PHOENIX -- Christian Yelich leaves Miami with no hard feelings and one big regret.
Yelich, whose five-year tenure with the Marlins ended last month when he was traded to the Brewers, said his biggest disappointment is that Miami failed to make the playoffs or post a .500 record during his time with the franchise. He cites the September 2016 death of pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident as the unfortunate turning point for the franchise.
"From talking to the guys there -- the guys who got traded and some of the guys who are still there -- the consensus from our clubhouse is that everything changed after the tragedy with Jose," Yelich told ESPN. "I think everybody figured our window to win was with him. You have a bona fide ace, a No. 1 starter, and you kind of have something there with that. It's nobody's fault what happened. It's a tragedy in every sense of the word. Nobody could have seen that coming.
"We went through that rebuild, and we were so close. We had all the pieces. If a few things break differently, you never know how things turn out. I think a lot of the guys feel that way. We were really close and had a chance to do something special with that group. We just weren't able to get it done. And when you don't get it done in this business, teams have to move on. That's what happened with us."
The Marlins went on a selling binge this offseason in conjunction with Jeffrey Loria's decision to sell the franchise. The new Derek Jeter-Bruce Sherman ownership group, intent on dumping salary in an effort to reduce the payroll from $115 million to $90 million, traded away Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Yelich in the span of two months during the offseason.
Yelich, 26, committed to the Marlins organization long-term in March 2015 when he agreed to a seven-year, $49.5 million contract extension, four months after Stanton signed a record-setting $325 million deal with the team. Yelich won a Gold Glove Award in 2014 and a Silver Slugger Award two years later, and logged an .800 OPS in five seasons as a Marlin.
Yelich's frustration with Miami's roster teardown became evident in mid-January when his agent, Joe Longo, described his relationship with the Marlins as "irretrievably broken." A week later, the Marlins traded him to Milwaukee for outfielder Lewis Brinson and three minor leaguers.
Jeter, the longtime face of the Yankees and a future Hall of Famer, has come under criticism for numerous decisions since taking over in Miami. But Yelich said he bears no ill will toward Jeter or the Marlins over the way his situation was handled.
"I think it's something that probably had to happen," Yelich said. "The name of the game is to win, and we just didn't get it done as a group there. Derek was my favorite player growing up. I had a lot of respect for him, and I still have a lot of respect for him.
"I don't know how long it's going to take, but I think people need to let things play out down there and give it a chance. People are going to say, 'How come you didn't give it a chance?' That stuff takes time, and I didn't know if it was going to get done in the amount of time I had left there. But I think it's going to get better there. The fan base has been through a lot the past few years, but I truly believe this ownership group will do things different."
When Jose Fernandez died it totally shocked the baseball world. I remember waking up that Sunday and seeing the push notification on my phone. I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought it was a mistake, there was no way Jose Fernandez could've died so suddenly. Sadly, that was reality and at just 24 years old Jose Fernandez was dead.
Obviously a human life is more important than baseball, but what Yelich said is 100% right. I'm glad he said something,because even though it's a touchy subject it doesn't change the fact that it's true. In the time that's passed since Jose's death I think we can all admit that when Jose died so did the Marlins chances of competing in the National League. He was a young, cost controlled stud pitcher on a team with a legit offense. He was a legit ace in the making. Someone who could win multiple games in a playoff series. Who knows what could've happened this past season had Jose been there? The 2017 Marlins had the offense to contend. They were 5th in the NL in runs scored, 2nd in batting average, 7th in OPS. With a core of Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna the Marlins could swing it with anybody. (all have since been traded)
What the team didn't have is pitching.
As a team the Marlins had the 3rd worst ERA in the National League, and they were tied for last in quality starts.
With an offense like Miami's if you add a full season of Jose Fernandez in his age 25 season I think you could make a serious argument that this team at the very least contends for a wild-card spot. With a below average pitching staff this offense carried the Marlins to 77 wins. You add Jose and you're looking closer to 87-90 wins IMO. Maybe if they are in the race all season more people show up to the ballpark and at the very least they keep the core together another season? It's sad to think what could've been for this team.
Instead the new Marlins ownership decided to blow the whole thing up in efforts to cut costs. Jeter has stripped this team of its entire identity. Every player with even an ounce of recognition around the league is gone. Plus he fired Billy the Marlin. Where does it end with this guy? Now the Marlins don't even resemble a major league team. I could be wrong but if the Marlins win 88 games in 2017 and go to the playoffs I find it hard to believe that Jeter would blow up this team. That didn't happen and instead he traded away all their assets, and didn't really get too much in return. That's the biggest takeaway from this, if you're gonna blow it up at least get some elite prospect. Jeter basically traded Stanton, the MVP of the National League to the Yankees for a bag of balls. Interesting how the YANKEES got Stanton for fucking Starlin Castro and eating his contract. You couldn't even get Clint Frazier? The Yankees don't even have a spot for him.
People joke about the Marlins and how they have no following, but how can you blame the people of Miami? Why would you support a team who seemingly blows up their team every 5 or so years? It's sad because the Marlins weren't that far away from competing, instead of trading away all their offense firepower, maybe if they went out and spent some money on their pitching staff they'd start winning games and maybe they could sell more than 3,500 tickets per game.
It's sad to say, but the death of Jose Fernandez was the beginning of the end for the Marlins. What's even worse is that you could make the argument that the Kansas City Royals suffered the same fate with the death of their young ace Yordano Ventura. Two teams futures forever changed by the mistakes of two young men. Shows how quickly it all can end, and that no matter your status you are not immune to tragedy. Ventura died in a car accident in January of 2017. His death, much like Fernandez' with the Marlins changed the fate of the Royals. The Royals who hovered around .500 in 2017 were in the hunt in the 2nd half. If Ventura doesn't die it's probably the Royals instead of the Twins in the 2nd Wild Card spot. Now the Royals, just like the Marlins are stripping it down and starting over as they've lost Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer this off season, and likely will see Mike Moustakas sign elsewhere as well. Baseball was forever changed by their deaths and it's just really sad to see the domino effect from Jose's death on the entire Marlins franchise.