It was former Major League pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who once observed that, "You can sum up baseball in one word -- youneverknow."
04/11/2011 5:33 PM ET
Livan Hernandez finds a way
Right-hander has played for eight teams in 15 seasons
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
Livan Hernandez would have to agree.
In his 15th big league season, Hernandez has become an elder statesman, the resident philosopher in the Nationals clubhouse. He's earned the role and is not shy about offering his opinions. There are, for example, the prospects of the Nationals, viewed as outsiders in the loaded National League East, where Philadelphia has captured four straight titles.
"We've got a good team in here," Hernandez said. "This is sports. You don't know who will win and who will lose until the games are over. In sports, guessing who will win doesn't work.
"Life is about what you do. You go out and play, you have a chance to win."
He has proof to back up that opinion.
"Did you think the Giants would win the World Series last year?" he said. "No. Did you think Boston and Tampa would both lose their first six games this year? No. That is why they play the games. The game has 27 outs. After 27 outs, then maybe you know who wins."
Here's more proof. Did anybody think Livan Hernandez would still be pitching after all these years? He's been at it at one place or another since 1997, when he burst on the scene with the Marlins, winning nine games down the stretch and then two against Atlanta in the League Championship Series and two more against Cleveland in the World Series as the Marlins unexpectedly became world champions. He earned Most Valuable Player in both the NLCS and the World Series that year.
He was 22 and owned Florida back then, riding through the city as the Grand Marshal in the Orange Bowl Parade, his jersey headed to the Hall of Fame World Series highlights display. "I remember it all, everything," Hernandez said. "It was a great time. It seems like it was yesterday."
Only two years later, Hernandez began his big league odyssey. There were stops in San Francisco, Montreal, Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado and New York (Mets) before a return engagement with the Nationals. Released in one place, he has always found a job someplace else. Over the years, he has had 11 seasons in which he won 10 or more games including a career-best 17 with the Giants in 2000.
"I've been in a couple of places," he said, flashing a smile. "As long as I get them out, I will keep pitching. I'm still pitching good."
Still, Hernandez knows that things don't always go as planned. "Mistakes happen," he said. "You want to do something, and it doesn't happen. People call it a mistake. It's not a mistake. Sometimes, things don't happen the way you want them to. That's not a mistake. That's life."
Hernandez remains an innings-eater. He started 33 games and threw 211 2/3 innings last year, the 10th time he's passed those marks. He turned 36 in February and claims he doesn't pay attention to the numbers next to his name, even milestones like 100 victories, earned with the Nationals in 2005, and 150, which he notched with the Mets in 2007.
"I don't know about numbers," he said. "I am proud of my whole career."
The burly right-hander came into the 2011 season with 166 career victories. Only four Cuban-born pitchers have won more -- Luis Tiant (229), Dolf Luque (194), Mike Cuellar (185) and Camilo Pascual (174).
Those are numbers Hernandez knows all about.
"I want to get to 200 wins," he said. "I don't set other goals, but that is one goal for me."
And as Andujar once said, "Youneverknow."
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.