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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

September 18, 2008 at 9:51 AM

Time to close the book on Bedard?

The Mariners are wondering that very thing as we speak. We told you several months back, when folks were wringing their hands, saying this Erik Bedard deal would only be worth it if the M’s could somehow get him to sign a long-term deal, that sometimes a short-term arrangement is not the worst thing. And now, with news this morning that Bedard could be out six-to-nine months, the best the M’s can do is thank heavens they are not on-the-hook to him beyond 2008.
It sounds cold and it is to a degree. But baseball is a business. Right now, the Mariners are not obligated to tender Bedard a contract for 2009, given that he’s arbitration eligible. He made $7 million in salary this year and could walk away with $10 million next year — based on his numbers when he actually pitched this season –if an arbitrator has to get involved.
So, if you’re the M’s, you’re asking yourself, is 2/3 of a season, or half a season, of Bedard, if even that, worth $10 million? If the answer is “no” then the team has to seriously consider calling it a day, washing their hands of him and accepting the fact they just traded away five players for less than half a season from the lefty. That’s what I think. How about you? Should the M’s wait and see?
As a trade result, this doesn’t look good. In fact, it looks terrible on the M’s.
So, should the folks who advocated trading for Bedard resign en masse because of this? Well, only if they were negligent in their due dilligence or somehow knew he was going to get hurt ahead of time. But if Bedard got hurt early on in the season, which is the story we are now being given several months after the fact, then critics of the M’s have to get their beefs straight.
They can’t have it both ways.
If they’re going to carry the Bedard cross because they feel he’s been unfairly portrayed in some circles as “soft” and never had a chance to showcase his true value, then by the same token, the folks who dealt for him have to be cut some slack. Because if it’s unfair to Bedard that he could not pitch effectively, then it’s just as unfair to the people who traded for him that they never had the chance to see their plan properly executed.
If you want to throw the entire lost season at the trade’s advocates, the dismal failures across the board, then you can make a case for mass resignations pehaps. But on this one issue, if the guy was hurt all year, he was hurt all year.
If the beef is that only three players should have been dealt instead of five, well, that happens every year. There are always trades in which one team ships off one or two too many players. Very few front offices resign because of it. In fact, none do. People make mistakes. Trades are won and lost all the time.
The team took a gamble that another ace starter might put them over the top. They were wrong. Those of you who felt this was a .500 team? You were wrong as well. I was wrong about it being a contender. More importantly, the folks in charge were wrong about it because this team is lacking in so many fundamental areas that have all been nicely and neatly exposed this season. Last year? Not so much. A lot of the flaws of this team did not come shining through until 2008, when it became apparent that last year’s August-Sept. losing stretch was the rule rather than the exception. That the 2006 collapse in August was also the rule rather than the exception. That this team, built as it was, could not win when it mattered with the nine players in the field.
For that, there could be resignations. In fact, the guy who swung the deal, Bill Bavasi, is already gone. Maybe the folks who allowed him to run this team as long as he did should also be gone. But not for the Bedard deal on its own. The builders of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a sub-.500 team, won’t be resigning over the Dan Haren trade. Even though the D-Backs will likely miss the playoffs. Even though they don’t appear to be as good as last year, when they outperformed their Pythagorean record and made the playoffs. That team took a chance as well and it hasn’t worked out. At least, in their case, Haren is healthy and will have several more years to help that team go someplace.
Bedard won’t. Not in Seattle. But he did not sink the season. The offense did. When Bedard and other starters began coming off the rails, the season was pretty much lost already.
I saw something from Fukofan in the comments thread of the previous post saying I personally owed Bedard an apology for calling him soft. Nice try. I’ve been pushed by others for months to try to call him “soft” for public consumption, but have resisted the temptation.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s what I wrote on the issue back in early July, after he’d pitched what turned out to be his last game of 2008:
Now, I may get fried for writing this, but I’m not sure I subscribe to the whole “Bedard is a wimp” notion that I’ve seen come up in the blogosphere of late. I’m always reluctant to describe professional athletes this way. Let’s face it, many of them could take you or me apart in quick fashion. Not sure “wimps” describes them in reality, once we get beyond normal frustration at their performances. Bedard came to Seattle with a bulldog reputation and I’ve seen that bulldog approach on the mound from him all season. When he walks guys, like he did the other day against Detroit, he battles to prevent them from scoring. He doesn’t give up a grand slam on the next pitch. So, I don’t see a wimp there. This is where Bedard could really help himself by being a little more human and less standoffish with the media. His image has taken a hit in Seattle and around the game. Not because the media is trying to collectively bury him. But because fans are questioning his heart, based on what they see on the field, and he is doing nothing to address their concerns. Nothing to shut them up — on the mound or off it.
As his own PR agent, he should stick to pitching. Or hire an image consultant who knows what they are doing.
But in my eyes, I still see the bulldog mentality I’d heard about.
Trouble is, this season, he’s been a bulldog for five or six innings. That’s not “ace” quality. And teams will want to know what they’re trading for.

And today, I stand by every word. Been saying all along that I’m not a mind reader and can’t gouge pain levels in other people. Having had five knee operations already, I know about pain tolerance and how it differs from person to person.
That said, could Bedard have helped his own cause here? Of course. Look, I understand that some fans and fan blogs are going to media bash. It’s been going on for years, in plenty of cities other than this one, and isn’t exactly an original pursuit. The big, bad mainstream media makes a nice target for folks looking to score points with their constituents. I used to bash the mainstream media all the time when I was in college, working at smaller papers, trying to compete. It’s the thing to do. And for the most part, it’s harmless. It’s fun. Our skin is actually pretty thick. But you have to understand the basic idea of what the media does. First off, they are not the same as blogs run by fans. It’s not the media’s job to “respect” a ballplayer as a person because they happen to be a professional athlete. Respect is an earned, two-way street. Unless you want cowering types to report on your baseball team? Maybe some of you do. Not all of you, that much I can say with confidence, having spent two years trying to listen to the many things you have to say and the complaints about coverage you’ve had.
So, just accept that the media is going to question why a supposed “ace” starter who five players were traded away for is only able to go five innings and 100 pitches per start. If they didn’t ask, they’d be fanboys and fangirls. (Just to clarify, it was the team labeling Bedard an “ace” and not the pitcher. This is largely irrelevant to this point though, since the team putting that label on him would be grounds enough for the media to be asking pointedly why he was not producing.) And if the reaction to these abbreviated performances was simply to look the other way, you would all be wondering why the media wasn’t asking the tough questions. Plenty of us were asking questions about Bedard’s health way back in April, when some of you were arguing that he doesn’t have to talk to the media or explain anything. Fair enough.
But then, using that logic, his supporters can’t turn around and ask for “apologies” on his behalf. For what? For not automatically assuming he was hurt all along? Like I said, we’re not mind-readers. It’s not our job to make excuses for him. I know some players who have pitched, or played through pain on this team and they get cut some slack at some points. But they explain their position. And sometimes they don’t. They will say they simply have no excuse for poor performance and leave it up to us to decide.
All I’ll say on Bedard is this. If he tore something early on and it kept getting worse and worse, he probably should have told the team sooner. He should not have been out there in July.
I can tell you that, by July 4, that was pretty much my frame of mind when I wrote this piece after his final game. And when Jim Riggleman said that Bedard, who left after five innings again, had pitched really well, I wrote:
I agree with him on most of that. The issue isn’t the work he did on the scoreboard. He allowed just the one run. It’s the longevity. This team didn’t trade away five guys for a pitcher who needs his bullpen to hold off the Tigers for four innings.
By then, it was pretty clear the Bedard the M’s had was barely a facsimile of the seven-inning starter they had traded for. If he was hurt, it was time for the team to pull him off the field in meaningless games and get him well again. Not continue this charade where he doesn’t talk and the team quotes HIPPA statutes instead of offering plausible explanations.
If that’s the route you choose to take, you can’t complain later on that nobody asked you what was happening, or came up with excuses for you. For those who called him “soft” or a “wimp” they will have to explain themselves. I can’t do it for them. That’s not my job either.
When Mitch Levy asked me on KJR AM 950 yesterday what I thought about Bedard’s planned surgery, I said it was a good idea because regular physical therapy obviously was not helping him. Never suggested he was overstating his pain.
Now, one more thing. It’s been clear all along, from covering this team, that not everybody in the M’s organization believed Bedard was producing what he could all year. When Bill Bavasi got fired, he didn’t exacly make Bedard look great with some of his comments. And when you’re covering a team and the former boss of that team calls a player out like Bavasi did, and the response is silence, it makes you wonder. Once again, it’s our job to report what Bavasi says. Any media member would. I even posted Bavasi’s comments in this video down below.

And if you let the word of Bavasi, who clearly thought Bedard wasn’t doing enough to stay on the mound, become the accepted public version of the truth, without countering it, then you have nobody to blame but yourself.
While some want to use Bedard’s comments to point fingers at the mainstream media, I’m more interested in hearing the exact timeline of events from someone other than the pitcher. And figuring out who knew exactly what and when they knew it. Pitchers do actually pitch with partial labrum tears. It’s not all that uncommon, but depends on the severity of the tear — whether it’s just fraying or a serious rip. According to Bedard, this shoulder problem began during his second start of the season, after he’d already skipped an outing in Baltimore because of hip trouble. But what about spring training and his brutal showing in several outings in Arizona? Just a coincidence? Maybe it was. Maybe the problems began before the season started? I don’t know the answer to that.
There was certainly plenty of pressure on Bedard to perform. As there is on any pitcher earning millions of dollars who just had five players traded for him. I’m sure that Bedard felt pressure to perform, felt the media scutiny. Comes with the territory. It’s part of pitching for a team that goes into a season expecting to win. There was pressure — or should have been — on Richie Sexson, Ichiro, Raul Ibanez, Adrian Beltre and Yuniesky Betancourt as well. Some players responded better than others. The team, as a whole, choked when it had to perform.
And when the performance doesn’t compute, people are going to ask questions. You can either answer them, or stay silent, play the mystery man and invite speculation.
But it’s fair game for anyone to write, or speculate, about when a pitcher is throwing too few innings. You can’t simply sit there making excuses for a guy when he clearly is not producing what was expected. Or ignore the issue and assume “he’s obviously hurt.” Bedard and team officials were asked multiple times before July 4 whether the pitcher was healthy. Frankly, if the team keeps sending him out there, it’s tough to figure that he’s too badly hurt, especially when everyone keeps saying he’s fine. Even after July 4, all we heard for weeks was that Bedard was another week away from returning to the mound. Not that he required surgery and up to another year of recovery.
If this post sounds defensive, then it’s because it’s a defensive move. It’s a brave new world out there in cyberspace, where people have platforms to convey information as never before. If you don’t take the steps to clear up misconceptions when they happen, they become ingrained in the public’s consciousness and are accepted later on as fact. The silent approach did not work out too well for Erik Bedard and it’s not an approach I’m about to take either.
That said, I wish him good luck in his surgery — because anyone who’s had an operation knows it’s never “routine” — and truly hope the problem is not as serious as it sounds like it could be. He was a strong, promising pitcher a year ago, when many of us were advocating for him, and I’d hate to see that potential go unfulfilled. As a fellow Canadian, who knows what he means to people in our country, as well as a sports fan and a human being.
I just don’t see his future in Seattle lasting very much longer. Some things are meant to be and some just never click.



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