Don’t believe what you hear about Fernandez, Marlins

By all accounts, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez is a good teammate.

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For more than a week now, we’ve heard reports about how Jose Fernandez ticks off his Marlins teammates with his attitude and is disrespectful toward his bosses.

I’m not buying it.

I’ve spoken with four people connected to the Marlins in the past several days, all of whom had knowledge of Fernandez’s conduct in the clubhouse last season. I granted all of them anonymity with the goal of eliciting honest assessments. The worst anyone said about Fernandez is that at times, he acts like he’s 23.

If anything, my sources said, Fernandez was more receptive last season than in the past to veterans pointing out his youthful mistakes. Yes, he squawked about money in spring training after rejecting an extension from the Marlins. But he eventually grew close with veteran infielder Martin Prado, one of the game’s great professionals, and for the most part endeared himself to teammates, showing greater maturity.

Is Fernandez outspoken at times when he perceives his superiors are not handling matters properly? Yes. Can he be high-strung and emotional, even come off as arrogant and cocky? Absolutely. But is he disruptive enough for the Marlins to justify trading him? No, from what I was told. He is not a problem.

If the Marlins want to move Fernandez because they fear he will break down physically, fine. If they want to maximize his trade value when he is under club control for three more years, fine again. But the rest is just silliness, and frankly — because it’s the Marlins, and Fernandez is represented by enemy-of-the-state Scott Boras — I wonder whether some of this is a campaign to cushion the blow for the pitcher’s eventual departure.

The Marlins’ disdain for Boras — emanating, according to sources, from owner Jeffrey Loria — is rather evident. We saw it in the team’s curious demotion last season of outfielder Marcell Ozuna, a Boras client. We heard it in club president David Samson’s recent suggestion that if Boras wants input on club matters, he should buy a team.

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A lot of teams grow frustrated dealing with Boras, but good luck building a roster without any of his clients. Likewise, good luck finding star players who lack high-octane, ego-driven personalities. Fernandez burns to be great, wants to win. He isn’t necessarily quiet about it. But he plays for a franchise that too often is preoccupied with matters that have little to do with putting a championship team on the field.

Maybe that will change under new manager Don Mattingly. Maybe Fernandez will develop into even more of a professional while playing for one of the game’s most respected figures. Or maybe 2016 will just be another season of Stupid Marlins Tricks, during which Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest will have every right to state their displeasure.

Oh, I don’t doubt that Fernandez has ticked off a player or two, and an executive or two as well. A 25-man clubhouse rarely operates in complete harmony; teammates occasionally will wear on one another’s nerves over the course of 162 games.

Flare-ups are inevitable. But context is important. I’m guessing that some of the Marlins’ younger players are jealous of Fernandez. I’m guessing that some of his superiors take offense at the outspoken nature of a 23-year-old kid.

That’s what Fernandez is — a kid. A kid who, like most other kids, will occasionally screw up and require a reprimand. But Fernandez, by all accounts, is also a ferocious competitor who wants only the best for both himself and his team.

Come to think of it, maybe the Marlins should trade him. I’m starting to sense that we never will hear the truth about Fernandez as a pitcher and teammate until he escapes the circus that is Miami.