Tom Groeschen writes a pretty nice piece in today’s Enquirer on Aaron Harang:
Aaron Harang helped carry the Reds through some lean years, but the former staff ace is uncertain if he will be on Cincinnati’s first playoff roster in 15 seasons.
Harang has made only two relief appearances since Sept. 6, which was his last start before being removed from the rotation.
Harang joined the Reds via trade from Oakland on July 30, 2003. As a full-time starter, Harang went a combined 25-25 for the Reds from 2003-2005. He flourished in 2006, when he led the National League in wins (16) and strikeouts (216). Harang won 16 games again in 2007 and struck out 218 that year.
After going a combined 32-17 in 2006-07, Harang since is 18-38.
His decline can be traced to several factors. To some, he has not been the same since a four-inning relief stint – on two days’ rest – in an 18-inning game against San Diego in May 2008.
He once kept hitters guessing with a sneaky-fast fastball, a slider that hitters chased out of the strike zone, and curves and changeups that he consistently threw for strikes.
More recently, according to Price and Harang, his pitches have tended to stay more “up in the zone” and his breaking stuff has been flatter. Harang has been trying to work on following through and driving the ball toward the plate, as he did in his best years.
Harang, 32, is in the last year of his contract with Cincinnati. The Reds are not expected to bring him back, given the price tag ($12.75 million) for next year. The club has a $2 million buyout.
Through it all, Harang has maintained his poise and even-keel demeanor.
I don’t think there is any chance of Aaron Harang being on the post-season roster and I think he understands that, but yet, while understandable and correct, it’s kind of sad.
Aaron is basically in the same boat as a couple of other past Reds pitchers, guys that were very effective, even great, major league pitchers on bad teams.
The two that immediately come to mind for me are Jim Maloney and Mario Soto.
Jim Maloney was a stud. Look him up on Baseball Reference and when you see them comparing him to guys named Koufax, Gibson, Carlton, and Clemons…that’s some pretty good company. Maloney had a 12 year career, including a 6 year stretch where his lowest ERA+ was 116 and he threw a total of 2/3 of an inning in the ’61 WS. Blew his Achilles tendon out in the ’70 season and that was that. Done at age 30. Imagine him pitching for the Big Red Machine? Wouldn’t you have liked to see him in the ’70 World Series against Palmer, Cueller, or McNally?
Mario Soto was another Reds pitcher who came along at the wrong time. Between ’80-’85, he had more strikeouts than anyone in baseball, more than Nolan Ryan. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball on one of the worst teams. He won 14 games on a team that only won 61. He threw a total of 2 innings in the ’79 NLCS. He was done at age 31, in 1988.
So, as we start the postseason shortly, let’s think about Aaron Harang and the good years he had for the Reds. Let’s also remember guys like Jim Maloney and Mario Soto, who carried the water on some teams that didn’t make the post season.