When the Washington Nationals signed Dan Haren last December, both sides thought the 2013 season would go differently. But as the Nationals’ season winds down, and their playoff hopes dwindle, the veteran right-hander had an interesting perspective when asked about the future for the Nationals.
Haren’s personal future is unknown. A free agent after the season, the Nationals could offer Haren a one-year qualifying offer, which would pay him about $14 million. If Haren turned that down, the Nationals would get a draft pick from whatever team signs him this offseason.
Regardless, Haren is an astute veteran and he has become a popular teammate, so it was fascinating to hear his comments after Sunday afternoon’s loss about the future of the team.
“This area has a lot to look forward to,” Haren said. “I think last year, on the (Los Angeles Angels), we won I think 89-90 games and they kind of blew up the team. I think they struggled most of the year and have gotten on track lately here. I think that was the wrong thing to do.
“I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them, but I think the most important thing is to keep this group together. This could be a building block. Last year they had a great year. This year, we showed a lot of fight here these last few months and I think as close as things can stay to the guys in this room, I think, the better.”
Haren also offered an endorsement to bench coach Randy Knorr as the potential next manager of the Nationals.
“That (continuity) is top down, manager-wise,” he said. “I think Randy can step in and do a real good job. I think the guys overall seem to really like him. That just kind of goes into the organization not really needing to do too much. We got off to a slow start but I think we learned a lot of things.”
Haren said he was touched by the ceremony the Nationals held for manager Davey Johnson on Sunday, and used the way the Nationals have played for Johnson these last few weeks as an example of both the talent in the room and the manager’s profound impact on them.
“I think as the year has kind of come to an end, I think everyone has realized (they may be the last to play for Johnson),” Haren said. “I think that’s a big reason why we made this push, to get ourselves back into it — to just not go away and that be the way it ends for him.
“You really won’t hear anyone say anything bad about him. The guy, he’s so easy to talk to. I know his door’s always open but I just appreciate the fact that you can have a real man-to-man conversation with him and things don’t have to be about baseball. I think other organizations I’ve been with that hasn’t been the case. It’s been a real pleasure.”