The Mumbai Mirror
Several players on the Mumbai Metro Stars are dismayed by the recent free agent signing of pitcher Aurelio Fernández, saying he is widely regarded in baseball circles as a disruptive clubhouse presence.
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” said Alfredo González, an outfielder and one of the more outspoken members of the team. “I would just say he’s pretty much an a@#hole.”
Indeed, that reputation has followed Fernández throughout his career, most of which was spent in the Valencia Stars organization in the BBA.
“You know, one of the happiest days of my life was when I heard Aurelio had decided to become a free agent,” said one of his former Stars teammates, who asked not to be named.
When pressed on just what Fernández does that’s so objectionable, the Stars player said: “Well, let’s see. He dogs it in practice, he dogs it in warmups, and then he goes out in games and gets crushed and wonders what happened. He doesn’t talk to the other guys – except to ask … no, DEMAND favors. And he’s rude and dismissive of anybody he doesn’t consider up to his level – which is everybody.”
For his part, Fernández professed shock that former teammates would criticize him, or that his current team is wary of his reputation.
“I mean, what cretin is saying these things?” Fernández asked. “It’s probably some scrub utility infielder who’s just jealous.”
He admits that he may not have the work ethic of some of the most dedicated players in the sport, but said that’s no cause for worry.
“Look, I don’t sweat things like practice, you know? Practice ain’t games, and that’s where I shine,” Fernández said.
That drew sniffs of derision from González.
“Oh yeah, he sure did shine for us in that first start of his, didn’t he? He thought he could just waltz out onto the mound after months without pitching a competitive game and mow everyone down just because this was the UMEBA and not his precious BBA,” González said.
“Well, he pretty much sucked in the BBA, and those ‘minor league cretins,’ as he put it before the game, on Jerusalem frickin’ lit him up.”
Fernandez did struggle in his first appearance for Mumbai on June 11, lasting just 4.1 innings and giving up 9 runs on 9 hits, including 5 home runs. And, he did put up less than stellar numbers in the Brewster Baseball Association: a 14-33 record, 5.53 ERA, and 0.4 WAR over portions of six seasons with Valencia.
So, given all of this, what exactly did Mumbai GM Vic Caleca see that led him to sign Fernández to a two-year contract at a reported $4 million per year?
“Well, I’ll tell you what we see,” Caleca said heatedly. “Our scouts see a young man who grades out - relative to the UMEBA - with 9 stuff, who has way above average control, three excellent pitches and a fastball that breaks the radar gun at 101 mph.
“So, when you see all that, are you telling me that in a league where pitching is at a premium, that you don’t at least give this young man a shot? Because if you’re telling me that, then you’re an idiot.”
González and other Metro Stars players conceded that Fernández has some formidable talent.
“Yeah, he looks great warming up on the sidelines,” said closer Rafael Cruz. “But I’ll be more impressed when he brings that stuff into the games.”
To some extent, though, that may already be happening.
Fernández’s second outing for Mumbai, a June 16 start against Beirut, looked much more promising than his first start. In the Beirut game, he went 7.1 innings, allowed 3 runs on 7 hits and struck out 5. The BNN broadcast crew named him Player of the Game.
“Come on guys, gimme a break here,” Fernández pleaded. “That first game was just me getting the rust off. It’s gonna be different from here on – I mean, it’s not like I’m pitching against Vegas or California or those guys. It’s Beirut and Bucharest, for God’s sake. Let’s get real.”
So, on that note, let’s hope Fernández’s pitching is better than his diplomacy. If not, it could be a long, painful ride for him in the UMEBA.