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AN Classic: A Rich Man

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Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projections thinks Rich Harden will take a dip in 2005 from his 2004 season, despite Harden's remarkable second half in 2004 (8-2, 3.49 ERA and a .229 batting average against). He was the A's staff ace in the latter half of 04.

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Sickels' MinorLeagueBall.com about Harden and whether or not you'd prefer having him or Josh Beckett.

For my money, I'd take Harden because of his age and relative durability. He hasn't had injury problems.

But I thought that I'd run an AN Classic piece from last season...it was after the game in which I believe Harden put it all together. It was May 6 against the New York Yankees, and at the time, the A's looked dead in the water against what was the class of the AL.

A Rich Man

Walk outside and take a deep, invigorating breath. Soak in the cool night breeze. Enjoy the whispering wind.

Listen closely.

Do you feel it? Can you feel it coming?

A new day.

Yes, it's only one victory. Yes, the Oakland Athletics still have a truckload of problems. The bullpen issues are not magically solved. The Big Three still need to get on track. The offense isn't going to blow anyone away.

But starting now and for the next 20 hours or so, I don't want to hear anything but positive thoughts because this was a win the A's absolutely needed and fought tirelessly to achieve.

Our self-esteem was bruised and battered. Our hopes were quickly fading. Then the game started and I was convinced that the A's were about to embark on a new form of losing. The blowout. We hadn't really had too many of those in this streak. 4-0 and I'm thinking, this is it. The A's are folding faster in 2004 than ever before.

But in approximately 120 powerful, mind-bending pitches, Rich Harden repeatedly pelted the King-Kong-sized monkey until it came crashing down off the A's back.

It's a beautiful sight watching a pitcher mature right in front of us. It's like watching young Luke Skywalker learn the power of the Force. I was suggesting making Rich our closer earlier today, and that may eventually still need to happen if our pen doesn't come around, but for one brief, shining night, the Canadian boy with the slight smirk and confident way became a man.

Since this site has been nothing but negativity for nearly two weeks now, I want to just say, the A's have earned a flyer for tonight. No need to rip anyone.

I'm probably going overboard in stating the importance of this game, especially since the schedule doesn't get any easier with the hot Minnesota Twins coming in. This could change very quickly, but Javier Vazquez is a quality pitcher (arguably the Yankees best) and we whacked him like Tony beating Ralphie on the Sopranos.

The A's are still third in the division and five and a half games back. But every story has a beginning. Let's hope for the A's sake that this story starts with a boy becoming a man.

That man may or may not be the most important Athletic this season to determine the A's overall success, if not, he's certainly up there with Chavez, Zito, Kendall and Dotel.

As a matter of fact, I want to hear who absolutely must perform up to expectations in order for the A's to be competitive in the AL West this season. I've added a poll below to find out what AN thinks. I know this was built to succeed as a team concept, but who can the A's least afford an underperformance or injury from?

Poll

Who is the most important individual to the A's success in 2005?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Chavez
    (29 votes)
  • 4%
    Crosby
    (5 votes)
  • 4%
    Dotel
    (5 votes)
  • 3%
    Haren
    (4 votes)
  • 8%
    Harden
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Durazo
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    Kotsay
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    Kendall
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    Zito
    (48 votes)
  • 1%
    None of the above
    (2 votes)
113 votes total Vote Now