It's been a year and a half since tragedy rocked Major League Baseball: the Miami Marlins' star young pitcher, 24-year-old José Fernández, died in a boating crash off the coast of Miami Beach. The team was having a strong season in 2016 before Fernández's passing, and it looked like it may snap a 13-year postseason drought.
The Marlins finished in third place in the National League East after putting up an 11-14 record in September and October. They ended up missing the playoffs by 7.5 games.
Christian Yelich, a center fielder for the Marlins that season, said Fernández's passing sent the team into a tailspin. The traumatizing event, Yelich said, was a 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's Jerry Crasnick. "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."
Fernández was indeed having a great season in 2016. He had racked up a 16-8 record with a 2.86 ERA. The 2013 NL Rookie of the Year had made his second All-Star team that season.
"We went through that rebuild, and we were so close. We had all the pieces," Yelich said. "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."