of the five best pitchers in the National League next year. Surely, not even the Marlins could be so shortsighted as to let him get away.
Yet, this morning, we have word from Andy Slater that the Marlins are, indeed, incredibly frustrated with their ace because of perceived attitude problems. Among the complaints:
- "Jose talks to management like they are children." (ed note: Golly, I can't imagine why.)
- Fernandez openly questioned Marlins GM Michael Hill about when he was going to be traded.
- That he's so arrogant that his teammates root against him.
- That he got in a yelling match with Casey McGehee once after he was late.
Bob Nightengale speculates that this could in fact lead to the Marlins dealing the best pitcher they've ever developed:
Slater disagrees with that conclusion:
That's not something I said. Anywhere. https://t.co/YpMkjBMJxK
— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) November 19, 2015
Round and round we go. And so what are we left with? Is this a real thing?
Yes. Yes, it is. Or at least it will be. If not right this second, it will become the most dominating issue facing the Marlins for the rest of the offseason. First, people will wonder will they or won't they deal Fernandez? They will be the Sam and Diane or the David and Maddie for 2016 (These are a Cheers and a Moonlighting reference, respectively; I am an old person). Then the question will be "When will they trade Fernandez?" Then to and for whom? We have started down a road from which the Marlins will not be able to turn back. And by the time Spring Training rolls around, Fernandez will be wearing an Astros or a Cubs uniform, and the Marlins will have a whole new bevy of prospects to terrorize.
The answer, as it always does, comes back to Jeffrey Loria, a man who has never been able to tolerate any perceived slights or challenges to his unique brand of leadership. A man who has no shame. A man who took an employee, Dan Jennings, who had been loyal to his boss for a dozen years, put him in a position to fail, jerked him around after the season, and fired him ostensibly because of a disagreement over whether they should screw over talented center fielder Marcell Ozuna (Jennings was in the "no" camp). Fernandez will not be gone for baseball reasons. He will be gone because the Marlins can't help themselves. They have convinced themselves that he has upset the apple cart.
Why did we doubt this report initially? Because we forgot that we can never to underestimate how shameful Jeffrey Loria is going to behave. We can never count on the Marlins not to cut off their nose to spite their face. Indeed, the Marlins are like an addict, going back to the same plastic surgeon again and again, begging to get perfectly formed noses sliced from their face and replaced with something far less attractive, convinced that they're approaching some kind of physical ideal, but slowly morphing into some kind of demoralizing and pitiful mole creature.
Some day, Jeffrey Loria will be gone. But until then, any indignity isn't just possible; it's likely.