My Underdogs for the Season: Reds

The Red Legs have been coming along for a couple years now, especially in pitching.  Take a look at RHP Aaron Harang,a starter who has been lowering his ERA with the Reds for 2 years.
Last year, over a career-high 211 innings, it was 3.83 despite a W-L
record of 11-13 — the latter a product of the young line-up, no
doubt.  In his 2 innings yesterday, he outpitched Boston’s Bronson
Arroyo with 0 ER’s to Arroyo’s 5 over 3 innings, all of which were
scored in the first.  Among the 7 batters Harang faced were historical
over-achievers Coco Crisp, Tony Graffanino, Trot Nixon, and Manny
Ramirez, and he held them to a single hit.  To be fair, Arroyo (0-2 in
3 starts, 17.55) seems to be having a rough spring.  On paper, his 2nd
and 3rd innings look more characteristic of him, with no runs scored,
but Arroyo uncritically attributes the difference only to "luck,"
saying that his pitches just happened to get popped up after the 1st.
I share his manager Tony Francona’s reluctance to get worked up about
Arroyo’s pitching so early in the spring.  On the other hand, I would
be concerned about his somewhat lackadaisical appraisal of the
distinction between his first inning pitches and those that followed.
That is, I would be concerned if I were not basking in mild
complacency about the threat that this Yankee nemisis seems to be
posing, for the moment.

Consider another young ace, the bait for a much-bemoaned 2003 trade
for the Yankees’  post-season lucky charm-to-be, third-baseman Aaron
Boone:  lefty Brandon Claussen,
who was then setting the air afire at AAA-Columbus (1.36 in 6 starts,
following 1.64 in 4 A-Tampa, the latter following a rapid-fire 10-month
recovery from Tommy John surgery).  He had already set Yankee hearts
aflame when he came up for his MLB debut to pitch 6.1 winning innings in the second game of a subway-style doubleheader against the Mets at Shea.
Two weeks later, after Claussen had gone back down to Columbus, George
Steinbrenner set the stage for a future acquisition (care to guess, anyone?!) that would leave
Yankee fans speechless (not a frequent occurence).  Oh, the dampening of those fiery Yankee
hearts!  Not only did we lose Claussen (and soon after, another lefty, fan favorite David Wells, who would be insulted into leaving his second tour with New York for hometown San Diego after being offered a minor league contract — yes, a story goes with it — this is not that story) — but also the first half of our switch-hitting third baseman "Robin Zeile." who was sent to Los Angeles for Scott Proctor and Bubba Crosby in another part of this contortionist multi-team deal.  Rumor had it that the whole tangle was really about blocking Boston from acquiring a certain Expos pitcher…any ideas?!  I longed for company, for historical context, for character, for, yes, Mike and the Mad Dog.  Indeed, the Yes Network reliably kept the camera on Mike Franscesa as he poured his baseball soul dourly into the microphone on the WFAN radio talkshow…. —to be continued later on today.

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