Guillermo Hernandez – 1989 Fleer

October 6, 2010

“Don’t call me Willie!”

Willie, er, Guillermo by now, was almost a spent bullet by the time this photo was taken. But in 1984, he won the MVP and the Cy Young award.

Unbelievable. One of the most dominant teams in the history of baseball, and the best player and pitcher was voted to a player that threw just 140 innings. Now the Cy Young was one thing, as there wasn’t a clear AL winner (though I would have voted for Blyleven or Boddicker), but the MVP?

Again, not a dominant player in the bunch. No one on the 1984 Tigers stood way out, though Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson had great years.

At any rate, Hernandez blossomed into a fine pitcher. As a youngster, when Willie was Willie, he was a frustrating pitcher.

He was a Rule V draftee in late 1976 and the Cubs kept him around. Instead of hiding him, they used him a lot. On the surface, he was OK, but he had seven blown saves and 31% of his inherited relievers scored. He was forced into the main closer role when Bruce Sutter was hurt, and wasn’t up to the task.

He never gained the confidence of fans in Chicago after that, and in 1983 was shipped to Philly for Bill Johnson and Dick Ruthven. After a decent year, the Phils sent him to Detroit with Dave Bergman for Glenn Wilson and John Wockenfuss.

Big win for Detroit. And in 1984, Cubs fans shook their head. Yet another one gone that blossomed later. (Well, they shook their head after Detroit on the World Series and the Cubs were eliminated by the Padres. Until then, though, I don’t think they cared a whit about Willie.)

After his big year, Willie was a decent closer, and then morphed into Guillermo – the set-up man for Mike Henneman and grizzled veteran presence.

He looks grizzled in this photo. He was just 33, though. I think baseball can turn a young man old before their time. They get cranky – they want to stop going by a boy’s name and go by their given name.

And in this photo, Guillermo wants you to get off his lawn.

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