Washington Nationals: Livan Hernandez makes HOF ballot

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 30: Pitcher Livan Hernandez
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 30: Pitcher Livan Hernandez /

Livan Hernandez is the first Washington Nationals player to get on the Hall of Fame ballot primarily as a Nats pitcher. A wonderful character.

The Washington Nationals celebrate a milestone this off-season with Livan Hernandez hitting the Hall of Fame ballot.

Although he has no chance of earning enshrinement, Hernandez is the first player in Nats history to make the ballot primarily with his time in the organization. Hernandez spent seven seasons with the Nats and Expos during his 17-year career, the longest stretch of his well-traveled time in the majors.

Fans outside DC will remember his 17-strikeout performance against the Atlanta Braves during the 1997 National League Championship Series with the Florida Marlins. You remember him as the first pitcher in team history.

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Hernandez took the hill on Opening Day 2005 in Philadelphia against Jon Lieber and the home opener at RFK Stadium versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. He tossed 8.1 that afternoon for the win.

Along with Ryan Zimmerman later that summer, Hernandez broke the mold as an original recognizable National. As the team surprised the NL East with an 81-81 record, he led the league with 246.1 innings pitched and 1065 batters faced. Gio Gonzalez led the staff this year facing 827 batters. How times have changed.

The Cuban-born righty posted his best numbers of his career with the franchise.

In 197 starts, he went 70-72 with an ERA of 3.98. Hernandez tossed 23 complete games including four shutouts. His WHIP of 1.349 is nearly a tenth better than his career number of 1.440. His ERA+ with the franchise is 106.

Even when you consider Hernandez pitched on bad teams and a franchise orphaned in Montreal, he has no legitimate case for the Hall. What he means to Washington and the rebirth of Major League Baseball in the city is another matter.

As with Mike Epstein and Claude Osteen from the expansion Senators, Hernandez gave baseball-starved fans a reason to fall in love again.

His first stay in Washington was short. Traded in August 2006 to Arizona for Matt Chico and Garrett Mock. When the New York Mets released in three years later in 2009, he came back to Washington for two full seasons. In 2010, he pitched over 200 innings for the last time.

When historians write the history of the Nationals, Hernandez plays a feature role. Never considered a top-flight pitcher, his two stints with Washington established the Nats own identity while cementing him as a decent hurler. He tried pitching one more year in 2012, but the arm was finished. He missed Washington’s playoff revival by one season.

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Nope, Cooperstown is not calling. However, his place in DC sports history is well-deserved.