The Rich Harden trade reaction

Heard this from a talent evaluator in the aftermath of the Rich Harden trade: “I think (the A’s) just traded damaged goods.”

That seems to be the majority opinion around the Coliseum right now. Harden just didn’t look right in his final two A’s starts, and that has everybody wondering if (when?) he might break down again. Wonder if Billy Beane was wondering the same thing, not that he’d ever admit it if he was.

Anyway, here are some quotes:

From Rich Harden: “I had kind of heard about (the rumors). But I was surprised when it happened, a bit of a shock. I think it’ll be good. They’re a good team, got a chance to do something special. It’s tough leaving her at the same time.  I’ve been here my whole career.”

From Beane: “I would say the Cubs were pretty aggressive. Me and (Cubs general manager Jim Hendry) talk a lot anyways. We consistently had conversations over the last month. We finally came to an agreement this morning. I don’t think there was necessarily anything that put it over the edge, other than Jim’s consistent contact, the fact that they were looking for a starting pitcher — I wouldn’t say they were looking for a starting pitcher, they were looking for Rich.

Also from Beane: “We were balancing, respecting that the club is playing well while also keeping in mind we’ve had numerous injuries over the past week. Guys have done a good job trying to battle as much as they can. But I think we also started thinking as we go forward, what we set out to do this year. I don’t think we’ve taken a step back, but I think we’ve taken a step forward for the next five years.”

From second baseman Mark Ellis: “(As players), we’ve got to be out there, play every day like we’re making a run to the playoffs. I don’t think it sends a message to us. I think it’s something they felt they had to do.”






So long Rich Harden

Where’s there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and a blaze was uncovered about 20 minutes ago when the A’s announced that they’ve traded Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs along with reliever Chad Gaudin. In return, the A’s get right-handed pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton and infielder Eric Patterson and catcher Josh Donaldson. All but Donaldson have spent time on the Cubs’ roster this season, and Gallagher will immediately jump into the A’s rotation, A’s general manager Billy Beane said.

The deal comes amid myriad reports out of Chicago that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had been talking often with Beane about Harden. Beane basically confirmed that in his session with reporters, saying that it was Hendry’s stick-with-it-ness that ultimately created the deal.

I like the move from the A’s standpoint. As I blogged Monday, Harden hadn’t looked like his normal overpowering self in his past two starts, and with 11 straight starts behind him, I felt like the A’s were playing with house money. Talked to a couple of people in the organization moments before the deal was announced, and they seemed to  have that same sense.

As I also blogged, the standings had something to do with it, too. Beane said the team has weighed the recent injuries to Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez against what its goals were at the beginning of the season. He said he sees this trade “not as a step back, but a step forward for the next 3-5 years.” We’ll see, and what will be real interesting is the reaction of fans to this move, given that Beane’s winter trades of Nick Swisher and Dan Haren yielded very positive results.

I think Beane, again, deserves the benefit of the doubt. This A’s club was not built to win this year. And even with Harden aboard, it was hard to see that happening. Beane obviously is a better evaluator of such things than me, and I tend to go with a guy’s track record on such things. So I’m guessing the short-term pain will be replaced by long-term gain.

As for Harden, it potentially could be a great deal. It could also be a nightmare. He goes to a legitimate World Series contender in a great city. This move is essentially the Cubs’ response to the C.C. Sabathia acquisition by Milwaukee, so there will be pressure on Harden to be the type of ace he’s always been envisioned as being. But if Harden gets hurt, the fans will be far more unforgiving than they are here.

More later.



Harden heading out?

You knew a rumor of this sort was coming, it was only a matter of time. But just heard that the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs are in discussions with the A’s involving Rich Harden.

First thought: The Cubs might be responding to the acquisition by their NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers of starter C.C. Sabathia. Second thought: This won’t be the only rumor involving Harden between now and July 31.

I’m leaning toward thinking the proper avenue for the A’s is to deal Harden. He’s been quite hittable his past two starts, and perhaps they think they’re playing with house money now that Harden has made 11 straight starts without getting hurt. I’m sure there’s continuing concern that Harden can break again, especially since his fastball has lacked a little life in his past couple of starts.

Besides, the A’s are a longshot to win the American League West, and I don’t see them making a move in the wild-card standings unless they get completely healthy. They haven’t been completely healthy since the Lincoln administration (joke, people). The A’s have shown how replenishing with young talent can breathe life into an organization, and no reason to think they won’t get a bountiful of talent for Harden.

Still, you’d hate to stumble into a playoff berth and not have Harden on your roster.  Imagine a Cubs-A’s World Series in which Harden was pitching Game 7 against the A’s? (Yeah, right)

By the way, this question was posed to me during a radio show today? Who has a better shot to make the playoffs, the A’s or Giants? Had to say the Giants. How wack is that?





On Leyritz and more

The holidays are generally a slow time, but darn if there isn’t some dolt to provide material. Jim Leyritz, step up and face the music.

Leyritz’s incident is no joking matter, obviously. A family has been left in mourning, and the former New York Yankees World Series hero has seen his life altered forever. It’s tragic on all ends.

That said, Leyritz’s car accident two nights ago serves to show just what the professional baseball is up against in its bid to ban the sport of all things ill. Perhaps I’m off base on the analogy, but it seems that if ballplayers are still loading up on alcohol and then driving home (as Leyritz was alleged to do), then there’s simply no way to prevent any of them from sticking the odd needle in their behind.

Think about it. The campaign to curtail drinking and driving in this country goes back to 1980. I was in junior high school when Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver, the result of which caused her mother, Candy to form Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The formation of MADD created a fundamental change in how we viewed drinking and driving; the evils of it were preached in the classroom as early as elementary school, and the societal view of it gradually changed.

And yet, the problem still persists. And it’s unlikely ever to be eradicated completely.

So it will be with performance-enhancing drugs at all levels. Three decades worth of education might stem the tide, but it won’t ever be stopped completely. In my experience, professional athletes have a unique sense of self-confidence; it’s likely one of the key traits that gets them to that level in the first place. It’s that trait that seems to give them a sense of invincibility. We all have it when we’re in our teens, but most of us grow out of it. I’d argue that most professional athletes do not.

Anyway, it’s this trait that leads one not to call a cab but rather to hop in a car and defy the odds, just as it leads one to ignore the health hazards and stick a needle in his behind. Which is why we’ll probably be unearthing players as performance-enhancing drug users from now until forever.

Meantime, some other quick thoughts:

Interesting comments by Rep. Christopher Shays regarding Bud Selig’s responsibility for the rise of the Steroid Era. I agree with Shays completely, but I think his comments could be extended to any number of corporate CEO’s. The almighty dollar trumps all else, and our country has suffered for it.

— So now Roger Clemens’ lawyer has hired private investigators to discredit Brian McNamee? That’s it, blame the messenger.

— Got the following e-mail from a Cubs fan labeled mjtracy1226@comcast.com, regarding the last two lines of of my column Friday. “You can go to hell for your remark about the Cubs. … I hope something terrible happens to you this year.” Two things about that: 1) Shame when you can’t laugh at yourself or your team (and if you can’t laugh at the Cubs’ futility, then you might as well cry). 2) Wishing ill upon others is, in a word, sick.