On this year’s Hall of Fame ballot (and a former National on it)

Last year’s Hall of Fame ballot included the first inductee who played part of his career for the Nationals. This year’s ballot includes the guy who threw the first pitch in Nats history and became a longstanding fan favorite.

Livan Hernandez is one of 19 players listed on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this winter, a ballot that also includes 14 returning candidates who each received at least 5 percent of the vote last year.

Hernandez, owner of a career 178-177 record and 4.44 ERA, won’t come anywhere close to the 75 percent threshold needed for induction in Cooperstown. He very well may not receive even one vote. But his inclusion on the ballot no doubt brings a smile to the faces of many Nationals fans who have long had a soft spot for the big right-hander who served as the club’s de facto ace during some of its leanest years.

RFK first game sidebar.jpgHernandez spent seven of his 17 big league seasons pitching for the Nationals franchise (the first two when the club still played in Montreal). He threw the first pitch in Nats history (April 4, 2005 at Philadelphia) and the first pitch in Nats home history (April 14, 2005 at RFK Stadium). He was an All-Star in that inaugural season, during which he went 15-10 with a 3.98 ERA and led the league with 246 1/3 innings pitched.livan

Traded to the Diamondbacks in August 2006, Hernandez bounced around for the next three seasons before rejoining the Nationals late in the 2009 season. He made 70 more starts for them through the 2011 season before departing again and finishing his career as a reliever for the Braves and Brewers in 2012.

Since retiring, Hernandez has been an occasional familiar face around Nationals spring training, brought in as a special instructor. He won a World Series ring as a rookie for the Marlins in 1997 and returned to the Fall Classic with the Giants in 2002, but he has always viewed the Nationals franchise as his true baseball home.

Among the other first-time candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot are two seemingly surefire selections for the voters: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. Others who will merit serious consideration include Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, Johan Santana and Johnny Damon.

Ivan Rodriguez (the first Hall-of-Famer to have played part of his career for the Nationals), Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines were last year’s inductees. They nearly were joined by two others who fell perilously short of the 75 percent hump but now are primed to be elected this year: Trevor Hoffman (74 percent) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7 percent). Edgar Martinez (58.6 percent) is on the ballot for the ninth time, with only one more year of eligibility to come.

After seeing their percentages rise last winter, Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent) will again be among the most controversial nominees in their sixth year of eligibility, their ties to performance enhancing drugs having kept them out of Cooperstown to date despite overwhelming stats.

The other returning candidates (with last year’s vote percentages listed) are Mike Mussina (51.8 percent), Curt Schilling (45 percent), Manny Ramirez (23.8 percent), Larry Walker (21.9 percent), Fred McGriff (21.7 percent), Jeff Kent (16.7 percent), Gary Sheffield (13.3 percent), Billy Wagner (10.2 percent) and Sammy Sosa (8.6 percent).

Other first-time candidates are Chris Carpenter, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge (who finished his career with the Nationals in 2012), Hideki Matsui, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano.

Ballots were mailed out Monday to members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with at least 10 years of service time. All ballots must be returned by Dec. 31, with the results to be announced Jan. 24 and induction scheduled for July in Cooperstown.

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