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Thanks, Aaron

Aaron Harang probably – hopefully – pitched his last game as a Cincinnati Red yesterday. He was ineffective, as he was in his first start back from the DL, and frankly, as he’s been for large parts of the last three seasons. Harang’s contract is up at the end of this season (the Reds get to choose between a $2M buyout payment or a $12.75M option for next year, which is an easy choice).

Harang came to the Reds in a then-forgettable trade for Jose Guillen, engineered by co-acting-GM Brad Kullman. In his prime (2005-07), Harang joined Adam Dunn as just about the only guys worth watching on some lousy Reds teams.

In that three season stretch, Harang was an elite pitcher. He went 43-30 (.589) for Reds teams that were 225-261 (.463). He had a 3.77 ERA (120 ERA+), and averaged 200 K per season. He averaged nearly 5 WAR those years. Playing for an 80-82 club, Harang led the 2006 NL in Wins (16) and strikeouts (216).

In February 2007, Harang signed a 4-year/$36.5M contract extension, which was really below-market for his then-current performance. We were happy. Justin loved it. Even Prospectus was impressed. Harang, a San Diego native, flew his wife to Cincinnati in a blizzard to sign the papers. Then he went on to finish fourth in the 2007 Cy Young Award voting.

Now, after all those years of futility, the Reds are odds-on favorites to make the playoffs — and frankly, Harang has no business being involved. Worse for him, probably, he really can’t feel like he contributed to the Reds getting there. That sucks.

But rather than dwell on the frustration that Harang, and we, feel about his 2010 performance, I’d just like to thank the big guy for all the years of rock-solid pitching. Harang is from San Diego, where I used to live. He and I knew several of the same people, and from what I know, Reds fans saw the real guy – the Reds 2008 Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award winner and 2007 and 2009 Roberto Clemente Award nominee.

He took the ball every time it was his turn (and even one time when it wasn’t – and who knows what that did to him). He was a good teammate, a great community guy in town that wasn’t really his, and was a real pleasure to watch. I’m really going to miss him. Hopefully he can turn it around next season, and I’d love to see him collect a World Series ring next spring, no matter what uniform he’s wearing.

46 thoughts on “Thanks, Aaron

  1. Thank you for this article. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Like you said, he was just about the only player worth watching for several years. But times have changed and it’s time to move on. He will catch on somewhere else, and I hope he is successful wherever that may be.

  2. Great post, Harang deserves this tribute.
    For that miserable 2000 thru 2009 decade, he stands out as our best pitcher. Arroyo is the only one even close.

    To quote myself from another thread: “Harang was brilliant in 2006 and 2007, when he led or was close to the NL lead in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, and complete games. He was a legit ace in those years.
    He was also good in 2004-2005, when he went 10-9 and 11-13. He was our best pitcher in 2005.”

    During 2006-2007 hitters would marvel at his late movement – his being “sneaky fast.” They’d say that noone in the NL was tougher to hit.

    Let’s keep in mind that during that decade Harang pitched for losing teams with crappy defense, crappy bullpens, and for that matter he had crappy offensive support in 2008 and 2009.

    The only way he could win 16 games in 2006 and 2007 was by pitching deep into games, the innings piled up and the complete games speak for themselves.

    He was never the same after that nite in SD.
    I don’t pretend to understand why, but it’s a fact. He’s never – to my knowledge – referred to that nite as an excuse or complained about it.

    I’ll remember him as a Big Horse with a big heart. I hope he can find a useful role next year in a place like SD or Seattle, I’ll be rooting for him.

  3. About Harang’s contract. I can’t recall a single person – fsn, analyst, talking head, whatever – who questioned it. It was regarded as a no brainer, a bargain, and a sign that the Reds were finally committed to winning.

    The Arroyo contract was finalized soon after, and that too was (at first) hailed as another good move by a management committed to winning. In that case there were people who expressed reservations, but not many at first. Later, when Bronson had his slumps, his contract was cursed, but how many people at this point don’t want to the Reds to offer him the option for next year ?

  4. I was not a Harang believer when he first started pitching for the Reds. In fact, I frequently said that he was another Jimmy Haynes on the Reds listserv. I’m glad he proved me wrong during the prime of his career and was glad to see the big guy in a Reds uniform for most of the past decade.

    The reference to Jose Guillen…there were two mostly ignored moves in August of 2002. Jose Guillen was signed as a free agent after being released by both the Diamondbacks and Rockies within a span of 10 days. He had a .702 OPS in 6 seasons as a corner outfielder up to that point. Three days later, the club signs Ryan Hanigan as a undrafted free agent.

  5. after all those years of futility, the Reds are odds-on favorites to make the playoffs — and frankly, Harang has no business being involved. Worse for him, probably, he really can’t feel like he contributed to the Reds getting there.

    I’ve thought about that a few times this season, and I feel terrible for Harang. He deserves to enjoy this success more than anyone, but he really is the odd man out at this point. Hopefully the money and respect he’s earned temper his frustration.

  6. I’m not a big believer in coincidence, and as others have pointed out – Harang was never the same after that Sunday afternoon in San Diego…For that matter Volquez hasn’t been the same either. Could it be that Dusty ruined two pitchers career in one day?

    …”Aaron Harang, the team’s No. 1 starter, came into the game in the 13th inning of what was then a 9-9 game. He pitched extremely well considering he had only two days of rest after his previous start, going four innings and allowing two hits, one walk and no runs while striking out nine batters. He threw 63 pitches.

    Then with three days of rest, Harang started Thursday’s game against the Pirates. At that point, he was pitching for the third time in eight days. The results were not as strong: Harang gave up 6 earned runs, struck out two batters and only lasted 73 pitches over four innings.

    The more interesting case though may be Baker’s use of Edinson Volquez, the team’s 24-year-old phenom starting pitcher, in the 17th and 18th innings. With just one day of rest following a no-decision against the Padres, Volquez pitched 1 2/3 innings, throwing 39 pitches and allowing Gonzalez’s game-ending homer. The start did not harm Volquez’s amazing 1.31 earned-run average as all three runs were unearned, but it gave him just the second loss of his standout season. Volquez is scheduled to pitch tonight against Tom Glavine and the Braves.”

    http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/aaron-harang/

  7. I remember watching that San Diego game and yelling at the TV. Telling Dusty to put some position player on the mound, take the loss and head for the airport.

  8. I’m just curious about something off topic. I posted a comment earlier this morning and it still says that my comment is “awaiting moderation”. Is this because I’m new to this site?

  9. Please disregard my previous comment as I found the answer in the FAQ section. Thanks, and I love this site. I have been a Reds fan since I was little in the mid 70’s. Just stumbled across your site about a year ago, and I love it. I have told a lot of people about it…

  10. Great post, btw, Chris. This is exactly what I’ve been feeling about Harang.

    I take some good-natured ribbing over being a gooey, sentimental, Field-of-Dreams baseball fan. I wouldn’t make a good GM because (among a thousand other reasons) I’d have a hard time cutting guys like Harang loose, after all that he’s done for this franchise. It’s even tougher to see the end of the road come in a season where the Reds are doing something they didn’t do during Harang’s prime: win.

  11. @Furniture City Red: Yes, god, those two games were just incredibly stupid. I’m glad you brought up the Volquez one, because I’d blocked it out of my mind.

    I could see doing that to win a world series (Randy Johnson), but a regular season game with a bad team? You’ve got to be kidding me.

  12. I will always wonder about that game in San Diego. Chances are, it really didn’t derail his career (just hard to believe one outing could do that), but I’ll always wonder. I’ll miss Aaron. Even though he hasn’t been good for awhile he was a faithful soldier.

  13. Thanks Chris.

    @per14: The only thing I can figure is that there was some pain or fatigue after that which caused him to cheat with his mechanics a bit. After a while those cheats became permanent and that’s all folks. But who knows? But Pinson343 is right. San Diego was the last times I felt comfortable with him on the mound.

    • Chris, I’m curious about the Dunn tag.

      The absence of one? I was just going from memory on the players listed in the piece. I’ll fix it.

  14. Wait, did Aaron Harang die? This reads like an obit.

    Seems like he is a great dude, and I’m sure he’ll find a way to enjoy his life, even though the Reds are finally making a run as his career is on the downside.

    • Wait, did Aaron Harang die? This reads like an obit.

      Seems like he is a great dude, and I’m sure he’ll find a way to enjoy his life, even though the Reds are finally making a run as his career is on the downside.

      It is a little like an obit, I guess. A remembrance, anyway. For his Reds’ career, most likely. He may pitch again in a mop-up capacity. Maybe even a farewell start the last weekend of the season. But he’s not effective enough to pitch with the pennant on the line.

  15. @Scott: It’s kind of like Mario Soto…if only he’d shifted his career about 4 years later, the Reds would have multiple division championships in the 80’s.

  16. It’s sad to see Harang’s time in Cincinnati come to such an uneventful close. For a while he was just about the only guy on the team you could count on. But, in the end, he’s made a lot of money playing a game. Good for him, and good luck in the future.

  17. Could not disagree more with Chris Garber and the general perception about what to do with Harang RIGHT NOW, amidst a playoff hunt. Garber:”Now, after all those years of futility, the Reds are odds-on favorites to make the playoffs — and frankly, Harang has no business being involved. Worse for him, probably, he really can’t feel like he contributed to the Reds getting there. That sucks.” You go a bit over-the-top here, Chris. Who are any of us to write Harang’s farewell to Cincinnati and make the big assumption that he was basically alienated from the team in recent past?!

  18. Let’s face it, the majority of players stick around until nobody will pay them anymore, and then come to an “inglorious end.” Just a fact of baseball life.

  19. @Matt: I wrote a farewell because he has NO business making another start for the 2010 Reds. Do you disagree? Is that over the top?

    I didn’t wrote that he was alienated from the team. I hope he’s beloved in the clubhouse. I wrote that Harang “really can’t feel like he contributed to the Reds getting there.” Do you disagree? Do you think he sees himself as an integral part of a championship club?

    Harang made 19 starts this year. The team went 8-11 in those games. He made, really, three good starts – only one of which occurred after Memorial Day. None of which should be used to bash Harang. The guy gave his best effort, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough this season. Thankfully, the Reds had better options available (i.e. Travis Wood), and Harang’s troubles didn’t hurt the ball club much at all.

    Nothing would make me happier than if he’d rebounded from injury and ineffectiveness, regained his old form, and made six awesome starts down the stretch. But it didn’t happen that way. The Reds are going to make the playoffs, and Aaron Harang did not put them there. Not really – not the way he wanted to.

  20. Chris, let me stop you with the first sentence, “I wrote… over the top?” I have no problem with Harang NOT making another START for the 2010 Reds (although he might have to start another one before the end). He’s NOT going to be a starter for anyone at this point. However, as i mentioned, he can still serve the Reds in other capacities such a relief role from time to time. Plus, I would argue it’s a great thing to have someone like Harang around this bullpen during the playoffs…

    • he can still serve the Reds in other capacities such a relief role from time to time.

      His Reds career is effectively over. Yes, they could pitch him in a mop-up capacity out of the bullpen, but are you seriously saying you’d be comfortable using Harang with the game on the line?

      Even if you somehow preferred him to Maloney, LeCure, or Jordan Smith – all of whom have pitched better than him this year, and all of whom have more relief experience – Harang still ranks behind Cordero, Masset, Rhodes, Ondrusek, Chapman, and Voltron/Leake/Homer. (Harang’s pitched exactly 4 clean innings (out of 20) after June 20 – and 2 of those were in the June 25 start.)

      You’re not going to use him ahead of any of those guys out of the pen, and you’re not going to give him a post-season roster spot ahead of any of those guys. In other words, there’s no realistic chance of Aaron Harang pitching another meaningful inning in a Reds uniform.

  21. I guess what most stands out to me is how you reconcile Harang going from finally not being THE guy to now being someone that can’t be used for the pennant race. He fits easily somewhere in between and can be as important for the Reds in this race than several others already on the roster.

  22. The way Harang has gotten in trouble right off the bat, I’m not sure he could be an effective reliever. Should Dusty give it a shot? Maybe. I suppose it couldn’t hurt at this point, but I also think there is enough help in the pen that it’s not at all necessary to try.

    In other news, Verducci thinks MLB needs a second wildcard spot to make the sport more popular. The 2 wildcard teams would play a play-in series or game to make winning the division matter and give more teams a shot at the playoffs. I’m not sure I disagree (I’m also not sure I like 3 divisions and a wildcard more than the old days), but I really doubt it would make baseball more popular. It might help the ratings for a dozen games.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tom_verducci/09/07/playoff.format/index.html?xid=cnnbin&hpt=Sbin

  23. To elaborate, Verducci compares this kind of playoff system to the NFL, where single games actually matter, and single playoff games matter even more. The problem with that is a single baseball game is a tossup — the best team doesn’t necessarily win. The defense is that, if you don’t want it to go to a coin toss, you need to win your division.

    I can agree with that, just like I agree with the NFL’s sudden death. The point is to get it over without TOTALLY leaving it to chance. The longer a game goes on, the more the rules set it up to just get it over with. See rapidly increasing blinds in poker.

  24. @Jared: I dispute the premise: Baseball doesn’t need anything to goose ratings. It needs to keep doing what it’s doing (but with shorter games). It doesn’t need to ape football.

    He listens to Steve Hirdt, that foof from Elias, which is his first problem. This stupid plan would let a second, less-deserving WC team into the post-season, and then give them a coin-flip chance to make it to the LDS.

    Last year, the 92-win Rockies would’ve had to face the 87-win Marlins, who’d have pitched Josh Johnson in what was, at worst, a coin-flip game. Then the Marlins win that, and face off against the Phillies with Nolasco (5.06 ERA), Volstad (5.21), and West (4.79). THAT’s supposed to result in a better post-season?

  25. It seems to me that Harang has actually gone out and given 1-2 good innings each of his bad starts, only to fall into trouble somewhere between the 3rd and 5th inning. That’s not a bad person to have in your bullpin. Maybe not great, but I’d throw him out there way before Fisher right now.

    Great piece on Hoss though… I have always been rooting for him myself. The guy was such a powerful person in the community and really was the heart of our pitching staff (Arroyo was the brains) for so many disappointing seasons.

  26. I also want to point it that it seems like over the course of 3 or 4 years, Harang had 3 or 4 pitching coaches, that all tried to mess with his mechanics. If I remember correctly it was 2007 that I first heard of a pitching coach trying to ‘fix’ something with his mechanics.

    I often wonder if we didn’t just mess with a good thing. Perhaps Aaron had already become the best pitcher he could be and you shouldn’t mess with a pitcher once they hit their peak.

  27. These guys: Maloney, LeCure, Smith, Masset, Ondrusek, Chapman could all use Harang’s presence as a teammate. In ‘certain’ situations, I’d feel a helluva lot more comfortable with Harang in relief than a very young Ondrusek – ESPECIALLY “with the game on the line.”

  28. @Matt: What is Harang’s presence as a teammate going to teach the young guys you listed…How to pitch so slow you lull your defense to sleep? How to nibble at the corners? How to pitch away from contact with a 4 run lead like he did yesterday. Thanks but no thanks. The last thing I want Harang teaching Smith, Masset, Ondrusek, Chapman,etc is how to be a passive pitcher.

    Harang pitches like he is scared. Hands down the most frustrating pitcher to watch on the team. Luckily you only have to suffer through watching him nibble at the black for a few innings.

    I’d take any one of the guys you listed over Harang in any situation, ESPECIALLY with the game on the line. Just can’t see how anyone could have any faith at all in Harang at this point.

  29. @Swatch: I think it’s more likely he just got old, but there’s really no telling and it’s irrelevent now.

    @Chris Garber: Like I said, I’m not convinced one way or the other. But, in last year’s scenario, if Colorado wanted a better shot at the WS, they should have won their division. My biggest knock on football was always that it seemed like half of the league was in the playoffs. My only defense for this play-in game would be that it’s just that — you didn’t make the playoffs, but you have a chance in this one game to make it.

  30. Furniture City Red: Hello there. Please let me respond to your questions.

    “so slow you lull your defense to sleep” is that a joke? 2.) It’s called location, not nibbling at corners. The Atl Braves use to do it quite well, among others. 3.) How to pitch away from contact sounds like something Brantley and Crafty cooked up yesterday on the barbecue, er, broadcast, frankly. 4.) Harang pitching scared, FCR, sounds like something a frustrasted fan might actually be feeling, not the person in question.

  31. Ondrusek gets more solid every single time he makes an appearance because have you seen the kid?? He may be 23 or 24 but he looks like a BABY! The sour taste of Harang here on Redleg Nation is palpable, i get that. But to me leading the team for those nine years of Hell all the way to THIS years Spring Training until where we stand right now counts for more than most are seeing at the moment.

    • The sour taste of Harang here on Redleg Nation is palpable, i get that. But to me leading the team for those nine years of Hell all the way to THIS years Spring Training until where we stand right now counts for more than most are seeing at the moment.

      Dude, you couldn’t miss the point any more if you tried. Heck, maybe you are. There’s no “sour taste.” This entire piece is about how great Harang was. But was ain’t is, not for Harang, Mario Soto, or Jim Maloney. The ONLY thing that “counts” is now – as in, “can he get hitters out now?” And unfortunately, he can’t.

  32. Chris: I didn’t mean to touch a nerve, perhaps “sour taste’ isn’t the best way of putting it, but I’ve noted the several positive comments and the certain way you’ve given Harang his due here. Ok, dude ? :mrgreen: I still think he’s more useful on the roster for the rest of the year than being let go to make room for someone else before the playoffs.

  33. @Matt: No. Harang pitching slowly is not a joke. He’s painful to watch. Ask anyone who has played the game if they prefer a fast worker or slow worker on the mound
    ….nibbling and pitching away from contact are really one in the same. I’ve been bitching about Harang doing both for a long time – check the archives. Maybe Cowboy and Crafty just figured it out yesterday…I’ve been aware of it for a while
    …Harang pitching scared – If you really think Harang looks confident and in control when he’s on the mound then this back and forth is a waste of both of ours time because you obviously have a hard on for Harang and it’s clouding your judgement.
    …Frustrated fan? What do I have to frustrated about – The Reds have a 6 game lead on Sept. 7th. Life is good.
    …A frustrated Harang fan may troll aroud a Reds blog and take issue with anything negative that is written about their boy Harang, but I digress.

  34. There might be a role for Harang with the Cards if they are indeed stockpiling weird beards in the pen. He was one reason to follow a bad team for a long time. Maybe he can come in and get the last out to clinch the division…he needs some kind of moment if possible. I know with what’s at stake, a moment may not be possible.

  35. Aaron Harnag’s career will be rejuvenated starting his next outing, doesn’t matter what team. Just watch.

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