Livan Hernandez, who played 17 seasons in the majors and threw the first pitch in team history after the Expos franchise relocated from Montreal in 2005, filed for bankruptcy in federal court in South Florida last month. The news was first reported by the Miami Herald, which notes that the 42-year-old Hernandez’s paperwork indicates he owes up to $1 million to as many as 50 creditors.
Hernandez, who last pitched for the Brewers in 2012 and made $53,100,000 during his career, estimated his assets are worth no more than $50,000. He filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows him to come up with a plan to repay his debts in three to five years. When Hernandez returned to Miami in April for the 20-year celebration of the Marlins’ 1997 World Series championship, the Herald reported that he owed child support to the mother of a girl he fathered in 2003 and $220,000 to a local businessman who lent him the money in 2013.
Hernandez signed a $4.5 million contract with the Marlins after fleeing Cuba in 1995. The right-hander won World Series MVP honors while leading Florida to its first championship during his rookie season in 1997. Hernandez was traded to the Giants in 1999 and from the Giants to the Expos before the 2003 season. He made 35 starts for the Nationals in their inaugural season, including on Opening Day in Philadelphia and in Washington’s first game at RFK Stadium.
Hernandez, one of two Nationals representatives in the All-Star Game in 2005, was traded to the Diamondbacks in August 2006 and bounced around the league over the next three years. In 2010, the Nationals signed Hernandez to a minor league contract that called for him to make $900,000 if he made the 40-man roster. At 35 years old, Hernandez proceeded to have one of the best years of his career. During the middle of that season, Hernandez approached Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo in a hotel lobby and handed him a slip of paper with “$1 million” written on it.
“I play for this,” Hernandez reportedly said.
Rizzo agreed to the deal and tacked on another $750,000 in incentive bonuses.
“Livan’s agent wanted to kill him,” Rizzo told The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell the following year. “That was the best contract I ever ‘negotiated.’ “
“It’s not about money,” Hernandez said in 2011, after throwing his 50,000th pitch in the big leagues. “I lived before with no money. It’s about where you feel comfortable. I’ve seen a lot things. In ’05, [Ryan Zimmerman], he was a rookie that year. I’ve seen a lot of things in the past. You want to be a part of something that’s really nice.”
Hernandez served as a batting practice pitcher for the Nationals during part of the 2014 season and was a guest instructor at spring training earlier this year.
“This is the team I played for the most, and the team that I have the best relationship with,” he said.
Hernandez still ranks fifth in games started, fourth in wins, fourth in innings pitched and third in complete games in Nationals history. A .221 career hitter, Hernandez also had four home runs with Washington. He can still hit, as evidenced by the grand slam he crushed in Sunday’s all-star legends and celebrity softball game in Miami.