Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jose Fernandez is the 3rd Cuban born Rookie of the Year

It was announced yesterday that Cuban born José Fernandez of the Miami Marlins is the winner of the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year award. Fernandez was born in the city of Santa Clara, Cuba. In doing so, Fernandez has become the first Cuban born baseball player to win the National League Rookie of the Year and the third Cuban born player overall to win the Rookie of the Year award. Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1964 and Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1986.

Fernandez won the award with 26 first place votes for a total of 142 points ahead of Los Angeles Dodgers rookie standout and fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. In  28 starts, Fernandez went 12-6, with a 2.19 ERA in 172.2 innings pitched. Fernandez struck out 187 batters while only walking 58 and giving up 111 hits for a WHIP of 0.979 and an opposing hitters batting average of .182. His 2.19 ERA was second in the National League to the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw's 1.83 and his 9.75 K's per 9 innings the second best in the league behind A.J. Burnett of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Also according to the Elias Sports Bureau:
Fernandez Was Doc-Like: José Fernandez won the National League Rookie of the Year Award after a season in which he went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA for a team that lost 100 games. And did we mention that Fernandez didn't turn 21 years old until July 31? His ERA was the lowest in a season by a pitcher younger than 22 who threw at least 150 innings since Dwight Gooden had a 1.53 ERA for the Mets in 1985, his second season in the major leagues.
It is amazing to think that at the age of 14, Fernandez had been jailed with murderers and other hardened criminals for being a potential defector. Fernandez had attempted to defect to the United States three times amid dangerous swells and hazardous conditions before finally reaching the shores of Mexico. Reaching Mexico wasn't a given to not being returned to Cuba. Unlike here in the United States where if a defector reaches shore they can stay (if they are caught on the water they are returned), Mexico can deport and defectors back to their home country whether on land or water. A series of bus trips and then a trip across the Mexico-U.S. border Fernandez finally reached the United States. To read more of Fernandez's life in Cuba, his journey to make it to the United States and his attempts to achieve his dreams of becoming a professional Baseball player, read the following article: From Cuba With Heat: Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez on his journey from Cuban defector to MLB All-Star by Jordan Conn from Grantland.com dated July 16, 2013.

The rise of such Cuban superstars as José Fernandez, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes among others leads me to believe that we will soon find ourselves with a Cuban Baseball renaissance in the MLB. Which is a double edged sword of sorts. As we've seen recently, a number of Cuban defectors have signed contracts with Major league teams which will only add to the number of those willing to risk their lives by leaving Cuba through defection and by those leaving their teams in international play seeking asylum. Even as the Cuban government recently changed the rules concerning whether a Cuban athlete can play for foreign leagues I don't see things changing on the side of the United States and their embargo on Cuba while the Castro regime is still in power in Cuba.

Regardless of the road that Cuban-U.S. baseball relations takes, talented players like Jose Fernandez will continue to try and find their piece of the "American Dream". So far that's translated into the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year. Felicidades José.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Jose Fernandez's career statistics on Baseball Reference
- Click Here to access the ESPN/Associated Press article Cuba: Athletes can sign overseas dated September 27, 2013
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