A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dan Haren

21 years ago today, I was entering Air Force Basic Training... oh, how time flies and lifetimes seem to change. At that point, life seemed so far away from baseball and baseball card collecting... fortunately, adulthood brings us back to the things from childhood that really matter.

Before the 2005 season, the Cardinals sold Dan Haren and the prospect farm (Kiko Calero and Daric Barton were the other 2) for Mark Muldur. It seemed like the thing to do because the A's had 3 great pitchers way back when (and theoretically, they do now, it's just that there aren't many people who can name any of them - save maybe Dallas Braden for the perfect game and the hatred of A-Rod, but definitely not much for his other games that he's thrown since then). But back in 2004, the A's saw their window for opportunity vanish and the excessive costs mount, and so Tim Hudson and Barry Zito soon got sold off for scrap, too. Of course, Hudson (for Charles Johnson, Dan Meyer, and Juan Cruz) still has potential with this rebound year- just not for Oakland, which was actually smart because the $30+million on his 2 final years never paid off, so now he exists at about $9million per, which is still almost twice what the A's were giving him when he left after actually being worth something - just not a chance to move beyond the Yankees or Red Sox in the playoffs. And Barry Zito... Zito has a teddy bear and a wallet that just keeps giving and giving to himself - just not for Oakland, which was smart too, as he has totally crapped the bed that the Giants pay $127million rent for. In the end, the A's saved almost $20million a year for his non-services in last year's World Series win. Now, if life is good for Zito, and it won't be, he'll get $18 million for 2014, which would be nice, but let's be honest.... the option vests with 200IP in 2013 or 400 IP in 2012-2013 or 600IP in 2011-13. If 2014 option vests, Zito may opt out and receive $3.5mil buyout. And if the good Lord was willing... and he got those innings... and he miraculously was worth something because he was winning again... there would be no way in HELL that Zito will make $18million for another run in total value of a long term deal - even if it was also 7 years long! But the A's got the better end of the bargain in all of the deals. Muldur went from superb to very good in his first year in St. Louis. After that, he pitched 106 innings over 3 years and vanished from the world in 2008. He would never win 20 games again like he did in 2001. He would never pitch an ERA better than 3.13 like he did in 2003. He would nurse injuries, and say adieau to the game once and for all. Dan Haren, on the other hand, went from 6-10 and nearly a 5.00 ERA in 2 seasons in St. Louis to get better and better for the A's, and then for the Diamondbacks, and now for the Angels. Last night, he threw a 1-hitter. His ERA is now .73. His WHIP is .53. He has 21 whiffs, and he even has a save! Shall we give him the Cy Young now?!! Nine innings, 8 strikeouts, 1 hit, 2 walks, and a complete game shutout against a Cleveland team that was actually off to a kick ass start (against Boston, so it's not like they're beating up on the Royals and the Royals alone)... it's nice to see players returning to form because sadly, we're in a transition year. When the story of this season is written, it's going to be one of those late 1980s, early 1990s stories... good team comes out of nowhere as all the veteran teams collapse. In the end, there are almost no or no hall of famers on the team (on that note, who from the 2002 Angels is going to Cooperstown? David Eckstein? Scott Spiezio), and yeah... it's a feel good year for a city without much to feel good about, and really, 11 games in and there aren't many great moments - especially from Josh Hamilton and his broken arm.

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