October 12, 1962 |
|September 20, 1983, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 5, 1997, for the Houston Astros|
|Earned run average||3.36|
|Career highlights and awards|
Charles Sidney Fernandez (born October 12, 1962) was a Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher from 1983 to 1997. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Fernandez was proud of his roots and wore uniform number 50 in honor of Hawaii being the 50th state. The theme song to Hawaii Five-O was often played before his starts at Shea Stadium during his days with the New York Mets.
Fernandez had an unorthodox pitching motion with a hesitation at the end followed by a sudden slingshot sidearm delivery. This deceptive motion, coupled with an effective curveball and a rising fastball, made him a major strikeout threat throughout his career. Fernandez' strikeouts were often commemorated by Mets fans in the outfield upper deck with taped signs marked with the letter S for Sid.
While he was popular with Mets fans, critics of Fernandez point out that his statistics were much better in pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium. Every season from 1986 to 1991, excluding 1989, his earned run average was at least two runs worse on the road than at Shea.
According to the Portuguese Heritage Foundation, Fernandez is believed to be of Portuguese descent. He attended St. Louis High School (briefly) and Kaiser High School in Honolulu and pitched a no-hitter in his first high school start. He led the Kaiser High School Cougars to a state championship in 1981 and was drafted out of high school at age 18 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who chose him in the third round (73rd overall) of the 1981 Major League Baseball draft.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Over 76 innings pitched with the Pioneer League's Lethbridge Dodgers, Fernandez struck out 128 batters, and posted a 5-1 record, with a 1.54 ERA his first professional season. After going 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 137 strikeouts for the class high A Vero Beach Dodgers in the first half of the 1982 season, Fernandez was promoted to the AAA Albuquerque Dukes, though he was less successful there, and was assigned to the AA San Antonio Dodgers for 1983. At San Antonio, Fernandez went 13-4 with a 2.82 ERA and 209 strikeouts to become only the second pitcher ever to win the Texas League's pitching triple crown.
Fernandez was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year, and received a September call-up to the Los Angeles Dodgers, making his major league debut on September 20 versus the Houston Astros, entering the game in the sixth inning, and allowing one earned run in three innings of work. He made his first Major League start in the last game of the season, losing to the San Francisco Giants.
Fernandez fought weight problems throughout his time in the Dodgers organization. He did not make the Dodgers' post-season roster, and following their loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1983 National League Championship Series, the Dodgers traded him and infielder Ross Jones to the New York Mets for Carlos Diaz and Bob Bailor.
New York Mets
Despite a 6-5 record, Fernandez had 123 strikeouts and a 2.56 ERA in 1984 with the triple A Tidewater Tides to earn a call-up to New York in mid-July. He earned his first major league win in his first start with the Mets on July 16 against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome. For the season, Fernandez went 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA in fifteen starts.
Fernandez again split 1985 between Tidewater and the Mets. In 1701⁄3 innings, Fernandez struck out 180 batters while only allowing 108 hits. Both ratios were easily the best in the entire Major Leagues, with second place in both categories going to his teammate and Cy Young Award winner Dwight Gooden. Fernandez' 5.71 hits allowed per nine innings are the second-best in National League history behind only Carl Lundgren's 5.65 in 1907. Fernandez' downfall was bases on balls which, combined with poor run support, resulted in a record of only 9-9. Seven of his nine losses were in games where he gave up two or fewer earned runs. Despite having the third-best record in baseball, the Mets were second-best in their division and thereby missed the postseason.
Fernandez' statistics were only average in 1986 but the Mets could do no wrong as he compiled a 16-6 record. A 12-2 start resulted in his first All-Star Game appearance and the first ever appearance by a Hawaiʻi native. In his only inning of the All-Star Game, Fernandez walked the first two batters but then struck out Brook Jacoby, Jim Rice and Don Mattingly in succession to get out of the inning. For the regular season, his success was almost completely based on home field advantage as his ERA was 2.17 at home and 5.03 on the road. Regardless of his road performance, Fernandez was one of four Mets pitchers to receive consideration for the 1986 Cy Young Award — the only Cy Young Award vote of Fernandez' career. He finished a distant seventh behind the Houston Astros' Mike Scott.
Fernandez faded in the second half but the Mets easily won the division and he went head-to-head against Scott in Game 4 of the 1986 National League Championship Series. With a chance for the Mets to take a three-games-to-one lead, Fernandez gave up an early two-run home run and Scott coasted to a 3-1 win. The Mets recovered to win the next two games.
In the World Series, Mets manager Davey Johnson feared starting a left-handed high-fastball pitcher in Fenway Park with its shallow Green Monster so Fernandez was stationed in the bullpen. Dwight Gooden faltered in Game 5, falling behind 4-0 in the pivotal game. Fernandez took over in the fifth inning and shut down the Boston Red Sox for four innings but the damage was done dropping the Mets into a three-games-to-two hole. After the legendary Bill Buckner Game 6, the Red Sox recovered to take an early 3-0 lead in the deciding Game 7. With starter Ron Darling ineffective, Fernandez entered and retired seven batters in a row including four strikeouts. With the momentum seemingly back to the Mets, they scored three runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh and won the game 8-5 for their second world championship.
In 1987, Fernandez was again fantastic for the first ten weeks gaining another All-Star Game appearance — but again declined after the break, going just 3-3. A knee injury caused him to miss three weeks in August and many observers again considered his weight to be a factor. For the second year in row, his statistics were heavily skewed towards home field advantage with a 9-3 record and 2.98 ERA at home compared to 3-5, 5.05 on the road. Similar to 1985, the Mets had a better record than two division winners — but not their own division winner — so they again missed the postseason.
1988 was a reversal as Fernandez started the season miserably and then recovered later in the season. His ERA was 7.53 after three games and 5.57 in mid-May but dropped all the way to 3.32 for the All-Star break. Around that time, he went on a strikeout tear, punching out fifty batters in five games — but only managed a 2-3 record. He finished out the season well and the Mets won 100 games, making the postseason for the second time in three years. For the second time, Fernandez led the Majors in hits allowed per nine innings. For the third year in a row, home field advantage was a huge factor for Fernandez with an 8-4 record and 1.83 ERA at home compared to 4-6, 4.36 on the road. With the 1988 National League Championship Series tied, Fernandez was chosen to start the important Game 5 and he responded by pitching well for three innings. In the fourth inning, he fell apart, giving up three runs and, in the fifth, Kirk Gibson hit a three-run homer to knock him out of the game. The Dodgers coasted to a 7-4 victory and won the series in seven games. What many thought would be a Mets dynasty never materialized and they didn't make the playoffs again until 1999.
1989 was arguably Fernandez' best season. He started the season in the bullpen but, after allowing only two hits in five scoreless innings, he was back in the rotation. He went into the All-Star break at 7-2 with an ERA under three and, in his first game after the break, he struck out a career-high sixteen Atlanta Braves in eight innings (but lost the game on a ninth-inning home run). The strikeout total is still the all-time Mets record for left-handers. Fernandez ended the season with a 14-5 record — best in the National League — and ranked in the top ten in the league in several categories including ERA, strikeouts, hits per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio. He even pitched well on the road for the first time in four years compiling a 7-3 record with a 2.91 ERA away from pitcher-friendly Shea. He won his last three games but the Mets could not gain ground on the Chicago Cubs and missed the playoffs with their worst record in six years.
New York Mets decline
In 1990, Fernandez was again in the top ten in several categories but luck was not one of them as he finished the season at 9-14, the worst record of his career. He fell back into his old form of pitching well only at home, going 8-5 with a 2.41 ERA at Shea and 1-9, 4.94 on the road. 1991 was even worse as he broke his arm in spring training and returned in mid-July, only to go down again with knee problems in early September.
1992 brought a return to the statistical leaderboards for Fernandez but his team-leading fourteen wins could not save the Mets from a second straight fifth-place finish in their six-team division.
1993 was the culmination of numerous poor trades and free agency signings and resulted in the worst Mets record in recent memory. Among the many disasters, Fernandez, who had become an ace of the staff and one of the last links to the Mets recent glory days, missed half the season with another knee injury while covering first base. The 1993 injury would plague him for the rest of his career. He came back to put up good numbers that season but the Mets were in dire need of drastic change and Fernandez left for free agency.
After 1993, Fernandez never came close to his numbers with the Mets and never again played in the postseason. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles for 1994 and managed to strike out 7.41 batters per nine innings in his only full season there before the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike. But his 5.15 ERA was the worst of his career to that point and, despite again spending time on the disabled list, his 27 home runs allowed was second-worst in the Majors. He spent more time on the disabled list in 1995. On June 29, Sid allowed three home runs in a game for the first time in his career in a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, dropping his record to 0-4. He was released during the All-Star break.
Three days after his release, Fernandez was back in the National League when the Phillies signed him. He showed flashes of brilliance — including a one-hit game over seven innings on July 26 — and went 6-1 for the Phils. He was even named N.L. Pitcher of the Month in August by going 5-0. The resurgence earned Fernandez his only opening day start in 1996 but more injuries ended his season in June and he was back on the free agent market.
On September 28, 1996, baseball took a back seat when Fernandez' father-in-law, Don Mike Gillis, was shot to death in Honolulu. Fernandez soon announced the dedication of his 1997 season to Gillis. A disturbed co-worker was eventually convicted of the murder.
Fernandez was signed by the Astros for 1997 but complained of elbow problems during spring training. After just one start, he was back on the disabled list and, after unsuccessful rehabilitation, Fernandez retired on August 1, 1997.
Fernandez allowed only 6.85 hits per nine innings for his career which is the third best total in history behind only Baseball Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. Opponents batted only .209 against him.
Post-retirement & comeback attempt
After retiring as a player, Fernandez moved back to his native Hawaiʻi. He was hired as an executive assistant to Mayor of Honolulu Jeremy Harris in an effort to find sponsors and users for sporting facilities on Hawaiʻi's Oʻahu island. In 1998, he was then made Honolulu sports industry development director and traveled with Harris to Japan to recruit baseball teams there.
In 2000, Fernandez was the pitching coach of the semi-pro Alaska Baseball League's Hawaiʻi Island Movers.
In February 2001, Fernandez surprised many by showing up at New York Yankees Spring training. He was given a minor league contract and pitched in one game for the Columbus Clippers on April 7. He pitched poorly and ended with a sore knee which put him back on the disabled list. He re-retired about a week later.
Fernandez was selected by CNN Sports Illustrated as one of the 50 greatest sports figures in Hawai'i history.
Fernandez has also spent a lot of time golfing in celebrity matches and making other appearances since his retirement. He and his wife, Noelani, operate the Sid Fernandez Foundation, which awards four $5,000 college scholarships each year to seniors from the Fernandezes' alma mater, Kaiser High School.
On December 20, 2007, Fernandez's name appeared in the unsealed Kirk Radomski affidavit. The affidavit details Radomski receiving a $3,500 check from Fernandez dated February 2005, but the affidavit does not specify its purpose. Fernandez was one of only four baseball players listed in the affidavit who was not referred to in the Mitchell Report, the others being Rick Holyfield, Pete Rose, Jr. and Ryan Schurman.
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|NL hits per nine innings