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.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”