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Harden: That Same Glass Is Half Full

If you read AN, you must know my position on Rich Harden. Basically, it’s, “Call me when he’s made 10 starts in a row and I’ll consider him to be a factor – until then, don’t talk to me about Rich Harden.”

So let’s talk about Rich Harden. Today, I put the opposite spin on the Harden saga as a way of saying, “Rebuild? Fire Sale? Hang on. Don’t give up on 2008 just yet…” The glass on Harden may look half empty, but there’s a half full component too, and here it is:

• As much as he’s been injured, Harden did reach 31 starts and 189.2 IP in 2004, as well as 22 starts and 128 IP in 2005. So the notion of hoping he makes 30+ starts, or the notion of hoping he makes enough starts to be a factor, is hardly unprecedented.

• One of these years, Harden is probably going to be healthy from start to finish, and if 2008 is that year the A’s are in a position to contend. That’s because a rotation of a healthy Harden, along with Haren, Blanton, Gaudin, and any 5th starter (Meyer, DiNardo, Duchscherer) is going to give you a good chance to win an awful lot of the time, while an offense led by Buck, Barton, Swisher, Cust, Ellis, and possibly Chavez, is not going to lead the league in runs scored but is also not going to be at the bottom.

• Harden would not have to make 30+ starts in order to significantly impact the A’s chances of contending in 2008. If he made another 22 starts, while the best of Meyer, DiNardo, or whomever else may be in the mix as a 6th starter/long reliever, made 10 starts, the combination could arguably be around having another Blanton in the rotation – which, considering the A’s happen to have another Blanton, as well as a Haren, would still make for a very solid front end to the rotation.

Bottom line: If Billy Beane gets word from the medical staff that there is really nothing structurally wrong with Harden, and if he believes there’s a decent chance Harden can stay healthy for much or all of 2008, no way should the A’s be punting and rebuilding with 162 games left in the pennant race. I just wish I hadn’t written a similar “If Harden is healthy…” column this time last year.