Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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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.

Cruz, Polanco homer to lift Dominican Republic to 3-0 win

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SAN DIEGO (AP) The Dominican Republic took a step toward a repeat title in the World Baseball Classic thanks to impressive home runs by Nelson Cruz and Gregory Polanco.

The Dominicans also got some nice pitching in a 3-0 victory Thursday night that pushed Venezuela to the brink of elimination.

“We understand the importance of this game and what we had to do,” Nelson said after he hit his third homer of the tournament. “We woke up. We needed to start moving.”

The Dominican Republic (1-1) had won 11 straight WBC games until losing to Puerto Rico in the Pool F opener on Tuesday night.

Venezuela (0-2) fell victim to a United States comeback on Wednesday night.

The Americans play Puerto Rico on Friday night. On Saturday, Puerto Rico faces Venezuela and the Dominican Republic faces the United States. The top two teams advance to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium. The Pool F winner plays the Netherlands on Monday while the Pool F runner-up plays Japan on Tuesday. The championship game is Wednesday night.

Cruz homered to right off Arcenio Leon leading off the eighth. He hit a three-run homer off Andrew Miller in the eighth inning Saturday night to help the Dominicans rally for a 7-5 victory against the United States in the opening round in Miami.

“We get excited whenever we make a good play,” Cruz said. “That is how we grew up playing. We act like kids. Anytime we score a run, that is how we react.”

Robinson Cano hit an RBI single in the seventh.

Jhoulys Chacin (0-1), who signed with the Padres in December, locked into a duel with former Padres pitcher Edinson Volquez.

Chacin put runners on first and second with two outs in the third before punching out Jose Bautista. Chacin slapped his glove in celebration as he headed to the dugout.

But he still got the loss in his new home ballpark after he allowed Polanco’s homer to right leading off the fifth to break the scoreless tie.

Chacin reached his pitch count two batters later after walking Jose Reyes, leaving after allowing one run and three hits, striking out three and walking three.

“We’re going to have a difficult time if we don’t really tighten that piece up,” Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said.

Dominican manager Tony Pena pulled Volquez after the Miami Marlins right-hander put runners on first and third with one out in the fifth. Fernando Abad (1-0) came on and got Ender Inciarte to ground into a double play.

“Volqy did a great job and there is no question we have a great bullpen,” Pena said. “And today I was going to use everybody.”

Volquez allowed four hits, struck out six and walked two. Jeurys Familia pitched the ninth for the save, allowing two bloop singles that put runners on the corners before striking out Alcides Escobar to end it.

After Volquez left, five relievers allowed only four baserunners.

Dominican third baseman Manny Machado made a great play to throw out Miguel Cabrera in the sixth. Machado backhanded the ball, spun and threw from deep in foul territory. First baseman Carlos Santana caught the throw and dove at first base, touching the bag with his glove just before Cabrera arrived.

“It’s nothing new,” Cruz said. “He’s one of the best third basemen in the league. He’s just unbelievable.”

Cabrera came out with stiffness in his back.

A motivational speaker smashed a cinderblock on Don Mattingly’s chest

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Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly brought in a motivational speaking — er, motivational acting — group to the Marlins clubhouse yesterday. But they didn’t lead cheers or tell Marlins players that they were good enough, smart enough and doggone it, people like them. Nope.

Rather, they smashed a gosh darn cinderblock with a sledgehammer as it lay in Mattingly’s chest:

Fredi Gonalzez did this back in 2015, by the way. The Braves lost 101 games that year and Gonzalez was fired after 37 games the following season. So, like, there is no link between team performance and motivation or anything.