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June 19, 2009 at 9:34 AM

Big weekend ahead for Erik Bedard and the Mariners

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On a positive note, I suppose you could say the Mariners have come a long way from where they were a year ago today. That’s when John McLaren was fired as manager, just three days after the dismissal of Bill Bavasi as GM.
Today, the Mariners are nowhere close to grumbling about their manager, off to the all-star game, and GM, whose trade of J.J. Putz and company to the Mets keeps paying off dividends. As of right now, the Mariners have six guys on their 25-man roster who were fruits of that trade: Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Ronny Cedeno, Garrett Olson (acquired in a flip of trade product Aaron Heilman) and Jason Vargas.
The Mariners are also still trying to take a stab at .500 and sit only 5 1/2 games out of the division lead. That’s right: over the last 10 days of going 5-5, including being swept in Colorado, the M’s lost no ground to the struggling Texas Rangers.
But things are getting complicated on that front as this team now faces its toughest task of the season: continuing to compete in the face of adversity. Losing Jose Lopez indefinitely will be huge (on a personal note, the suffering he’s had to endure with siblings the past two years is something no 25-year-old should know), and today, the Erik Bedard situation becomes more clear.
Get good news from the MRI exam — meaning Bedard could make his scheduled Tuesday start — and things start to look brighter. Get bad news, or “so-so” news delivered in small doses by the team (remember, Ryan Rowland-Smith was never supposed to be out three months, as he’s now heading for), and this season could be done.
No way this team contends without Bedard, near or long-term. The hitting isn’t good enough and the pitching won’t remain the league’s best without him.
And then, of course, there’s the obvious that losing Bedard for any sustained period at the onset of July won’t do anything for his trade value. There has been a lot of teeth-gnashing by folks the past few days who say the Mariners should have dealt Bedard weeks ago. Maybe, but to who? The Philadelphia Phillies were probably the most logical choice, but let’s get serious. They don’t live in a cave, They have access to modern communications equipment and know all about Bedard and his questionable health status of the past few years. They employ a former Mariners vice-president in Benny Looper, a former Seattle GM in Pat Gillick who lives in Magnolia and serves as their senior advisor, not to mention Bedard’s former Baltimore manager and Seattle coach, Sam Perlozzo. Oh yeah, some ex-teammates, too, like Raul Ibanez and Miguel Cairo (in Class AAA).
Believe me, the Phillies know as much about Bedard as any of us here in Seattle do. They weren’t going to rush out and trade the farm for him without waiting to see how he was holding up. I figure a team at least has to wait until July 4, which proved to be his expiry date last season. And it’s not only the Phils. Every major league team knows the issues with him: they aren’t stupid. Only way the Phils were going to panic and offer up a flurry of prospects in an early deal was if they started sinking in the NL East. That hasn’t happened, and they lead that division by three games. They don’t have to move too quickly.
As for the Toronto Blue Jays, trust me, even though they’re sinking in the AL East and now have serious pitching problems of their own, they don’t move that quickly. Too many layers of bureaucracy there. And they have a strict payroll with limited flexibility to take on four months of Bedard.
So, the “could have” trade thing with him is a non-issue. They couldn’t have. There were no firm offers.
In the real world, the Mariners have to look ahead and hope Bedard can get back on the mound ASAP. The trade scenario is something they can worry about once their on-field aspirations more or less wilt. That might happen soon enough, but to keep those going there are two things the M’s will have to do right away, starting this weekend.
1. Improve their home record
2. Improve their interleague record.
Those two will go hand-in-hand this weekend. The Mariners are a mere 16-14 at home, only a half-game better than last-place Oakland. They had played within a game or two of .500 on the road all year until that sweep in Colorado. Contenders try to play .500 on the road and then pad their record at home. The Mariners have not done that. The Rangers are 22-14 at home. The Angels, for all of their early-season difficulties, are 17-12. So, the M’s have to get better in Seattle.
And this weekend is a great place to start. The M’s have one of the easiest interleague schedules of any big-league team — if you go by record and strength of division — yet sit only 4-5 halfway through. That won’t do. They now have six consecutive home games against Arizona and San Diego and have to make some headway.
A .500 record after the full 18 games will probably end their realistic hopes of contending. They may kick around a little longer, but face it: there are trips to New York and Boston looming just around the corner. If this team is ever going to go on one of those five or six-game win streaks to vault right back into the division race, this is probably the best chance of doing it.
And they are going to have to do it shorthanded for a while. Nobody said it was going to be easy. But the all-star break is just three weeks away. After that, the real trading season begins and five games back probably doesn’t keep this club together.



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