Interesting how things wind up going in baseball sometimes. For the Mariners and Erik Bedard, it’s come down to this: the biggest game the left-hander will wind up pitching for the team will be to punch his ticket out of town if all goes well.
Not quite the scenario envisioned three-plus years ago when the team traded five players — Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio — to acquire Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles. Back then, Bedard was supposed to help lead the M’s to the 2008 post-season.
Instead, he’s made only 45 starts since. The team has imploded twice to the tune of 101 losses each time. There has been a new front office, two brand new coaching staffs and almost an entirely new roster in the interim. The only Seattle players still around from the start of 2008 are Ichiro, Felix Hernandez and Bedard.
And not for much longer, if the Mariners have their way.
There is still talk of the Mariners re-signing Bedard as a free agent next winter even if he does finish the season with the Boston Red Sox, or the New York Yankees, or whoever. Right now, the odds appear to be on Bedard landing with Boston. The Red Sox are reeling from the potential long-term loss of starter Clay Buchholz and have the type of minor league talent to be able to afford to be aggressive in their pursuit of the lefty.
The Red Sox were going for a World Series title when the season began. After a rough start, they’ve righted the ship and appear on target for that title, as long as they don’t let a little itsy, bitsy thing like a rotation problem mess it all up.
That’s why the Sox appear in a position to not just pay for a pitcher who has missed a month due to his latest injury. But a position to overpay.
Given that the Red Sox appear to be the frontrunners in their pursuit of Bedard, it makes a bit more sense that the M’s actually put off his return from the DL. You’ll remember, he was initially expected to return at Fenway Park. But why would Boston — which, we now know, is very serious about landing him — want Bedard to come off the DL and hand them a potential loss at their home ballpark? Sort of like betting against yourself.
So, if you’re the M’s, you do the top suitor a favor and don’t allow such a situation to happen. Wouldn’t be the first time in baseball history such an arrangement has taken place. The M’s weren’t going to let Cliff Lee go out and face the Yankees last year either just a day before they thought they were trading the lefty to New York.
So, you skip the one rotation start in Boston and get Bedard even stronger for his showcase event tonight. Better to have him face the Rays in spacious Safeco Field anyway than a better-hitting team like the Red Sox in a bandbox.
They call that win-win.
Unless, of course, you’re a fan of Seattle baseball.
Even though dealing Bedard now is the “right” thing to do, the “responsible” thing to do for a team in a “seller” position, sitting 16 games under .500, it’s a little tough to believe that it’s all come down to this.
To the fact that Bedard’s biggest game with the M’s will have the end goal of getting rid of him in mind.
It doesn’t matter that one of the players initially traded for him — Butler — is now back in Seattle’s minor league system. Or that Jones has yet to become the superstar center fielder some initially envisioned. Or that the subsequent acquisition of Franklin Gutierrez mitigated some of the Jones loss (it looked initially like he might mitigate the loss entirely, but Gutierrez has since had plenty of struggles and is a player with tons to prove in the coming year). Or that Sherrill’s departure was mitigated by the influx of many new bullpen arms, though none of them with both closer and situational lefty potential mixed together. Or that Tillman has not emerged as the front-line starter many envisioned. Or that Mickolio’s ability has been duplicated by other M’s relief arms on multiple fronts.
In the end, there will always be the sense of something missed with Bedard.
Make no mistake, tonight could very well be his last game with Seattle. If he does indeed pan out with the Red Sox — or whoever — the next two months and in the post-season, he won’t be the bargain basement acquisition the M’s signed to one-year deals each of the past two seasons. His price will shoot up, quite possibly beyond what the M’s are willing to spend. He might find he likes his new home and wants to make that temporary situation — which would be much closer to his real home in Navan, Ontario — a more permanent arrangement.
Nothing is certain. If he leaves here after tonight, it could very well be forever.
And in its wake, will be left behind a sense of destiny unfulfilled.
For a Mariners franchise, still stumbling along in mediocrity, or worse, hoping to one day find the formula missing for so long.
And for Bedard, a pitcher who, for all of his Cy Young Award potential, has yet to be able to get to the finish line to make it all happen, either here, or even in Baltimore prior to the trade.
But maybe that’s what keeps landing Bedard these gigs.
He’s a guy who, for many reasons often beyond his control, always seems to leave you wanting more.
That’s better than being a guy who isn’t wanted.
The Mariners sure hope that’s the case after tonight. In the end, the biggest favor he’ll wind up doing the franchise is to pitch well enough for the Mariners to get rid of him.