Hello, and Happy Labor Day Nats Fans!
Yesterday was the last start of the season for one Livan Hernandez, a pitcher who had 13 straight years of 30 or more starts, thrown over 50,000 pitches, made over 450 straight starts, and has never spent time on the DL in his career, a member, and NLCS and World Series MVP for the 1997 Florida Marlins, and a pitcher with a career 174-176 with a 4.39 career ERA in 3,121 2/3 career innings. Along with that, he is also a .222 career hitter with 10 career homers and 85 career RBIs, and has also gone over 30 plate appearances without a strikeout. This all “came to an end” yesterday, and I will explain why that phrase is in quotes later.
But first, this:
When I first began my education and fandom of the Washington Nationals, I saw Livan Hernandez was the club’s top pitcher in 2005. I was not a huge baseball freak as I am now, and I always thought to myself: “how does this guy pitch consistently with an 87 MPH fastball?” Well, as I became more and more edumacated about baseball, I learned that Livo is one of the smartest, and quirkiest pitchers in the majors today. He eats innings, never seems as though he’s overexerting himself, and he never seems stressed. He would win 10 straight decisions in 2005, and finish 15-10 with a 3.98 ERA on a Nats team that held 1st place going into the All-Star break, and would finish 81-81. That was the best I would see the team finish for a long time, along with Livo. He was traded in 2006 to the Arizona Diamondbacks for two wastes…I mean, for Matt Chico and Garret Mock, after going 9-8 with a 5.24 ERA in his first 24 starts for the Nats, and would bounce from Arizona to Minnesota to Colorado to the New York Mets and back to Washington finally in 2009 for 8 starts. He didn’t exactly flourish in the Desert, or the Mountains, or in Minnesota, or in Flushing, but in 2010, his first full year back in DC, he went 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA. In Livo’s career with Montreal and Washington, he is 70-72 with a 3.98 Career ERA. His best mark by far from any other team, and what I mean by that is that he has more wins and a lower ERA in DC and Montreal than anywhere else he’s pitched.
I love Livo. He is one of my all time favorite Nats, if not #1, and watching him pitch, when he is on, is like watching as Master of his Craft. He moves his current 85 MPH fastball to the outside and to the inside of the plate. He throws any of his pitches in any count, and can use any of them to strike out a batter, such as his nasty 67 MPH Curveball, or his filthy 2-seam fastball that tails away from lefties and in on rightys. He’s not going to overpower you…unless you’re Brian Bixler (ZING!). But I digress. He outsmarts you with a quiet confidence. He throws the pitch you least expect, such as his sloooowwww Curve in a 2-2 or 3-2 count, where he needs a strike to avoid throwing a fastball. The batter most of the time can’t imagine him throwing it and swing…and miss. He has gotten it as low as 62, and can throw it as high a 74. It’s that velocity difference that he can control is what makes him so special. I honestly prefer watching a pitcher like him than I do someone like a JZim or Stras, because Livo outsmarts rather than overpowers.
I believe he should be honored somehow by the Nationals franchise. What that is exactly, I don’t know. I remain a proponent of retiring his number 61, because he is the winningest pitcher in Nats history and has been a cog in the rotation for years, both in Montreal and in DC. Think about it, how many other pitchers did you see on the bump that you looked at and said “hey, we could get this if we score 3 or4” as much as you probably did with Livo on the mound. I know I did. He is an all-time great Nats pitcher, and has the hardware to prove it, in his 1997 rookie year, he won a ring, and the LCS and WS MVP.
Livo has gone on record saying that he would be more than willing to re-sign and be a long reliever, but ONLY for the Nats. This, to me, is as classy a move as you can make. He has been there through the ugly years, and he wants to be there for the good years, as they approach, and mentor the young guys, and even give up a rotation spot he more than deserves and earns every year, for the younger kids to show their chops. That just shows me how good of a guy he is, and how much I would love to see him honored and I think the Nats owe it to him to do something like that. He can eat innings, he can make a spot start, and if he is willing to do that, then, hey, Mike Rizzo: GET. IT. DONE.
Livo deserves to be here for the team that is developing and becoming competitive, because he has been a bright spot for the Nats franchise and fans for years. He deserves a better ending than what happened yesterday, and I would love to see him continue his career on a team that is competitive, and not just for a middle of the pack to mediocre team that has treaded water for years.