“Building For The World Series . . .”

When baseball commentator Ken Rosenthal heard that the Nationals had signed righty Dan Haren to a one year $13 million contract, he shook his head in admiration: “This is a team building for the World Series,” he said on MLB Network, “and the signing of Haren shows that.”

Indeed. And Washington fans have every right to celebrate Haren’s arrival. After all, what’s not to like? The 32-year-old veteran has a track record of success (119-97 in ten years in the majors), racks up innings (238.1 in 2011), is a “gamer” — having thrown for both winners (Anaheim’s Belinskys) and losers (the up-and-down Snakes) and has shown remarkable consistency: never dipping below a .500 win/loss record in each of the last eight seasons.

But then there’s this: at the same moment that Danny and the Halos were tanking in the A.L West back in September, Haren was struggling through the worst season of his career, posting careers worsts in WHIP, H/9, HR/9, tying his second worst K/9 and throwing “only” 176 innings, his worst mark since becoming a starter in 2005.

What’s not to like? Well, plenty as it turns out. For while Haren was once among baseball’s elite fireballers, his fastball hasn’t topped out at an unspectacular 92-93 mph for the last two years and his back and hip problems were so bad that the mighty Cubs called off a proposed swap back in November that would have brought him to Chicago in exchange for Carlos Marmol.

Of course — and perhaps in spite of all of it — the signing of Haren brings a definite upside for the Nats, despite his poor year. The righty rebounded after the All Star break (a 3.58 ERA in thirteen starts), and pitched better even with his injury than Washington’s fourth starter, Edwin Jackson.

And there’s also this: the signing of Haren allows Mikey & Company to refocus their efforts on re-signing Adam LaRoche (the Nationals will to be creative, perhaps offering a lucrative buy out instead of a third contract year) and dealing Michael Morse. The Haren signing makes a potential Morse swap (we’ll miss the “A-Ha” song) all that more interesting, particularly if the Nationals trade him for a couple of top level pitching prospects — as insurance on Haren’s back.

And let’s not forget the Angel’s role in all of this. If Zack Greinke weren’t on the market, the Halos might have been less anxious to rid themselves of the services of Haren (and Santana) in what amounts to a salary dump. They’ll need every penny they can get.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: You know you’re in trouble when, in the middle of October, the people you’ve worked with for twenty years (and here they are) give you that special look and ask: “hey man, where ya been?” So we’re back — even if we had to take some time off to make a living . . .

And we admit, it was a rough time watching the McCoveys make the Tiger look like the Mets, particularly while spending every half inning muttering about how things might have been different if only . . .  Still, at least we got to see the stinking Gibsons get what they deserved . . . as “the ball skipped past a diving Kozma . . . ”

Then too, we were wracked by guilt for having left our readers in the lurch, with a headline reading . . . “devastating.” The single word left a bad taste in our web of worldwide readers, most of whom were more than satisfied with the Nationals’ great 2012 season, even if it did end on a down note . . .

“You can’t just leave it out there like that,” one of our most avid fans told us by telephone. “This was a great season. Who could have predicted it?” We agree: but it took the Dan Haren signing (and a decent interval, so to speak) for us to get our legs back. And while the excitement is not yet fully . . . ah . . . “in the air” it’s getting close enough.

It’s just four months, or thereabouts, until we Stras (sans innings limit), Gio, J.Z., Ross and now Danny pound, pummel and crush the Overrateds, Bankrupts, Chops and Chokes in breezing to their second N.L East Division Championship.

So say we all . . .

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