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Determined to prove them wrong

Apr 28, 2010, 4:35 AM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Unemployed in February, Livan Hernandez is now 3-1 with an 0.87 ERA.

CHICAGO — All winter, Livan Hernandez sat in his Miami home, waiting for a call, any call from a major-league GM willing to offer him a contract.

November turned to December. December turned to January. January turned to February. Everywhere he looked, Hernandez saw free agents with lesser track records getting contracts, nice ones. Yet nobody saw value in one of the most durable and most successful pitchers of his time.

At age 35, was this it for Hernandez? Was this the end of a fantastic career that began with a World Series title for the Marlins at 22, continued at a high level for another decade and then fizzled out over the last few years? Livo refused to believe that. He didn't want his career to end, not like this.

"I don't want them to forget me," he said. "I feel sometimes bad at home when I see people signing and signing. I say, 'Wow, did I do a good job?' But I understand. It's business. I want to show I can still pitch, to show to the people that I'm not done."

Four starts into his 14th big-league season, Hernandez looks anything but done. He looks brilliant.

With seven more innings of superb pitching tonight in the Nationals' 3-1 victory over the Cubs, the wily old right-hander extended perhaps the unlikeliest early season run of pitching this sport has seen inRead more »

  1. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    While he may never make it to Cooperstown, Livan has the stuff that hall-of-famers are made of. Great article, Mark.

  2. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 5:55 AM

    3rd graph should probably read "was this it", not "was this is".

  3. AMcVee - Apr 28, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    Yea Mark, you're article on livo made me think for the first time that yea, why not Livan Hernandez in the hof someday? The way you describe him with the youngsters makes me want us to sign him to a three year extentio. Great article.

  4. Cwj - Apr 28, 2010 at 6:17 AM

    He definitely belongs in the Washington Nationals Hall of Fame. I really hope he eventually retires as a Nat. Great guy, and a fun to watch pitcher.

  5. Doc - Apr 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Fun readin' MarkMeister! Just the same I, I think that mongoose oil and chicken bones has something to do with Livan's success. I guess this could be Rizzo's best signing, but even he didn't know how good Livan was going to be. Gooooooooo Nats!!!!!

  6. Richard in Bethany - Apr 28, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    When Livo steps out there we have a great chance to win the game! The people who railed against this signing have run for cover.To think that nobody wanted this guy!! Way to go Rizzo==andGO NATS!

  7. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    guy eats innings which is what this club needs….just another black eye for Bowden in trading(?)this guy in 2006. He is a beast. If the Caps lose tonight at least we got the Nats!

  8. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    Is his father Horacio Pena? Somebody told me that a while ago

  9. Dave - Apr 28, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    Our emotional connection to Livo will probably endure, no matter what. He is, after all, the first Nationals pitcher to pitch in DC in the 21st century. But it surely is nice that he's so lights-out. I just wish the national media (read: ESPN) would mention him from time to time along with all those media-star, household-name starters.

  10. K.D. - Apr 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Sometimes experience trumps youth. Love that he is doing well, the young pitchers can only benefit with watching and learning from him. Great post.

  11. Tcostant - Apr 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    I hope he at least triples his salary with those "incentives". The guy is a bull.

  12. Anonymous8 - Apr 28, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    I expected Livo to be 1 good game and one disaster game followed by 1 good game and a lackluster game and on and on.McCatty should get all of his kids playing raquetball! All I can say is, Livo proved me wrong.

  13. CapPeterson1 - Apr 28, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Am just as happy that Livo and Nats are not receiving national attention. Underdog, unnoticed role is much more satisfying.

  14. natsfan1a - Apr 28, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Great piece, Mark. That game was totally worth staying up for. Love ya, Livo. Hope you clean up on the incentives. :-)

  15. Pete - Apr 28, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    Livo is the living embodiment of the phrase "Age and Treachery will overcome Young and Skill."

  16. natsfan reduxit - Apr 28, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    … as I sit here in my grey cubicle, my Expos cap on my head while all around me, co-workers sport the requisite golf shirt and beige slacks, I want to direct your attention to the following story, and by doing so, give you yet one more explanation of why I am happyto be a Nats fan, but thrilled to be an Expos fan; why – in me, at least – the Expos will simply never die…. enjoy your read: Nats!!

  17. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    nats insider t-shirts!

  18. Traveler8 - Apr 28, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Reduxit, good article – I hope all the Expos fans get down to see the Nats. We have had a debate running for five years about which legacy we should look to – Expos or Washington baseball, and have largely looked to the latter (which includes the old Senators, the new Senators, and the Grays) I think in large part because several of us personally remember at least one of these teams. All of the Expos fans that I have talked to resent having lost their team, but have not begrudged us – we didn't steal it, it would have been folded if not for us.

  19. nats rising - Apr 28, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    As the Nats appear to be genuinely on the upsurge, let's remember that, as fans, this is not only about having a winning team to follow. It's also about following a winning team comprised of really good people whose collective attitudes stand out in stark contrast to many professional athletes. Livo plays because he loves the game. Strasburg, who could be an arrogant jerk with all the attention and money he has received, comes across as humble, respectful, trying to fit in, no entourage etc. Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham – quiet, hard working, decent people. Guzman, who could easily pout because he was asked to play multiple positions, and, by the way, one who has been regularly criticized by bloggers, behaves like a professional. An easy group of guys to get behind and support.

  20. BerkeleyHunt - Apr 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Just hope the FO realizes what Livo means to the franchise, and averaging 7.7 innings per start – what relief he provides the pen. While he no longer has a big salary to dump, they can't dish him off again for mediocre prospects like they did in '06, even though he's going to get hit from time to time – he's got a few years left and they need to be at Nats Park.

  21. Steve M. - Apr 28, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    Not to break up the party but Livo has been so-so for years, and there is a reason for his good start to the season.Like the spirit from the fountain of youth, Livo is better conditioned than he has been in the past, and with a better engine gives him better confidence, and he is a mind over matter type of guy.It is hard to see watching the pitches on TV so I am looking at the results and over 4 starts he has his old magic back.Every team that excels to better than expected levels has a catalyst and Livo is definitely the guy in 2010 so far.Once management can figure out The Curse of Elijah Dukes in rightfield, and Zim's hamstring problems, and the couple of issues in the bullpen, this team could actually compete this year! Could this be like 1998 for Jim Riggleman—-deja vous all over again?

  22. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Holy Crap!!! Livo has made me a believer. I was hoping he wouldn't sign with the Nats. The only reason I can see that this guy will lose is if he isn't feeling well. Boy, was I wrong about him. Consistency and confidence is what he's about. Hold us together Livan, help is on the way!

  23. Steve M. - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Anonymous at 12:09 – or lose because the pitcher on the other team was Ubaldo Jimenez!

  24. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    I love this guy. I do.The Nats, with vets like Livan and Pudge, are starting to remind me of the Over the Hill Gang in 1972. NFC champions.Look at Butler. Look at GMU. We love sports because of the magical, incredible things that happen in sports. The 2010 Nats might be one of those beautiful things.

  25. doug - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Just a thought – I'm as thrilled as anybody about the excellent performances Livo has given us so far. But, a lot was said when we brought him in that he was a strong "first half" pitcher – does anybody foresee his success continuing throughout the whole season?Obviously coming into the season in better shape will have an impact on that, but all I can say is I truly hope so… what do you guys think?

  26. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    With a career BABIP of .310 (currently around .180) stat-heads would contend he will regress back to his career averages at some point. His velocity is roughly the same, but he is getting a lot more strikeouts on his sliders and curves. The Nats as a whole are playing better defense as well. My guess is he is going to get shelled at some point, but he has become the anchor of the pitching staff and a good example for the rest of the guys. Here's hoping he keeps it up long enough for the young guns to come up.H.L.

  27. Jeeves - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    I enjoyed your article, reduxit. I too had followed the Expos from the beginning, shared the disappointments and thrills. I was a Quebecer, now a P.E. Islander who is an avid Nat's fan.And please don't mention 1994–it's too heartbreaking.

  28. Anonymous - Apr 28, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    I agree with what Nats Rising said — the personal characteristics of many team members are great. That's important for the adults watching, and caring, but also for the kids. Baseball is a great way to learn about life and these guys make you proud.

  29. natscan reduxit - Apr 28, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    Hi Jeeves, and please don't say '94 again, or Rick Monday … ever. Hi Traveler8, and like the guy in the story said, Expos' fans hold no grudges against Washington at all, just Loria for his carpet-bagger shenanigans, and MLB for the way they shut us down. Like the writer, I'm glad the team was able to stay alive until it became the Nats, and I'm happy to be able to continue to follow the team, now in DC.Go Nats!!





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