I have to be honest with you, I haven't given Sid Fernandez much thought since he was released by the Orioles in July of 1995. But this weekend, I received a few boxes of O's cards in the mail from reader and frequent commenter Tim in New Orleans. I had a great time just flipping through the cards one by one, letting the names and faces of the past come back to me. When I got to this card of "El Sid", I was just dumbfounded by his appearance. I remember the lefty being overweight, but the photos on this card are just grotesque! Look at the size of those expansive hindquarters and massive thighs, cruelly accentuated by tight-fitting, bright white polyester pants. Sid was about average height at 6'1", but his legs look comically stubby below the knee, adding to the illusion that he is all midsection. Even his feet look tiny, based on the angle of the action shot. The belt is straining under the pressure of his protruding belly, proving that even the slimming effect of black clothing has its limits. His physique doesn't exactly lend itself to the tucked-in and tight dress code of the baseball uniform, as his pants seem to be hiked halfway up his stomach; it's a look that is usually associated with men much older than Fernandez. To sum up, the camera is not your friend, Sid.
This picture would have been taking in Spring Training of 1994, right after the Orioles signed Sid away from the Mets with a 3-year, $9 million contract, a rather large sum of money for a pitcher at the time. Though he'd missed significant time with injuries in two of the previous three years, the O's were banking on bolstering their starting rotation with a lefthander who had been consistently unhittable for a decade in the National League (his highest WHIP in that period was 1.26, and his highest ERA 3.81 - both occurring in 1987). When they got a good look at the native Hawaiian stuffed into a black and orange #50 jersey, I wonder if the team brass started having buyers' remorse. If it didn't happen right away, they had cause for regret soon enough; his numbers in Baltimore speak for themselves. What's maddening is that the Birds convinced him to show up for duty in 1995 37 pounds lighter, and he was even worse!
Maybe Baltimore was just a bad fit for El Sid. His success pre-and-post Orioles definitely seems to suggest that. But the damage has been done; to this day, whenever the O's set their sights on a National League pitcher, my father can be found rolling his eyes and exhaling in disgust. Caveat emptor.