Rich Harden: Don't Go Breakin' My Heart!

Nino CollaSenior Writer IMarch 27, 2008

I apologize if the title sounds too much like a song. It could very well be from something that I'd shame myself for watching.

But, then again, it's perfect for what I'm about to say about Oakland Athletics pitcher, Rich Harden.

Yeah, that Rich Harden. The young stud of a starting pitcher who broke onto the scene with the some of the nastiest of stuff you ever did see.

One of the very few reasons the A's felt comfortable about trading both Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson, breaking up what was deemed the "Big Three."

Harden, merely a kid in his first full big-league season, striking out 167 batters at the age of 22. This is a guy who proved he could get the job done.

With all the hype in the world and all the reasons to get behind him, it’s easy to see why big things are expected from Harden. He was the future of the Oakland rotation.

Unfortunately those nasty little baseball gremlins we call injuries poked their heads through the floor.

2004 saw him pitching 22 games, striking out 121 batters and have a career low ERA of 2.53. But it wasn't the full Harden experience.

He was destined for better things. That 2004 was cut short by a trip to the DL.

Last year, he even was coming out of the bullpen for a few games.

Now, with him presumably healthy and ready to go, in 2008, he has the potential to be the ace everyone thought he could be.

What happens?

Well, let's get the hope machine back up and running again, because after Wednesday morning's game in Japan, it looks as if Harden is ready.

We all know his game is the punch out.

Every time the A's come to Cleveland, I make it a point to walk over to the pen and watch him warm up if he is scheduled to pitch.

He is a fun pitcher to watch throw the ball. He can strike out just about anyone his heart desires.

The greatest part is Harden is only 26-years-old. He technically hasn't hit that "prime area" of his career.

So, now the question becomes...

Rich Harden, are you going to break my heart?

I don't know why he'd be breaking my heart; I'm not counting on him for anything, but, as a guy obsessed with fantasy baseball, who put large stock into him in the past, I like to see the guy succeed.

Wednesday's game sure looked like he was ready to go and put forth that season we all know he can deliver. Six strong innings of one-run baseball, striking out nine batters, including Manny Ramirez, twice.

If he keeps doing that, though, he will deliver. He needs to—for Oakland’s sake.

They have headed down that familiar road once again.

They've let their aces go. The final member of the "Big Three" in Barry Zito signed with the Giants last year, and, now, Dan Haren, who was acquired in the Mulder deal, was shipped to Arizona this last offseason.

With rumors of Joe Blanton being dealt as well during the off season, Harden has survived a lot.

Yet, he is still young and can still dazzle us before the A's decide to let him go, too.

Come on Rich! Don't let me down!