Play organized sports for any length of time, at any age, and you’re bound to run into a bad spell here and there. When it begins, your coach/manager may be a little sympathetic to your cause. But eventually, your coach/manager will say, “No excuses.” Coaches/managers just want you to get your work done. Period. No excuses.
That brings us to Aaron Harang. I sat as close to the field as I could for Wednesday night’s game against the Dodgers. I was nine rows from the field, just past the Reds dugout. I saw a lot of pitches in the 80’s. I saw a few hit 91 and one or two hit 92 on the gun. And I watched the Dodgers take what amounts to batting practice. And that’s a team there that can rake. If they could ever build a starting rotation with an ace or two, my goodness. But we’re here to discuss Harang.
Dusty Baker wants to get Harang a win in the worst way. Harang was 1-12 in his last 13 decisions heading into Wednesday’s game, and 12-33 dating back to the 2008 season. Why else would he let him bat in the bottom of the 4th with two outs and the bases loaded, trailing by a run? I would’ve had Micah Owings ready to go, so he could bat at that point, but I’m not the manager. It’s unfortunate that Baker cannot channel his inner Sparky, who was notorious for hating pitchers. There’s a reason he got the nickname, “Captain Hook.” Thankfully, the umpires reversed an incorrect call by Tim McClelland and gave Harang a hit on a ball trapped by Andre Ethier. It was Harang’s first hit of the season and it tied the game. Unfortunately, Harang would have to take care of the Dodgers in the 5th to hope to win or at least not be on the hook for a loss, something he could not do.
The time for excuses has ended. Harang’s time may be coming to an end as well. He gets paid $12 million per season, a contract largely based on his numbers in 2006 and 2007 and the way he used to eat up innings. This is what he offered after the game. “It’s bad luck,” said Harang. “This game’s about luck. I’m going through a bad spell right now. We’re close enough to Kentucky. You’d think I could find a horseshoe.”
Well, to use the current texting vernacular… OMG. I think fans throughout Reds country could find a couple hundred horseshoes to send to Aaron at 100 Joe Nuxhall Way. But horseshoes aren’t going to do it. Earlier Wednesday, Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that Chicago’s ace, Carlos Zambrano, would be headed to the bullpen to work his problems out. The writers asked Baker about this that night and would he do that with Harang. His response? “That doesn’t have anything to do with us,” said Baker.
OK, Harang’s next start falls on Monday, an off day for the Reds. Might he be skipped? “I don’t know,” said Baker. “I just got beat to death. I haven’t had time to think about it.” Wednesday’s game was over 3 ½ hours long. Games with 20 runs scored – 14 by LA and they STILL left 10 on base – generally take a while to complete. But it seems like Baker doesn’t have a gameplan here, and we’re past time for that with Harang. Remember that “no excuses” thing?
So, here’s my gameplan, Dusty. Use it as your own, I don’t need credit for it. Skip Harang on his next start. You’ve overused him in situations before, such as last Memorial Day when you sent him out after a two-hour rain delay to get one out in the 5th against Houston to qualify for a win. So, sit him here. Have Bryan Price work him out on that Monday. Have him throw a simulated game. Heck, I’ll even come to the ballpark and dress to stand in the batter’s box if it will help. Then, send him out next Saturday with a clear message: Get it done, or prepare for the bullpen. Hey, there’s an 8th inning setup role that’s currently open. And think what it could do for your record, as the relievers are just piling up the wins here. After that, well, we’ll have to re-evaluate. But this is a start.
Something has to happen. GM Walt Jocketty went into Baker’s office as the writers were leaving. Looks like he’s reached the point of “no excuses.”
About the Author
Written by Dave Allen
I'm a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan who has been following the Reds and Bengals ever since I can remember. My first Reds game was Game 6 of the '72 World Series and my first Bengals game was an October 1975 clash with the Steelers. I've been involved in sports media since Junior High, when I assisted with scores for Bob Trumpy SportsTalk in 1979 on WLW Radio. My biggest Reds highlight came in 1998 when I was chosen to be the public address announcer at Riverfront Stadium (then called Cinergy Field) for Opening Day and the entire first homestand. I am thrilled to be involved with PSB and I hope you enjoy my entries!