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The 5 stages of Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez is probably going to need season-ending surgery. Here's how baseball fans are mostly dealing with it.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a horrible idea for an article: Ranking the players whose season-ending injury would devastate you the most. That would require you to make a ghoulish list and consider possibilities that shouldn’t be considered.

Here’s the same idea, couched in a much better way: Ranking the players who make baseball fun to watch. That would be a list of players who make you log on to for the highlights every morning, who make you stay up for the late games, even if you have to be at work early the next morning. It's the same thing as the first one, really. Just not as morbid.

Jose Fernandez would be near the top. He might top it. He is the face of interesting baseball right now — otherworldly skill combined with effervescent personality. Maybe there are players who have as much fun as Fernandez does on a baseball field, and maybe there are a couple with as much talent, but no one radiates as much fun through your screen and into your baseball-loving soul. If you want to know why Baseball Twitter spent Monday afternoon using 140 characters to tweet out choking sobs, that’s a good start.

That fastball.

And that curve.

It’s all broken.

I’ve written about the Kübler-Ross model (the five stages of grief thingie) before, and it’s kind of a cliché at this point after something bad happens (in baseball, politics, Oscars, whatever). Instead, let’s repurpose the stages to a baseball context.

Stage 1: Denial

This is the traditional stage, and it still fits. There was a gap between "going in for an MRI" and "sources say the Marlins are expecting Tommy John surgery," and in that time, I was thinking silly things. Maybe it’s just a tweak. Maybe it’s clean. Maybe it’s a loose body or bone spur. Maybe it’s something that will go away with a little liniment.

It’s always Tommy John. That pain in your back? Tommy John. The infected ingrown toenail that’s bugging you? Probably going to have to come out and be replaced with a toenail from a cadaver. Whenever you read "elbow" and "MRI", don’t bother with the denial. It’s just an extra step.

Stage 2: Thick, unyielding nausea

Because it’s not depression you felt with Fernandez, right? That’s typically the fourth stage. It’s not true, can’t-go-on, crippling depression. Save that for Fernandez. It’s his livelihood, and for the first time in his life, he can’t be the best in the world at all he knows. He can’t have the fun that he’s so fond of radiating. You’re not the manager whose job might be on the line with a last-place finish. You’re not the family member who has to console Fernandez whose arm of the gods is incarcerated in a sling. You aren’t depressed.

You’re just sick about it. The first tweet that came across turned your shoulders into a gas. The subsequent tweets made you sink into the chair more and more. There's no anger, really.

Baseball should be the way we want it. Players should never get old; players should never get hurt. Fernandez should have broken into the league and faced a Rickey Henderson who never leaves his prime. Who’s this new kid? Is he good enough to play with all of these players in their primes? Did he just catch that?


Yes, he did. And, yes, he should be there. And, no, no one should have to stop playing baseball because of something their body does to them. You probably spent the afternoon with thick, unyielding nausea.

This stage lasts for about a year.

Stage 3: Reading, reading, reading

This usually comes the next day with a serious injury. There are articles. Like, say, this one. They’ll explain what the Marlins should do now, or they’ll explain the likelihood of a successful recovery. They’ll explain the sudden rash of Tommy John surgeries or the failure to keep pitchers healthier in the post-PAP era.

Reading about Fernandez keeps him around for a bit longer. I mean, look at this guy. Why can’t we watch him for the rest of the year? Makes no sense. But if I read a few articles on him, he’s still around. I want to know why this keeps happening, even as teams go to great lengths to protect young pitchers. I get that throwing a baseball is an unnatural act, and that's the real culprit, but I want someone to tell me that baseball can overcome that.

Stage 4: Wondering about your fantasy team

This is because you are awful and should be slapped with a cactus.

Stage 5: Waiting

There is no acceptance. There is no bargaining. There is only impatience. I’m still waiting for Matt Harvey to come back. He was so much fun to watch. Then he went away. The reaction was not unlike this one, with most of us railing against an unseen force for something out of our control.

Now we wait. We wait and hope the same pitcher shows up again. Stephen Strasburg did, for the most part.

You can be a real ass, baseball. A real, uncaring ass. Baseball is still worth watching without Fernandez, but the best reason to watch is gone. I can wait, though. I can wait right here. The nausea and disappointment aren't going away for a year, but you can't take away our capacity to wait around like concussed fools.

Get well soon, Jose. Go screw yourself, baseball. Love you, baseball.