Jet Blue Park

Jet Blue Park is absolutely incredible

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FORT MYERS — I have seen the future of spring training complexes, and its name is Jet Blue Park. Or maybe it’s not the future, because frankly, I’m not sure who else is going to shell out the kind of dough this place likely cost besides big money teams like the Red Sox (or the cities which pay for them on the promise of hordes of fans coming from up north to visit). But either way it’s a palace.

The scale of the complex is the first thing that struck me. It’s out on the edge of Fort Myers, out by the interstate and the airport and thus they had all the land in the world on which to build it. And they used all of that land, it seems. I can’t find such figures for every park, but I’d be shocked if Jet Blue didn’t take up more square acreage than any other spring training complex, for whatever that’s worth. And there are more golf carts on site schlepping people around than I’ve seen anywhere. When I got out of my car to head over a dude came by on a cart and asked me if I wanted a ride. I declined, but by the time I got to the back fields and the clubhouse I sorta wished I had.

And it’s not just acreage. This is the clubhouse:

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Well, it’s not just the clubhouse. It’s the minor league clubhouse too. And team offices. And the weight room. And a dining hall of players and coaches. It’s just a massive building that — perhaps apropos given the name of the place —  makes one think of an airport more than a baseball facility. As do the batting cages:

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“Attention, we have a gate change  . . . your flight will now be departing from Gate E  . . .”  Even the retired numbers are huge:

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I literally couldn’t get into a good position to get them all in one shot. Had to settle for only some of them.

The massive scale is paired with some nice style, too. Unlike every other clubhouse I’ve ever been in, the Sox’ clubhouse has high ceilings and tons of natural light. What a concept: sunlight in a locker room. And tons of room to spread out. Indeed, most veterans have two lockers. You sometimes see a superstar with that setup in spring training, but lots of guys have it here.

On to the ballpark itself:

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It is, as many have noted, Fenway South. That’s actually the formal name of the complex — jetBlue Park at Fenway South — and the name of the street it’s on too. It has exactly the same dimensions as Fenway Park and the same quirks. A manual scoreboard. A Pesky Pole. And, of course, a Green Monster:

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The difference, as you can see, is that there are actually seats in the middle of the Monster, not just the top (where that red umbrella is on the top here is the actual home run line of the Monster in Boston). In order to keep things the same as in the real Fenway, there is a net in front of those middle seats:

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If the ball hits off of it it’s still in play, just as if it were to bounce off the Monster in Fenway. That’s great for the players, I suppose, but it kinda stinks for the people in those seats. I bet a lot of them would love to catch a Fenway double.

But despite all of the major league qualities of the place — and the sheer size — this somehow still feels like a spring training park. This is in contrast to Steinbrenner Field up in Tampa. That place is taller, has tunnels and too much poured concrete and it doesn’t have the same number of areas where people can hang out. It’s in the middle of a city, not some area where you’d plausibly vacation. This place is as imposing as all get-out — it’s not quaint like TigerTown in Lakeland or even the Phillies’ place in Clearwater — but it doesn’t have that same impersonal feel the Yankees’ joint does.

There is probably some larger conclusions and comparisons to be drawn from all of that.  I’ll let you draw them.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.

No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.

Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.

The Nationals are NL East champs once again

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after clinching the National League East Division Championship after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.

The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2  innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.

Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:

Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.

While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.

Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.