Livan and numerical glumliness


I can't help it -- I'm sad. On Thursday night against the Padres, Livan Hernandez had a chance to even up both his career record (getting to 170-170 if he won) and his career mark as an ExpoNat at 66-66. Whether with les ill-fated Expos or with the seemingly equally ill-starred Nationals, Hernandez has been livin' largest with this one franchise, wherever it has called home: le Stade Olympique, Hiram Bithorn in Puerto Rico, RFK or Nationals Park.

That didn't happen, of course. Not even Petco could keep Chase Headley's first-inning homer in play, and Livan's single-spattered start wasn't going to be spared despite several Padre situational mishaps -- from Chris Denorfia's ill-timed caught stealing before Headley's bomb to Nick Hundley's generous GIDP with two on in the fourth. Some nights, some things are just not meant to be.

I just love watching Livan endure, year after year, firing strikes with a half-dozen flavors of junk, and working long after so many statheads, colleagues, friends and manic pitch-counters had counted him out. I can safely admit I root for the guy, and check out his box scores the morning after over coffee and corn flakes (some old-school habits die hard).

While there are no flashy idiosyncrasies to watching him pitch, nothing like the attention-getting wind-ups of El Duque or El Tiante, but there's nevertheless the wee bit of joy to be taken from just watching the big guy go out there. The hulking right-hander just moves steadily and efficiently through his confrontations with batters, moving imperturbably through his innings at a clip that only the fastest windup toys, sprinting starters like Mark Buehrle, seem to beat. It's the sort of thing that fits neatly with older memories of Jackie Gleason gliding effortlessly around the table in "The Hustler": He doesn't ever seem to rattle, win or lose, even though at his age he's done plenty of both. But again, sort of like the Great One, there's nothing Livan can't do when he puts his mind to it: He hits well (.221/.231/.297 career before last night's ohfer), fields well, he even holds runners well, limiting stolen-base success to just 62 percent against him over his long career.

As fans, we don't choose our heroes entirely at random. For me with Livan, there's just those two things that keep me interested, year after year, knowing that he may not get much more than a No. 61 placard placed on the wall or a flag flown from a foul pole at Nationals Park after his career's done. First, that joy, the simply entertainment of watching someone good at his craft keep on truckin'. But there's also the reminder Livan provides every time out, the object lesson that his extended career provides to statheads and fans alike, that what we "know" about pitch counts or workloads isn't true for everyone all the time, and that we should learn from the exceptions.

Besides, he just needs to go 2-0 in his next two starts, and he'll be 67-67 and 171-171, and if there's anybody about whom you might say, "It could happen..." it's Livan.

Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.