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Haren’s gem ensures Davey’s record

Sep 29, 2013, 12:42 AM EST

Associated Press Associated Press

PHOENIX — Dan Haren’s season, much like the Nationals’ season, felt like a lost cause earlier this summer. With little reason to believe things would significantly turn for the better, both the right-hander and his team easily could have mailed it in and turned their sights on 2014.

In the end, neither did. Haren resurrected his year and his confidence, and the Nationals turned into baseball’s best club over the season’s final seven weeks.

It won’t result in a postseason appearance for either, but both will depart for the winter feeling much better about the state of things.

“I’m happy with the way I finished out for me,” Haren said after pitching the Nationals to a 2-0 victory over the Diamondbacks. “Obviously, team-wise, we just didn’t meet our expectations. I think overall this team built a lot of character this year.”

Saturday night’s performance by Haren and his teammates also let Davey Johnson head home feeling much better about himself. This victory ensured Johnson will finish his career at least 300 games over the .500 mark. (His record sits at 1,372-1,070 entering Sunday’s finale.)

Johnson had made it known the last few days he wanted to reach that milestone. Why? Well, consider he’s only the 15th manager in baseball history to do it. And of the other 14, 11 are in the Hall of Fame, with Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox likely to make it to Cooperstown someday themselves.

After getting swept in St. Louis to begin the season’s final week, the Nationals needed to win at least twice in Arizona to seal Johnson’s record. They did it, beating the Diamondbacks on Friday and then shutting them out Saturday.

“Not that I could hit .300, but it’d be nice to have that number,” Johnson said. “So that’s why I was pushing them. I even told [Ian Desmond] and a couple guys: ‘I’d like to have 300 over the loss column.’ So they were all grinding. They didn’t do too good of a job in St. Louis, but they did great in Arizona.”

Upon conclusion of this game, Johnson walked into the clubhouse at Chase Field, thanked his players for their effort and then was presented with a bottle of wine.

“I don’t know if he really cares about it that much, but it’s a pretty cool accomplishment,” Haren said. “We wanted to win the games. … I know he had his ‘Win one for the Gipper’ thing yesterday. So I guess we won two for the Gipper.”

Haren didn’t need any extra motivation to win this game. After a miserable first half that left him questioning his future in the sport, the veteran right-hander resurrected his season after a brief stint on the disabled list with what was officially termed “shoulder inflammation” but was later confirmed by Haren to be nothing more than a mental break.

Over his final 12 starts, he went 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA. His final season numbers (10-14, 4.67 ERA in 30 starts) won’t earn him another $13 million contract this winter, but the strong finish does leave Haren confident he still can succeed at this level.

“I’m proud of the way I turned it around,” he said. “But like I told you guys all year, I really beat myself up about it during the first half. Just that really, really bad stretch of starts I had. It’s been a really tough emotional mental year for me. … Physically I felt fine, but the mental side of it just crushed me this year. I’m happy with the way I finished up, but I’ll still always have that guilt of the way it started and the expectations that were not met for the team.”

Neither Haren nor Johnson will return to Washington next year, but the former firmly believes the team that does take the field at Nationals Park in 2014 will be built to win.

“I know I probably won’t be a part of it next year, but we’re going to be … the Nationals will be a scary team next year. Nobody wanted to play us this year. If we got in, we’d be the team to beat. The talent is there for next year, and this organization is in a good place.”

  1. Baseballswami - Sep 29, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    Odd that it was Haren….. Good guy, but a lot of metaphysical angst. And speaking of angst- were the Barves imploding again? They are the most miserable winning team I ever saw.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      Perhaps the Braves suffer their own metaphysical angst because they bear the self-imposed inner burden of protecting the integrity of the game?

  2. NatsLady - Sep 29, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Boy, most of the time I think underperformance is really some hidden injury or a miss evaluation of talent. In Haren’s case, it’s clear from his comments, his repeated comments, that it’s mental. That makes me wonder about the first half of the season for some other players, and the team as a whole–how much was mental?

  3. natsfan1a - Sep 29, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    Atta way, Dan! Atta way, Nats! (Watched in real time but went to bed right after. Daytime baseball today. Niiiice.)

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 29, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    Good job Haren. Hopefully you find next season what you are looking for.

  5. MicheleS - Sep 29, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    I am happy for Haren that it ended this way for him as a Nat, he was his own harshest critic and I appreciated his honesty. I hope he can find a good place to play on the West Coast since that he is wants.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      I’m in agreement on that. I wanted Jackson to be the first baseball player on Mars because he was so obviously a piece of moldy cheese and seemed not to understand how awful he was. (What was the Nats’ record when he pitched? 11-20, or something like that?) Jackson and the Cubs both got the karma they earned. Haren was honest and redeemed himself, which is all that baseball asks.

      • Eric - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        I would love to see Haren back next year. I think his demeanor is a great role model for other pitchers on the staff, especially Stras and the youngins like Roark and TJ. Plus, having Det, Haren, Roark, and TJ available to start at the back of the line up and/or fill in for injuries would be great. I think it would be more than enough to handle injury, bad stretches for Haren, etc.

        I just don’t know if Haren would be at all interested if he can get an offer that’s closer to his family.

    • adcwonk - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      While we’re wishing — can we wish for West Coast in the AL? ;-)

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    The telling number is that Haren pitched only ten fewer innings than Strasburg. So he may not get a $13MM contract but he’ll get enuf for any of the rest of us to retire on. If someone gets Second-Half Haren for their 4th or 5th starter for $7-8MM, they’ll be on their way to being a contender.

    Which leaves the question how the Nats should go about replacing him. The consensus among the NIs is they don’t need to spend that kind of money again. I’ve been in that camp for the last couple of months, thinking it likely that among Jordan, Karns, Roark and Detweiler they’ll find two starters, at least by the middle of the season. Now that the Second-Half Haren Security Blanket is gone, however, I’m not so sure.

    I think Rizzo needs to look for the grail of a 32-33 y/o pitcher with a live arm (not likely to be injured) who, possibly, has been under-achieving in a hitters’ park (Colorado, Milwaukee come to mind) and could hold the line until one of the kids is really ready.

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      Theo – I’ve never been part of that consensus either – that the Nats can count on internal options to fill out the rotation in 2014.

      I think they have to look for trade/FA options over the winter, with the understanding that grails are hard to find, and that dinged up and/or overpriced travel mugs are sometimes what you have to settle for, and may be all that you really need.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:02 AM

        I’d hate to see a trade for a temporary fill-in. Why give up a player who is potentially a long-term asset or could be traded for a possible long-term asset at another position for a guy who’s function will be plug a leak for a few months until the long-term future of the rotation begins to materialize?

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        Theo – I hear you. My point was merely that they need to look at external options, and trades are one possibility – for example, a team might not ask much in return if they’re merely looking to dump the salary of a high priced innings eater.

      • NatsLady - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        I’m with you and have said so for a while. I don’t have a lot of faith in Detwiler, I think he will be a LH fireballing reliever–which ain’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very good thing, but it doesn’t help the rotation.

        Therefore you have to get a 4 and a 5 AND you have to protect against one or more of the Top Three being on the DL during the season. There are a lot of baby pitchers in the system, but there ain’t THAT many.

  7. Section 222 - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    I think overall this team built a lot of character this year.

    That and couple of bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks.

    I’m with Theo, and not part of the “NI consensus,” on our 4/5 spots next year. We were 11-19 in Haren’s starts this year, including 11 straight losses from May 14 and July 22. That, incidentally, was the period when the season was lost. If we want to contend next year, we need way better performance from our No. 4/5. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure Rizzo understand that.

    By the way, bowdenball, if you’re reading, Haren made 14 starts after our bet on July 18. Det made 0. The NIDO spreadsheet is here:

    http://prettyfrickenbueno.wordpress.com/

  8. markinarlington - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    Davey says “Nobody wanted to play us this year” ?!?
    I can think of a couple teams that were happy to play – and beat – the Nats this year: the Cardinals and the Braves. It didn’t seem to matter whether those games were played early or middle or late in the season, either.

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      That’s ok – about this time next week, there will be someone eating this stuff up in the bar of some resort on Bora Bora.

      • Section 222 - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:28 AM

        Well played HH!

      • Eric - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        It would be, except Haren said that, not Davey ;)

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:15 AM

        Eric

        By all means, Dan should tag along.

      • Eric - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        I’m sure he’ll take your advice into consideration!

  9. Section 222 - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    What the heck happened on that last play in Atlanta last night?

    • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      apparently Chris Johnson is very emotional after he does not come through so he acts out on his equipment which that coach took offense to because it could hurt his teammates (throwing helmet or bat around).

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        Doesn’t that also damage the integrity of the game? Perhaps Mr. McCann should have a word with him?

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        Or stand in his way in the tunnel, at least.

      • Eric - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Ha!

  10. Eric - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Ha!

  11. natsfan1a - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    I heard that McCann blocked his access to the Gatorade cooler. ;-)

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