The Chicago Cubs’ Dan Haren announced his retirement on Sunday, sending out a tweet after the conclusion of the 2015 MLB season. Since he may not make the Cubs’ postseason roster, Haren’s 153rd career win was probably his last appearance in an MLB uniform.
Haren enjoyed a successful MLB career which included three All-Star selections and two top-ten Cy Young Award finishes, as well as seven post-season appearances (including two World Series relief outings in 2004). In 2011, when Haren finished seventh in Cy Young voting, he was second in fWAR (6.1 to Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, who finished tied with 6.4). It’s easy to forget what an excellent season Haren had in 2011 because his accomplishments were a bit overshadowed.
Haren was a fairly durable starter throughout his career, having made at least 30 starts in a season in 11 of his 13 seasons. During his peak, Haren was a workhorse, topping 200 innings pitched six times. He also won at least 10 games in 11 of his 13 seasons, as well. Haren, for his career, was worth 40.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
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Most people who follow me on Twitter know my love of Dan Haren, though they might not completely understand it. It’s been a while since Haren last pitched in the American League, and even longer since he was last on Tigers fans’ radar.
I became a Dan Haren fan because of the 1994 strike. If not for the strike, I probably would have just stopped watching baseball eventually. I wouldn’t have come back and latched on to Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and the chase for 61. I wouldn’t have become a Cardinals fan. I wouldn’t have noticed a top pitching prospect named Dan Haren, and I wouldn’t have decided to follow his career.
I wouldn’t have followed him to the Oakland A’s, and I certainly wouldn’t have met new people and made new friends. I wouldn’t have followed his career to Arizona and first taken notice of Max Scherzer. I wouldn’t have moved on to Los Angeles when Haren did, and I probably wouldn’t have met, Courtney, who is awesome and is as big a Dan Haren fan as I am (if not more so).
I wouldn’t have done a lot of things or liked a lot of people if I hadn’t become a fan of this baseball pitcher.
It might seem silly, obsessively following a player’s career and tracking him from team to team, but being a fan is—in a way—kind of silly. You’re not likely to ever meet them or build a relationship with them. They’ll probably never know your name. They might not even be a person you’d ever get along with or be friends with “in real life,” and yet you feel connected to them as a fan. Sometimes very strongly. When they retire it kind of, ridiculously enough, feels like a loss.
Dan Haren is the first of my real, honest to God favorites to retire. It reminds me that life is fleeting and, at the end, even your favs have to hang up their cleats.
Congratulations on a fine career, Dan. Thank you for being a part of my baseball experience for the last 13 years.
And I hope the Cubs win it all this year, because how cool would that be?