The year 2020 was the year of what might have been if not for tragedies. COVID-19 took off and led to large swathes of everyday life shutting down. Kobe Bryant was among 9 killed in a helicopter crash a month earlier. Kidney disease claimed the life of Toronto fan favorite Tony Fernandez, six years after the same condition took my father.
Baseball played a season without an in-person audience and was limited to just 60 games. The shortened calendar led to intense speculation on the likelihood of a player batting .400 for the first time since 1941. It was indeed possible: Tony Fernandez batted .432 himself in the 60-game stretch spanning April 12 – June 21, 1999.
Fernandez could make good contact, sometimes with less than 100% concentration. In one game he called for time as the pitcher began his windup. The umpire did not grant the request and Fernandez made a flailing lunge at the pitch, somehow hitting a double. He averaged more than 3 WAR per 162 games played with about 1/3 of that total coming from his defensive skill. Fernandez’ defense at short is good enough to rank #120 of all lifetime MLB players and is just ahead of Hall of Fame contemporary Barry Larkin.