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Nothing has changed about the loss of Jose Fernandez

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We got official word yesterday that, in all likelihood, Jose Fernandez was driving the boat that killed him and two of his friends last September. We also got official word that Fernandez was drunk and had cocaine in his system. It was a sad coda to an already sad story.

It was also the inspiration for some to weigh in with some moral indignation. Here’s Bob Klapisch:

New details of Jose Fernandez’s horrific boating accident sent shockwaves throughout the major league community, which has grieved over the Marlins star as a latter-day James Dean: died too young, gone too soon.

But all that changes now. Investigators have determined Fernandez was behind the wheel, drunk and with cocaine in his system, at the moment of impact. The right-hander goes from the being the victim of a tragedy to the one who caused it — ending his own life and those of the two others in the boat.

Nice guy that he was, regardless of his popularity, it’s no longer possible to see Fernandez in a sympathetic light.

I’m not going to defend drunk driving or driving under the influence of cocaine. Not for a second. But it’s probably worth noting that this is not shocking new information. We knew last October that Fernandez was drunk and had cocaine in his system. Indeed, all three men in that boat were drunk and two of them had used cocaine. We did not know who was driving, but we knew it was Fernandez’s boat and that, earlier, before picking up his friends, he had been driving it alone. Him being behind the wheel was always the most likely situation. It was the safest assumption.

I’m also not going to get too deep into the weeds policing Klapisch’s or anyone else’s takes when it comes to Fernandez. They feel how they feel. I will offer, however, that Fernandez is now nearly six months dead and that for people who knew and loved him — or, people like us, who merely admired his talent — his loss is made no greater or worse by virtue of its circumstances. Klapisch’s whole angle is that, after the outpouring of grief in Miami last fall, “you wonder how the Marlins feel today,” suggesting that they . . . still don’t grieve? That they wouldn’t have grieved at the time if they knew Fernandez was driving?

If that’s the claim, it’s a dubious one. Ask anyone who has lost someone under similar circumstances. The situation may become more complicated and there may be some anger and disappointment mixed in with the sadness, but the grief is not diminished and for most the idea of judging the dead — Klapisch’s headline literally damns Fernandez’s legacy — is not on the radar. As for “no longer seeing him in a sympathetic light,” I have to ask: did we only feel sympathy for him because we thought, for some reason, that someone else was driving? I’m not sure that tracks at all.

But even if that and a thousand other complicated emotions are felt by Fernandez’s friends and loved ones, that’s their call to make. Not mine or yours or some New Jersey columnist’s. Especially not some New Jersey columnist who has made a cottage industry out of leveling moral judgments on people he only knows professionally. He spent years excoriating one in stark, moral terms and then, later, decided that it was OK to stop doing so.  What changed? The need for a fresh take seemed to be the most obvious candidate. Which is fine for A-Rod, I suppose. He’s alive and kicking and can handle it. It’s pretty unseemly for a dead man. This seems like opportunism more than anything.

People will judge. They always have and always will, especially when drugs and alcohol and irresponsible behavior is involved. But in this case, with Fernandez in the ground for half a year and nothing bringing him back, I’m not sure what it accomplishes.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.