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.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.