Dominant half makes Haren All-Star
Righty named A's lone representative for Midsummer Classic
NEW YORK -- A's righty Dan Haren went into this past offseason determined to earn the role of staff ace, and his hard work was rewarded with his first Opening Day assignment.
Haren's work on the mound since the season opened made it clear that he is indeed Oakland's ace, and the reward for his brilliance came on Sunday, when he was named to the American League All-Star team as the club's lone representative for the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday, July 10, at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
"It's obviously a huge honor," Haren said on Sunday afternoon. "I've been a little nervous about it the past few days. ... I found out this morning at about 10 or 10:30, and I think it relaxed me a little bit."
Nervous? Haren, who opened the season 0-2 despite posting a 0.69 ERA in his first two starts, entered his Sunday start at Yankee Stadium at 9-2 with a Major League-leading 1.91 ERA, and he hadn't lost since April 7.
"If there's a better pitcher in the game this year, we haven't seen him," A's second baseman Mark Ellis said earlier this month. "He's been unbelievable."
Ellis' colleagues clearly agree. Haren made the team based on player voting.
"He's everything you want a No. 1 guy to be," said A's third baseman Eric Chavez.
The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers -- become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season -- in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and La Russa -- then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.
The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Haren, 26, entered Sunday's game either at or near the top in several statistical categories this season. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Southern California native had the lowest opponents' batting average (.194) and on-base percentage (.246) in the Majors, and he ranked third in slugging percentage (.310). He has also pitched the third-most innings (117 2/3) in the AL, was tied for fourth in wins, ranked fifth in winning percentage (.818) and eighth in strikeouts (93).
Many of those numbers took a hit on Sunday, when Haren gave up five runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out five over 5 1/3 innings. But his 2.20 ERA remains the lowest in the AL, and he improved to 10-2 with Oakland's 11-5 victory.
A's manager Bob Geren insisted that those numbers merit strong consideration for Haren to get the starting nod for the AL.
"A sub-2.00 ERA [through June] in this league is phenomenal," Geren said. "And with a few breaks -- we've blown some leads for him at times and not given him much run support at other times -- he'd probably be leading the league in wins, too. I think he should start, yeah. Definitely.
"And it's not just numbers, for me. For one thing, Dan worked so hard to fill the leadership role that kind of opened up when Barry [Zito] left, so it's nice to see that work pay off for a guy. And then you look at other things like the game being in the Bay Area and Dan being on a Bay Area team.
"And then there's his schedule. His last start of the first half is next Friday, and I believe the All-Star starter pretty much always goes two innings, and by Tuesday, he'll be ready to do that for sure.
"I know there's some guys having great years, too, but I think Danny's the perfect choice to start."
Chavez also endorsed Haren as a strong starting candidate, but he suggested that Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia might get a long look based on name recognition.
"You could throw either one out there and I don't think anybody would complain about it," Chavez said. "[But] C.C.'s name has been out there a while, and Danny's kind of just jumping onto the scene."
Haren, a second-round pick of the Cardinals out of Pepperdine University in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, made his big-league debut with St. Louis with 14 starts in 2003, going 3-7 with a 5.08 ERA. The following year, he made 14 more appearances for the Cards but worked mostly in relief -- making five starts -- going 3-3 with 4.50 ERA to earn a spot on St. Louis' playoff roster.
He opened a lot of eyes in the 2004 postseason, posting a 1-0 record with a 2.16 ERA in five relief outings, and he was particularly effective in the World Series, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in two games.
That winter, he was sent -- along with righty reliever Kiko Calero and prospect Daric Barton -- to the A's in exchange for lefty Mark Mulder, and the A's immediately gave him a spot in their young rotation.
Haren struggled early in the 2005 season, going 1-7 with a 4.87 ERA over the first two months, but he bounced back by going 13-5 with a 3.33 ERA over his final 24 starts and ended the year at 14-12 with a 3.73 ERA.
"That [second half] confirmed what we thought we knew about Danny," A's general manager Billy Beane said last season. "We knew he had the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation guy."
Haren was somewhat inconsistent in 2006, going 14-13 with a 4.12 ERA, but when it was clear that Zito would be moving on as a free agent, the dual role of ace and staff leader opened up. Haren dove into his offseason workouts determined to step into it.
"We were both in the Bay Area over the winter, so I saw Dan a lot, worked out with him," Geren said, "and you could tell how serious he was. He took great care of his body and really embraced the challenge of taking his game to the next level.
"And now look where he is -- best pitcher in baseball, in my opinion. Pretty impressive."
Haren doesn't seem particularly impressed with himself, but as he prepared for Oakland's cross-country flight home on Sunday evening, he was already thinking about the festivities for which he's in store.
"I know a lot of people bring their kids on the field," said Haren, who got married over the winter and doesn't have children. "I told my wife I'm bringing my dog onto the field."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.