I’m still trying to figure out how it’s possible that I own so many Tampa Bay Devil Rays hats at which none of them were actually used on the field. Today marks the third time I’ve written about a Devil Rays cap which was custom made to look like a game-worn cap, but features slight differences to prove its dismissal. The other two caps I wrote about on January 8th and almost two weeks ago on June 7th. Both of these caps feature the same logo on the front as this one, the slightly off-center “TB” with the upward moving Devil Ray, but the main differences in each cap came in the form of the bill color or the overall penal and bill color combination. I realize all of this sounds way more complicated than it should, but it’s just the way it is. This particular logo was actually used on the team’s caps from 1999-2000; however, the cap itself featured black panels and a black bill. This cap is a combination of those two years’ caps, according to the panels and logo; however, the purple bill was only used for their home caps during their inaugural season in 1998 on this cap which I wrote about on February 28th. So in a nut shell, this cap is a combination of the first three years in the history of the Devil Rays. Whew! Now that we have that settled, let’s move on.
In 1997, Hernandez was traded to the San Francisco Giants as part of a nine-player deal and appeared in all three games of the National League Division Series against the Florida Marlins. After the season, he signed as a free agent with the Devil Rays. In 1999, he earned his career-high of 43 saves which is also a Devil Rays team record. His 43 saves were for a team that only won 69 games overall.
His performance level declined after being traded to the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2001 season. Since then, he has signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves in 2003, the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004 and the New York Mets in 2005. After 2002, he moved from being a closer to being a setup man, in which role he has generally flourished. He signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 2006 season. On July 31, 2006, Hernandez was reacquired by the Mets along with pitcher Oliver Perez for outfielder Xavier Nady.
On December 2, 2006, Hernandez signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cleveland Indians for the 2007 season with a $3.7 million club option for 2008. Coming out of spring training, he and Rafael Betancourt were the Indians' primary right-handed eighth-inning relievers. But Hernandez pitched poorly over the first three months of the season (6.23 ERA in 28 games) and eventually lost the confidence of manager Eric Wedge. He was designated for assignment June 20 and waived for the purposes of giving him his unconditional release June 28. Hernandez was signed to a minor league contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 7, 2007 and, after pitching in one game for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, was recalled to the Dodgers on July 18.
On August 16, 2007, Hernandez appeared in his 1000th game against the Houston Astros. He became the 11th pitcher in major league baseball history to appear in 1000 career games. Hernandez made two All-Star Game rosters; the first in 1996 with the White Sox and the second in 1999 with the Devil Rays. In both of those seasons Hernandez cracked the top-10 in voting for the AL Cy Young award as well; the only times he ever made the lists.