No cold shoulder for Harang
Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler
The Cincinnati that Aaron Harang has grown to admire is the summer version. He wasn't prepared for what hit him Monday when he stepped off the plane from San Diego.
"I thought, whoa, this is cold," he mentioned Tuesday, warmed, by then, by the long-term contract he had just signed with the Reds for about $36 million, if it extends to a fifth season. "I had a pea coat that I never wear, but it was in my bag."
And still, he took the deal, even with the knowledge that it might mean moving here. The thing is, he's all right with that.
The thing is, he's all right, period.
You know how ballplayers, when they're angling for a contract and can't seem to get one done, and even when they do get one done, for millions after millions, always say it isn't about the money? And you know how you never, ever believe them?
I think you might have to believe Aaron Harang. And while you're at it, I think you might have to like, really like, Aaron Harang.
I mean . . .
- Gil Meche last year: 11 wins, 4.48 ERA. Meche contract this winter: 5 years, $55 million.
- Ted Lilly last year: 15 wins, 4.31 ERA. Lilly contract this winter: 4 years, $40 million.
- Vicente Padilla last year: 15 wins, 4.50 ERA. Padilla contract this winter: 3 years, $33.75 million.
- Jeff Suppan last year: 12 wins, 4.12 ERA. Suppan contract this winter: 4 years, $42 million.
- Adam Eaton last year: 7 wins, 5.12 ERA. Eaton contract this winter: 3 years, $24.5 million.
- Jason Marquis last year: 14 wins, 6.02 ERA. Marquis contract this winter: 3 years, $21 million.
- Randy Wolf last year: 4 wins, 5.56 ERA. Wolf contract this winter: 1 year, $8 million.
- Andy Pettitte last year: 14 wins, 4.20 ERA. Pettitte contract this winter: 1 year, $16 million.
- Aaron Harang last year: 16 wins, 3.76 ERA. Harang projected contract this winter if he had been a free agent, like those other guys: 5 years, $60 million.
"I did see a lot of ridiculous numbers this offseason," said the gentle 270-pounder, who became only the eighth National League pitcher since 1960 to lead the league in both victories and strikeouts. The other seven were Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Dwight Gooden, Tom Seaver, Don Drysdale, Steve Carlton and Sandy Koufax. "But you know what? I like the city of Cincinnati. It's humble and hard-working, and I'd like to think that I fit in with that.
"I know Wayne (Krivsky) and Bob (Castellini) have been doing a lot of work to solidify this organization, and I'm looking forward to the direction we're going. They were showing me dedication."
They showed him money, too. We shouldn't pooh-pooh the money. There was plenty of it. For plenty of years. Comparatively, though, the years are more plentiful than the money.
"We never focused on a one-year deal," said Krivsky, the general manager.
Instead, the Reds focused on doing what they absolutely had to do, if they were to maintain good faith with the paying public. All winter, they had confined their player investments to utilitarian veterans. The people understood. The free-agent pitchers were going for mad money. The people understood. Harang was eligible for arbitration, and the Reds hate arbitration, and he was there to be signed long-term, and if the Reds hadn't signed him long-term, the people would not have understood. Not one bit. That, the Reds understood.
"I think this sends a heck of a message to our fans and our players," Krivsky said.
Harang, without saying it, sent a heck of a message, too. His was that the Reds are a team worth signing with. A team with possibilities, run by men with good intentions, in a fine city that $36 million will buy most of.
No Cincinnati pitcher has ever made that much money before. But then, no Cincinnati pitcher since Ewell Blackwell, in 1947, has led the league in victories and strikeouts.
"I know Aaron's appreciative of history," noted Krivsky. "And I know he's glad he's not being paid like Mr. Blackwell in 1947."
Actually, he is being paid like the Whip in '47. Roughly every out.
And these days, that's a bargain.