I feel like I’m about 75 percent over the vacation-killing sickness that turned what was supposed to be a relaxing week off into a nap-induced haze of, well, I don’t know what.
Anyway, I’m not sure if the lingering queasiness I’m still feeling has more to do with getting over the stomach flu or the Chicago Cubs’ recent trade for oft-injured Oakland A’s starter Rich Harden.
Personally, I think I’m all for the move. I think. The Milwaukee Brewers went out and signed a three-month sublease with CC Sabathia, and the Cubs had to do something. Getting Harden, who one player referred to as “dirt” (that’s baseball talk for having dirty, filthy, nasty stuff — a good thing for a pitcher), gives the Cubs a potentially dominant starting rotation, one that even before the trade already boasted the top starters ERA in the National League.
But Harden carries with him a large “Fragile” tag. And baseball fans have come to learn that when A’s GM Billy Beane’s name comes up on their favorite teams’ Caller ID, it’s time for intense focus. See examples, Mulder, Mark; Hudson, Tim; ZITO, BARRY.
The word is that Harden’s velocity has dropped in his last two starts, which may come from the fact that he’s worked more innings this season than in the last two combined — and that came with a month-long stay on the DL to start this season (Eccchhhh.) He’s worked more than 130 innings in a season only once in his career, and while it doesn’t appear on the surface that the Cubs gave up too much to get him, Harden’s real value is tied more to his hospital chart than his pitching.
I think it’s a worthwhile gamble for the Cubs. They gave up a nice 22-year-old pitcher in Sean Gallagher, who has a chance to be pretty good. But they also gave up two position players — outfielder Matt Murton and infielder Eric Patterson — who weren’t going to break into the regular Chicago Nine anytime soon. If Harden is healthy and, well, dirty, then backing Carlos Zambrano up with him and a rejuvenated Ryan Dempster make the Cubs formidable in October.
But if Harden’s not healthy, then he’s the Second Coming of Mark Prior.
And that makes my stomach hurt.