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January 31, 2008 at 9:06 AM

Bedard’s agent denies extension talks

Just when you thought this whole Erik Bedard trade saga couldn’t get any goofier, we get an email this morning from Mark Pieper, agent for said pitcher. In it, he blasts away at the story yesterday that suggested the reason for this entire trade delay was because the Orioles were negotiating with his client over a long-term contract extension.
Scratch that. The story, that is.
“The report that appeared yesterday regarding Erik Bedard on is wholly inaccurate and contains nothing factual,” Pieper wrote. “Quite honestly, that type of journalism is irresponsible and reckless.”
Guess he didn’t like the story. So, we’re back to square one. Any ideas? Well, it’s now 9:30 a.m. and Buster Olney of chimes in with another possible angle, posted just minutes ago. Here’s a snippet:
“When Jones was quoted as saying the deal was completed, this created a rules question, sources say: If Jones went for his physical examination, would the Orioles then be beholden to accept him, even if the physical exam did not go well.”
Uh, you wouldn’t think so. That’s the whole reason players take physicals before trades in the first place. There’s more:
“The inherent risk for the Mariners is that if either Jones or Sherrill were to flunk their physicals in Baltimore, then the respective value of the players would be diminished within the industry.”
As with any deal pending physicals, no? This story just gets more and more bizarre. I’ve got a few more things to say about it, too.

The first point is, if the Mariners gave even a second thought to all of this, don’t you think they would have laid out specific comment guidelines for Jones to follow upon being told of the trade?
I mean, Jones was going to have to explain things to his Venezuelan teammates and the press down there. It’s not like he was in Arizona and could be secretly spirited off to Baltimore for a physical before anyone became any the wiser. He was in the midst of a national championship in a baseball-crazed South American country, for crying out loud. Mariners GM Bill Bavasi, regardless of what some of you think of his trading acumen, is not a stupid man. He’s been to Latin America many times. He knows how much media there is at these winter league events and that Jones vanishing in the middle of the finals would be quickly noticed.
But it obviously wasn’t enough to worry him about what Jones might say. Some of you, a small handful, have been steadily writing in to chide us for reporting on the trade. But the fact is, an entire baseball team in Venezuela (made up of professional players who talk to the media all the time) was told about what was going on 24 hours before Jones was to fly out to Baltimore last Monday. Jones gave interviews about the trade to reporters in Venezuela. One of them, from ESPN Deportes — the network’s Spanish language arm — had his interview posted worldwide within hours. This news was going to get out, whether Jones said anything, or the Times was the first to publish it, or the South Americans were.
Jones leaving the team was going to be made public. Questions were going to be asked in many countries.
If Bavasi was even remotely concerned this would hold-up the deal in any way, logic dictates he would have told Jones in advance not to say anything.
But he didn’t. Apparently, he wasn’t all that concerned. Remember, he told Jones about the trade on Saturday. The flight to Baltimore was on Monday and the physical, because of the amount of travel Jones had to do, wasn’t going to be until Tuesday morning. Could anyone seriously have expected this to be kept a secret for nearly three days? Of course not. But Bavasi, apparently, wasn’t too concerned. He’s been a GM for a decade and knows how these things normally go.
What to conclude? They did not go normally this time. Why is that? My best guess still leads us back to Orioles owner Peter Angelos. He’s a litigator by trade. If anyone was going to raise an issue about the legality of a deal pending physicals, it would be him. Now, some of you might consider this a shrewd move by a trained lawyer. Others might say that Angelos — very upset at the leak the night the Jones interview came out — is merely nitpicking and doing the kind of thing folks have long accused him of.
All I can say is:
— The Mariners thought they had a deal on the weekend.
— Nobody on Seattle’s side was worried enough about the possibility of a leak, despite the three-day lag time before the actual physical, a hefty media presence in Venezuela and an entire baseball team that would be well aware of why Jones was leaving, to warn the player himself that talking might mess things up.
So, who is really to blame for this major delay? Draw your own conclusions.



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