Saturday, October 17, 2015

Remembering Yankees of the Past: Orlando Hernandez

Whenever I watch the Major League Baseball postseason and see the clutch hitting or the huge pitching performances it gets me thinking of the New York Yankees of old. The New York Yankees that I grew up watching, the dynasty Yankees that won World Series during the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 series. The Derek Jeter’s, the Jorge Posada’s, the Bernie Williams’, the Andy Pettitte’s, the Mariano Rivera’s, the Roger Clemens’ and the Orlando Hernandez’s of the world to name a few. Today we remember one of those great Yankees from the past, most people called him El Duque.

Orlando Hernandez Pedroso was born on October 11, 1965 (originally thought to be 1969) in Cuba where he signed he and his right arm caught the attention of the New York Yankees. Hernandez defected from Cuba on Christmas day in 1997 on a boat leaving the city of Caibarien. Hernandez was caught by the US Coast Guard along with seven others and was eventually offered asylum in Costa Rica. After spending two months in Costa Rica El Duque negotiated a four-year deal with the New York Yankees worth $6.6 million to begin his professional career.

El Duque’s first season in the Major Leagues was in 1998 where he came into the league firing on all cylinders posting an impressive 12-4 record with a 3.13 ERA helping the team win 114 games, an American League record at the time, and a World Series victory over the San Diego Padres in four games. Hernandez followed up his 4th place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting by pitching his best season in the Major Leagues posting a 17-9 record with 157 strike outs in 214.1 innings pitched, all career highs. This was the season that Hernandez fielded a ground ball off the bat of the Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez and had the ball get lodged in his glove forcing him to throw the entire glove with the ball inside to the first baseman for the out. That was quite the comical play for all on that day but Hernandez had the last laugh winning the ALCS MVP in 1999 and another World Series ring over the Atlanta Braves in another four game sweep.

Hernandez seemingly took a step back in 2000 posting a 12-13 record with a 4.51 ERA but continued to pitch exceptionally well during the second season pushing his playoff record to 8-1 with a 2.23 ERA and his third World Series in as many seasons to start his career, this time at the expense of the New York Mets in five games. Hernandez continued his slide in 2001 posting a 4-7 record and a 4.85 ERA in 17 games, 16 of them starters, but once again the Yankees were in the World Series, this time against the Arizona Diamondbacks where the team came one bloop single away from their fourth World Series in a row. Hernandez faced off with his first ever postseason disappointment in 2001 and would face that same disappointment in 2002 when the team fell to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2002 ALDS.

Hernandez’s tenure with the Yankees ended after the 2002 season after the team sent him to the Montreal Expos in a three-team trade with the Chicago White Sox. Hernandez never appeared in a game for the Expos after suffering a rotator cuff injury which seemed awful convenient for the Yankees, especially when they re-signed Hernandez for the 2004 season. Hernandez signed a one-year deal on March 11, 2004 to return to the club knowing that he would miss the start of the season while he still recovered from rotator cuff surgery. Hernandez finished with 156 starts posting an 8-2 record with a 3.30 ERA leading the Yankees to the playoffs once again. We all know about the 3-0 lead on the Boston Red Sox, their historic comeback and the Curse of the Bambino being broken but this was also the year that ended El Duque’s tenure as a New York Yankee.

Hernandez would go on to pitch for the Chicago White Sox, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Mets, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals before retiring from the game of Major League Baseball on August 18, 2011. Hernandez would return to Yankee Stadium in 2013 as a part of the Yankees 67th annual Older Timers’ Day and would return for the game in 2014 before completely walking away from the game in 2015. Hernandez was a great Yankee and a great person that faced many struggles in his life only to come out on top, just like always. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)