Forgive me. That is an awful title, but I’m glad it’s true. Baseball’s oldest professional team, the Cincinnati Reds, have locked up RHP Aaron Harang to a 4-year contract. This is a good move. Harang is only 28, and he had a stellar 2006. He earned the Opening Day start for Cincinnati, but that hasn’t been much of an accomplishment the last few years. He proved, however, that he was a legitimate #1 by leading the National League in strikeouts (216), complete games (6), starts (35) and victories (16). Harang eats up innings (234 in ’06), and last year he struck out 8 batters while only walking 2 per every nine innings. He did all this while pitching in Coors Field East – the bandbox known as Great American Ballpark.
According to John Fay, the beat writer who follows the Reds for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Harang’s 2006 numbers placed him in some rarefied company.
Since 1960, only eight pitchers have led the NL in wins and strikeouts in the same season: Harang, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Dwight Gooden, Steve Carlton (twice), Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax (three times) and Don Drysdale.
With his ’06 numbers, and being mentioned with the above names, Harang didn’t come cheap. The deal is worth $36.5 million.
The Reds traded Jose Guillen to the Oakland A’s for Harang before the 2003 trading deadline. For all the boneheaded trades this club has made through the years (see: Frank Robinson, Tony Perez, Paul O’Neil) this one was a beauty. The Reds have a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation with Harang and Bronson Arroyo.
Let’s hope that in ’07 this team is more consistent, and instead of fading at the end of the summer they make a push for the division title like the accursed Cardinals did last year.