Cleveland Indians Flash in the Pan: Jose Hernandez
There are the players you grow up with. There are the players that a city embraces as a native son. There are the players who live with you forever for one particular memorable moment.
And then you have the players that make you say, “Who?” when brought up.
The first installment of the Indians Flash in a Pan series is former Cleveland utility man Jose Hernandez.
Hernandez was actually an Indian twice. After spending time over five years in the Texas Rangers system, the Indians selected him off of waivers just as the 1992 season started. He ended up playing three games, going 0-4 that season with two strikeouts.
After starting the 1993 season in Akron-Canton, the Indians dealt him on June 1 to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb. He spent six years as a Cub, with his average peaking at .273. He was traded to the Braves in 1999 in the midst of Atlanta’s run to the World Series.
He signed a three-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, and that’s where he would have his best seasons. He hit .261 with 60 home runs and 210 RBI in those three years. His tenure in Milwaukee was highlighted by a trip to the 2002 All Star Game. That season, he hit .288 with 24 home runs and 73 RBI. He went 0-3 with two strikeouts in front of his home crowd in that 2002 Midsummer Classic.
The 2003 season turned out to be a crazy year for Hernandez. After signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent, he was traded back to the Cubs for Mark Bellhorn. Just over a month later, Chicago shipped him toPittsburghin what remains one of the most lopsided trades in Pirates history. Hernandez was sent to Pittsburgh with Matt Bruback and a player to be named later (Bobby Hill) in exchange for Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash.
Hernandez was released by the Pirates after the season, so he decided to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 95 games with LA, he put together the best single-season average of his career (.289) to go along with 13 home runs and 29 RBI. However, the Dodgers decided not to bring him back after their NLDS exit that year.
His return to Cleveland was made official on December 15, 2004, when he signed a one-year deal with the club. He played 84 games that year and hit a mere .231 with six homers and 31 RBI. His role was similar to Brent Lillibridge’s “super-utility” role in 2012, as Hernandez played at least one game at seven different positions. The only positions where he didn’t suit up were pitcher, catcher and center field. Despite his many uses, the Indians did not bring him back for another season.
In 2006 Hernandez saw his last action in the major leagues. After signing a free agent deal to return toPittsburgh, Hernandez hit a respectable .267 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 67 games. He was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies on August 22, but his use there was limited. Hernandez hit .250 with one homer and seven RBI in 18 games.
The Pirates brought Hernandez for another go-around in 2007, but the aging utility man never made it out of Triple-A Indianapolis. He would play the 2008 and 2009 seasons in Mexico before finally hanging up the spikes for good.
So ends the tale of Jose Hernandez. Yes, folks, he was an Indian (twice).