If you attended a Mets game at Shea Stadium in the 1980s or 1990s started by Sid Fernandez, you were in for a treat. Between his portly appearance and sneaky-fast, deceptive stuff, simply watching the southpaw deliver pitches was worth the price of admission. On top of that, Fernandez was particularly dominant at Shea. He posted a 2.52 ERA for his career at the Mets' old home, better than the career Shea marks for contemporaries like Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, David Cone, and even Dwight Gooden. Whether it was the fans, the aesthetics, or the sausage-and-peppers smell, something about Shea Stadium helped the underrated "El Sid" pitch terrifically for the Mets for ten seasons.
Charles Sidney Fernandez hailed from Hawaii and was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers in 1981 after dominating the competition in the Aloha State. He was physically large even as a high-school senior. A scouting report provided by the Baseball Hall of Fame Diamond Mines project listed him at 6'1" 220 lbs. at age 18, and included phrases such as "heavy through rear" and "should get hisself [sic] in better shape." It also included phrases such as "I like his delivery and arm action" and "live arm with good size." These assessments applied to Fernandez at most points in his career.
Fernandez made his way to the Mets in a trade with the pitching-rich Dodgers before the 1984 season. Mets GM Frank Cashen gave up utility man Bob Bailor and lefty reliever Carlos Diaz for Fernandez and infielder Ross Jones. The trade was wildly successful for the Mets. Bailor and Diaz combined for 1.4 rWAR with the Dodgers and were out of MLB by 1987. Jones barely played for the Mets but Fernandez went on to become one of best pitchers in team history. He accumulated 27.7 rWAR during his stint in Flushing and his name is splashed all over the franchise leaderboards: he's in the top five in wins, innings pitched, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9, and rWAR. He also made two All-Star teams with the Mets and played a crucial role on the beloved 1986 World Series-winning team. His 2.1 innings of scoreless relief in game seven of that World Series kept the Mets in the game when they were down 3-0, allowing them to come back and win it.
Despite these achievements, Fernandez seems underrated. On the top 50 greatest Mets lists released in 2012 by SNY, ESPN, and Newsday, he showed up at #23, #24, and #28, respectively. None of these placements were egregious, to be sure. However, on all three lists, he finished behind several lesser -- but still awesome! -- players, including Rusty Staub, Ron Darling, and John Franco.
El Sid had the stats, the championship, and the goofy personality (he wore Hawaiian shirts in the clubhouse and reportedly thought WWF wrestling was real). His current presence around the Mets organization is not as significant as that of some of his 1980s Mets teammates, but he nonetheless remains a New York Met worth celebrating.
(If you can't read the fun fact on El Sid's 1985 Topps card below, it reads: "Sid lists surfing as one of his favorite pastimes." Makes sense for the guy who wore #50 to honor his home state of Hawaii, the 50th state.)
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