Ramon Hernandez (hernara02)
Ramón José Hernández Marin
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 227 lb.
- Debut June 29, 1999
- Final Game June 12, 2013
- Born May 20, 1976 in Caracas, Distrito Capital, Venezuela
Ramón Hernández made his debut with the Oakland Athletics in June 1999 as a backup catcher for A.J. Hinch. His steady progress enabled the Athletics to trade Hinch to the Kansas City Royals at the end of the 2000 season.
With experience, Hernández became a catcher who could hit, rather than a hitter who could catch. He also earned praise for his defense and game-calling skills with a powerful pitching staff that included Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
In 2003 Hernández broke out with his best season, hitting .273 with 21 home runs and 78 RBI and made his first All-Star Game. He also made a remarkable play in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, on October 1st: with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th inning, he laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to give Oakland a 5-4 victory. Nevertheless, Oakland had to deal him to the San Diego Padres for financial reasons, not because untested Adam Melhuse was ready to be their starting catcher. The Padres acquired arguably their best backstop since Benito Santiago left the team in 1992. At the time of the deal Hernández had caught at least 135 games each of his last four years.
However, the only thing that kept Hernández from hitting 20 home runs for the second season in a row in 2004 was an injury. He missed four weeks in mid-season after damaging his left knee in a collision at the plate. But Hernández was better than ever upon his return, batting .281 and slugging 11 home runs with 38 RBI in the second half. He finished the season with .276, 18, 63. His 18 homers ranked him third behind Phil Nevin (26) and Brian Giles (23) in the power-poor Padres lineup. The last San Diego catcher to hit more homers than Hernández had been Terry Kennedy, who had 21 in 1982.
Hernández got off to a good start in his second year with San Diego in 2005, hitting .286 in April with 3 home runs. He was even better in May, hitting .313 and taking momentum into June. However, he suffered a fluke wrist injury on June 17th while diving into first base during a game against the Minnesota Twins. His jammed wrist forced him to the disabled list, causing him to miss 18 games. Hernández returned to the lineup on July 7th, but the condition worsened and he decided to have surgery to repair the torn cartilage. The surgery forced Hernández to the DL for the third time in two seasons, and he missed the entire month of August. He rejoined the team in time for the September stretch run, and was pivotal in the Padres' run to the National League West championship. Hernández hit .359 in September with 5 home runs, and drove in 20 runs in just 22 games. He came up with several clutch hits, including two dramatic game-winning home runs: a three-run walk-off shot against the Washington Nationals in the 12th inning on September 17th, and a grand slam against division rivals the San Francisco Giants just 10 days later. He finished the season with a .290 average and 12 home runs. He was arguably the Padres' best player in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, going 5 for 11 with a home run as San Diego was swept in three games.
He signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles for the 2006 season, displacing former All-Star Javy Lopez, who moved to DH and was traded away before the end of the season. He was excellent for his new team, hitting .275 in 144 games, with career highs in doubles (29), home runs (23) and RBI (91). He fell back over the following two seasons, hitting .257 and .258 with less power in 2007 and 2008, although playing over 100 games each year. The arrival of top prospect Matt Wieters made him expendable, however, and he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for utility player Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers (Justin Turner and Brandon Waring) prior to the 2009 season. He only played 81 games with the Reds, his season being cut short in July by a knee injury, undergoing an operation on July 21st. He again hit .258 but with only 5 homers and 37 RBI. After his injury, most of the work behind the plate went to Ryan Hanigan, a good defender but almost devoid of power. Hernandez played 30 games at 1B with the Reds that season, after only playing a handful of games at the position over his first 10 seasons in the majors. The Reds did not pick up his option after the season, but re-signed him on November 16th for a significant pay cut, but with a vesting option to be triggered if he played 120 or more games.
Hernandez did not reach 120 games with the Reds in 2010, but did better than in his first season with the team, hitting .297 in 97 games with 18 doubles and 7 homers. He also played in the NLDS, but went 1 for 7 as the Reds were swept in three games by the Philadelphia Phillies. He had another solid season in 2011, hitting .282 with 13 doubles and 12 homers in 91 games. He signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies in 2012, but did not play much, as rookie Wilin Rosario had an excellent season and got the bulk of playing time behind the plate. Hernandez played only 52 games, hitting .217 with 5 homers and 28 RBI. Heading into 2013, he was now an expensive back-up for a team not expected to contend. The Rockies decided to get rid of his salary by sending him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 6th, receiving P Aaron Harang in return, whom they immediately designated for assignment. Hernandez played only 17 games for the Dodgers, hitting .208 with 3 homers then was released in June. He then found a job in the Toronto Blue Jays' organization, but played only 5 games for the Buffalo Bisons, going 2 for 19, before being released again. After sitting out the rest of the season, he signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals in January 2014 but he never returned to the majors.
He had also been a winter ball star. His three homers for the Cardenales de Lara in the 2001 Caribbean Series tied Erubiel Durazo for the event lead, and his .526 average for the Navegantes del Magallanes led the 2002 Caribbean Series. He then was the MVP in the 2006 Caribbean Series, helping the Leones del Caracas sweep their way to a title. He led in average, tied Edgar Gonzalez for the most homers and tied Luis Rodriguez for the most RBI. Given that track record, it was no surprise when he was named to the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2023 in a class with Luis Raven, Robert Pérez and José Antero Núñez. He had played in eight Caribbean Series altogether.
When Hernandez turned to coaching, he started in his native Venezuela. He was the bench coach for the Tiburones de La Guaira in 2015/2016 and 2016/2017. The following season he held the same position with the Navegantes del Magallanes. The Tigres de Aragua hired Hernandez in 2018 as manager, but fired him on November 12th after the team got off to a poor start. Hernandez moved outside of Venezuela for his next two jobs. In 2021 he was hired to manage the Portugese Navigators in the European Super League of Professional Baseball. It appears the league folded before any games were played. Hernandez next served as a bench coach for the Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican League in 2022 under manager Roberto Kelly. He returned to the Navegantes during the 2022/2023 season, again as a bench coach.
In 2023 the Oakland Athletics hired Hernandez as a major league staff assistant and interpreter.