After a mutual agreement between Livan Hernandez and the Washington Nationals, the 245-lb. right-hander will be shut down for the rest of the season to make room for the excess of young pitching talent making their auditions for the 2012 season. It was a classy move by the man who threw the first pitch in Nationals history way back in 2005.
I know most of you are thinking: Why would the Nationals retire the number of a guy who went 70-72 with the Expos/Nationals franchise? This is a fair question; I mean, its not like Hernandez ever carried the Nats anywhere near the playoffs and his greatest personal accomplishment, being named the 1997 World Series Most Valuable Player, came with the Florida Marlins (not to mention his other World Series appearance in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants).
Hernandez will finish 2011 with 29 starts, meaning he will fail to reach the 30-start mark for the first time since 1997, his second year in the league. The Nationals front office literally had to ask him to step down because if Hernandez had a say, he'd make a start every five days till his arm falls off.
Consistency is a huge factor in the game of baseball and Hernandez is the epitome of that. Who wouldn't want a guy that can give you 30 starts and 200 innings each year who boasts a 4.39 career ERA? It's hard to believe how durable he's been after all these years. As a matter of fact, Hernandez joined an exclusive club late in August in a game against the Braves when he became one of 11 players to throw 50,000 pitches in their major league careers. Not bad for a guy who's only made two All-Star teams in his 16-year career.
Aside from Ryan Zimmerman, Hernandez has been the one regular face for Nationals fans in their six-year existence. His three opening day starts is tops in franchise history with John Lannan is a close second with two and Stephen Strasburg soon to be not far behind.
At this point, I almost feel like I'm writing Hernandez's eulogy, so let's not forget that he will be playing baseball next year and could very well return to Washington in a relief role. It's his love for the Washington franchise that been most impressive. Hernandez could and has played for several other teams, but he hasn't shown anyone close to the appreciation he's shown the Nationals. It would only be fitting to recognize his dedication and significance in Nats lore by hanging his jersey in the stadium.
And lets be honest, no player in their right mind would ever consider wearing No. 61 anyway, right?
Ted Youngling blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.