Padres Special: 1998 National League Champion San Diego Padres Remembered

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Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

 CatcherCarlos Hernandez

 The Padres team was anchored behind the plate with former long time Los Angeles Dodger, Carlos Hernandez. After seven years as a backup for the Dodgers, Hernandez was granted free agency in October of 1996. Within two months the San Diego Padres signed him and he was to back-up catcher John Flaherty for the 1997 season.

Hernandez went on to hit .313 in limited duty and the Padres decided to give Hernandez a shot at playing everyday. He was always known for his great defense, but wasnt considered reliable with the bat. Flaherty was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Andy Sheets and Brian Boehringer. Two important cogs to the National League run of 1998.

In 1998 as an everyday catcher Carlos Hernandez hit .262 with 9 home runs and 52 runs batted in. He played in a career high 129 games, a number he never even came close to again. At the age of 31 in 1998, Hernandez finally got a chance to play every day. He was an important piece for the Padres. The way he handled the pitching staff and controlled the game was invaluable.

Hernandez immediately endeared himself to the fans by slugging two game tying homers in the month of April. A 2-run home run in the ninth tied the game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Padres won the game in the 10th in front of a sell out crowd of 55,454 fans. 11 days later against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hernandez hit another 2-run homer in the 8th inning. A game the Padres won in the 10th inning, their 11th win out of the last 12 games.

Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

In his 10 year career Hernandez played in 488 games. He had 1,244 at bats and a .253/.298/.354 batting line. 24 home runs and 141 runs batted in is all he amassed in his career. The greater part of his career was as a backup catcher. In Spring Training of 1999 Hernandez ruptured his left Achilles tendon in a game against the Chicago White Sox. He was lost for the year. That injury was actually a great thing for the San Diego Padres organization.

With Carlos Hernandez lost for the year the Padres were desperate for catching options. Young catcher Ben Davis was still very raw and the Padres were not happy with him being forced into an every day role. Back up catchers Greg Myers and Jim Leyritz were offensive catchers who at their age could not handle the rigors of catching every day in the major leagues. Kevin Towers, Padres GM was aggressive as always in pursuing a possible catcher. He did not have to look far as the Los Angeles Angels had a surplus of catchers on their roster. Phil Nevin was dealt to the San Diego Padres as a catcher for utility infielder Andy Sheets. Nevin went on to hit 24 home runs and drive in 85 runs with a .269 batting average. He caught in 31 games for the Padres, but ultimately was moved to third and first because his bat was legit. Nevin finished with 156 career Padres home runs including a monster 2001 season. 149 games played, .306 batting average with 41 home runs and 126 runs batted in and a 5.8 WAR.

Carlos Hernandez missed the entire 1999 season and was dealt at the trade deadline in the 2000 season. He was moved to the St. Louis Cardinals for Heathcliff Slocumb and Ben Johnson. Carlos Hernandez retired after the 2000 season. Injuries just took their toll on the catcher from Venezuela. He managed the Toros De Tijuana and owned and operated a Venezuelan themed restaurant in San Diego. He is still active with the team and comes out to Petco Park on 1998 themed nights.

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