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Livan on a Jet Plane
2003-03-26 15:24
by Mike Carminati

Livan on a Jet Plane

When I first heard about the Livan Hernandez trade, my reaction was, I would assume, about the same as those of many Giants' fans: I thought that it was a great move by the Giants. They rid themselves of an underperforming, overpaid troublemaker. Hernandez gets to serve out his contract in baseball's version of Elban exile--at least until his troubles pass and the great Omar Minaya decides to recycle the Hernandez brothers to whomever Bud owes a favor to that week for that team's doghouse residents du jour. They'll make sure that it comes after the trip to San Juan to exploit the ex-Cuban giants.

Here's what Rob Neyer had to say about the move:

What a brilliant move by Giants GM Brian Sabean.

You've heard of addition by subtraction? You'll rarely see a better example than this one. Livan Hernandez figured to be the fourth-best, or perhaps even the fifth-best, starter in the Giants' rotation. Now that he's off to join his half-brother in Montreal (and San Juan), the Giants are practically forced to give rookie Kurt Ainsworth a shot. And if somebody can convince Sabean to dump Ryan Jensen in favor of Jesse Foppert (another rookie), the Giants will really have something interesting.

However, after looking over the trade, I can't say that it actually reflects well upon the Giants. The trade the pitcher that they (foolishly) chose to pitch the seventh game of the World Series a scant four months ago. Now the throw him out with the garbage, er the Edwards Guzman, whoever they are. The Giants are still paying all but the league minimum of Hernandez's contract. They got Jim Brower, who'll out-Witasick any other pitcher in the pen. Meanwhile Ainsworth and possibly the foppish Foppert move into the rotation. They are both highly touted, but when you fill out your rotation with three number-three pitchers and two rookies, it does not bode well for the season. (I see the headlines now, "Foppert Flop".)

Hernandez was far from a staff leader, but the Giants are still paying him to pitch, just in Montreal. He is still just 28 (at least until his visa is reviewed). I still have the impression, inaccruate though it may be, that his abuse in Florida is the root of his sub-par pitching. But maybe he's the root. Or maybe it's his golf game. Or maybe it's too late for him to bounce back even if the abuse was the cause. I would have to think Hernandez in the bullpen is preferable to Brower (though an embittered Hernandez may not be). Besides Hernandez has been a very good pitcher on occassion (1997 and 2000) even without Eric Gregg behind the plate.

There is something to be said for ridding a team of problematic players, but to do it at the expense of getting decent return on said players is foolhardy. Besides isn't this a team that came alive in 2002 when controversy swirled?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe by mid-summer Livan will be practicing his putts in a minimum secuirty prison while Ainsworth and Foppert become staff leaders. I like the Giants and hope that it plays out that way. But I still think it's far from the excellent move that Neyer and others make it out to be.

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