Kershaw? You Should Have Seen Fernandez

There has been discussion recently about the worst Dodger trades of all time. Of course, the Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields seems to top the lists. Oldtimers would point to the deal that stripped Brooklyn of Babe Herman and those not-so-oldtimers point to the puzzling trade of Sid Fernandez.

Many don't remember Sid, and those involved in his trade to New York would like to forget it.

If you haven't heard about the remarkable Mr. Fernandez, we point out that he quite resembles Mr. Kershaw, although at closer look, he even was better at a comparable age.

Selected in the third round of the 1981 free-agent draft and at the tender age of 18, in 1981, he dominated the rookie-level Pioneer League, posting a 5-1 record and a 1.54 earned run average while fanning 128 batters in 75.2 innings or 15.2 per nine innings.

In 1982, he was even better at Class-A Vero Beach in the Florida State League, recording an 8-1 won-lost record, a 1.91 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 84.2 innings (almost 15 per nine innings) before being jumped all the way to Triple-A Albuquerque.

At AA San Antonio in 1983, he again had little trouble, registering a 13-4 record and a 2.82 ERA while whiffing 209 batters in 153 innings (still 12.3 Ks per 9 innings).

Included among the many highlights of his three superb minor league seasons in the organization were striking out 21 batters in a single game twice and hurling two no-hitters, a one-hitter and four two-hitters.

One would think they would have rolled out the Dodger Blue carpet for him in Los Angeles and set to work promoting him to the Hall of Fame. But somewhere along the line the club became obsessed by his weight, not his record.

At age 20, Fernandez pitched two games as a Dodger at the end of the 1983 season, striking out nine batters in only six innings, but yielded seven hits, seven walks and four runs and was charged with a loss.

That seemed to be enough. Forget the glossy numbers, they seemed to be saying, we don't want anyone to pitch for us who is overweight and could get bigger, although throughout his major league career he was 6-1 and 220.

Don't ask for an explanation -- that's pretty much what happened, as bazaar as it may seem.

So, to rid themselves of the chunky left-hander, on December 9, 1983, they "talked" the New York Mets into sending them a pair of immortals, Carlos Diaz, a left-handed relief pitcher, and Bob Bailor, a utility infielder. The Dodgers sweetened the pot by adding another minor leaguer, Ross Jones.

The Mets wondered about the strange deal and quickly agreed before the Dodgers could change their minds. Diaz stayed in Los Angeles for three seasons, working in relief over 102 games and recording a 7-3, 3.72 record. Bailor only lasted two seasons, hitting .261 in 249 at-bats with eight extra base hits and 5 runs batted in. Both were out of baseball by 1987.

Fernandez had a funky delivery, mostly using just his arm to throw the ball and perhaps this bothered the Dodgers. However it hid his delivery so effectively against his uniform it was hard to pick up.

In any event, Fernandez went on to pitch 14 years in the big leagues for the Mets, Orioles, Phillies and Astros, winning 114 games, losing 96 and posting a fine 3.36 ERA. As a reference point, he Dodgers have had only 19 pitchers in their 108 years in the National League that have won 100 or more games.

He struck out 1,743 during his 307-game career, 300 of them as a starter. With that total he would have been sixth on the all-time Dodger charts and the number three lefthander after Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela.

His best season was at age 23 when in 1986 he set career highs in wins with 16 and strikeouts with 200 for the world champion Mets. He was seventh in the Cy Young award voting after the season.

Manager Davey Johnson didn't want him to pitch in Fenway Park, so he used him in relief and he recorded a 1.35 ERA. He worked 2.1 hitless innings in game seven recording four strikeouts after the Mets fell three runs behind. N.Y. rallied to win the game and the series.

He pitched in the post season for the Mets in 1986 and 1988, working five games and winning two of three decisions. Overall, he struck out 20 in 16.2 innings. He made a pair of All-Star appearances, 1986 and 1987, working one inning in each game and recording the save in '97.

American Leaguers found him just as confusing to hit as their National League brothers, striking out four times in the two innings. In 1989 he set a new record with 16 strikeouts against the Braves but lost 3-2. Although his fastball wasn't considered especially fast, he finished in the top 10 in least hits allowed in 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992, leading the league thee times. His career 6.82 hits per game ratio ranks fourth best all-time, behind only Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Pedro Martinez.

He led the league in strikeouts per nine innings in 1985 and finished in the top 3 five more times. Clayton Kershaw may have a higher ceiling and may, indeed, surpass Fernandez's records. If he does, he will have had a very successful career.

But it seems in this corner, Fred Claire just might be off the hook as far as the worst trade of all time since its easy to plead that he had extenuating circumstances.

When Claire sent Pedro to Montreal, he had a number of people (Tommy Lasorda and Dr. Frank Jobe to name a couple) telling him that at 5-10 and 160, Martinez's shoulder would not hold up as a starter.

And the Dodgers were desperate for a second baseman. After the trade, there never was heard a discouraging word from the L.A. meida at the time of the deal because because Delno DeShields seemed one of the premier second basemen in the league at the time. Only when Martinez became a certified Hall of Fame candidate did the sniping begin.

Fernandez was swapped for a handful of magic beans for reasons that would seem laughable were it not so painful.

And the Dodgers didn't even get a beanstalk they could limb to see the Giant at the top.