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July 31, 2011 at 7:27 PM

End of the Erik Bedard and Bill Bavasi era for the Mariners

Today’s trade of Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard to the Boston Red Sox had to happen. It helps the Mariners save some of the money Bedard would have been owed — well beyond his $1 million base salary thanks to incentives — as well as garnering them two more outfield prospects who appear to be close to the majors.
The fact that Josh Fields will be added in to the outgoing Seattle portion of the deal matters little. Fields never really took in Seattle, where he staged a bizarre early holdout for six figures in additional cash when he could have spent part of the 2008 season with the M’s had he played his cards right.
Instead, Fields becomes the fourth and final No. 1 draft pick from the Bill Bavasi era to be traded out of town by GM Jack Zduriencik. Fields joins Jeff Clement, Brandon Morrow and Phillippe Aumont in departing the organization.
We wish Fields well. But he had no future with the M’s. There are too many guys ahead of him, including Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Shawn Kelley and — for now — David Aardsma, assuming he signs a team-friendly, incentive-laden deal for when he heals from Tommy John surgery at some point next year. Brandon League? I fully expect him to be dealt this winter.
But Fields is pretty much the end of the top-level Bill Bavasi draft era.
And Bedard leaving marks the end of the trade that sealed Bavasi’s firing from Seattle. A 5-for-1 deal that never was as bad as its critics made it out to be, but also was never going to wind up in a win for the M’s.
That went out the window with 101 losses in 2008. It was further cemented by an additional 101 losses in a 2010 season in which Bedard never threw a pitch.
Now, Bedard is gone. And it’s probably forever.
Photo Credit: AP

There will be some fans and Bedard-backers who will protest that last statement and say there’s no reason the team can’t sign him again this off-season.
Not to poop on anyone’s party, but why?
Why would a team that claims to want to win a championship someday want to bring Bedard back here?
Hey, I was the guy who lobbied in support of the Bavasi-backed Bedard trade from Day 1. Even as its detractors in Baltimore and Seattle loudly pointed out to me that Bedard was an injury-prone guy who had never thrown 200 innings.
Forget the five players traded for Bedard. That was always overdone. Most of the five were filler. The only guys who mattered were Adam Jones and Chris Tillman and so far, Jones is the only guy who has come close to fulfilling expectations. Huge expectations, which will always make this deal a loss for Seattle.
But for me, that’s not where my prediction missed big.
I thought Bedard could be another staff ace to go with a then-fledgling, somewhat immature Felix Hernandez. Instead, it was Hernandez who proved the big brother of the duo. It was Hernandez who changed and became Bedard’s equal and then his superior. Not Bedard who left young Hernandez in his dust and mentored him.
Hernandez and Bedard became best buds. And that’s great. Except one guy was 32 and the other 25. Not passing judgment here, as friends can be friends at whatever age, just as I have friends in their 50s. But from a baseball standpoint, Hernandez passed Bedard a long time ago. Hernandez is the guy who can now take the ball every fifth day, stare into the abyss and offer his team a way out.
Bedard isn’t quite there. He may never get there.
What Bedard is, is a darned good pitcher when healthy and on a mound. For the Mariners, that hasn’t been enough. And this season, when Bedard was one of five rotation guys keeping Seattle in a late-June race, he again went down with an injury. Not saying it’s his fault. As a veteran of six knee operations that run the gamut of severity, I can tell you knees are tricky and recovery varies from person to person.
But Bedard hasn’t finished a baseball season in an awful long time.
Maybe it’s just bad luck. Maybe he’s predisposed to this kind of thing. I don’t think — as some have suggested — that this is a deliberate attempt for Bedard to avoid a trade and stay in Seattle. That seems a little bit crazy if it was a plan. Because by now, after all of this time and all of these injuries, that plan to me seems self-destructive.
Because for now, having seen Bedard unable to complete a season for one reason or another ever since he arrived here, you’d think the M’s would simply quit trying to buck the karma. You’d think they’d get the message that it just ain’t meant to be here for Bedard and Seattle baseball.
And him tanking it deliberately? Sounds good, but I’ll never believe it. Because if anything, it would serve to keep a logical GM at arm’s length in the future.
If I’m Bedard and I really want back in Seattle, I fight off that knee injury best I could and get back on a mound as quickly as possible and prove to GM Jack Zduriencik that I have what it takes to produce in a one-game showcase. That I have what it takes to pitch in Boston down the stretch and hey, if Seattle really likes me that much, they fight for me next winter because they believe in me.
Bedard stayed in Seattle last year because it was his best bet.
Now, the M’s have to do what is in their best interests. And rolling the dice on Bedard one more time probably is not one of them.
Want to be a championship club? Then you want guys who will thrive when the pressure’s on, in any market and on any stage.
Problem is, if Bedard does that with the Red Sox, his asking price will probably be too much for the Mariners to afford. Especially if, as I suspect, this team won’t really try to go for it before 2013.
And if Bedard fails in Boston and can be had real cheap? Then why would a championship wannabe team want him? He’s a guy who, in four seasons here, did not make it to the finish line. It may not have been his fault, but this is pro baseball. Pro sports. Fairness need not apply. Bedard has not made it to the finish line in an awful long time as a major leaguer. It’s time for the M’s to stop trying to make that happen. Call it karma. Call it bad luck. Call it a mysterious coming together of cosmic forces.
Who cares?
If this team is about winning, it needs guys who can finish. Not guys who offer a good deal, then can’t get it done halfway through a season. After four years in Seattle, and more in Baltimore before that, Bedard could not do it. This isn’t about fault. It’s about moving on to pitchers you know will be there to take the ball every fifth day (Rich Harden is not one of them).
And if Bedard goes on to do it for Boston, more power to him. If he lands a multi-year deal with the Yankees or — even better — a National League team, I want my fellow Canadian to succeed.
This isn’t about post-game interview ability. Any reporter who relies on post-game interviews for anything isn’t very good at their job.
It’s about the M’s shedding their reputation as the last refuge for guys who can’t handle the spotlight. Who can’t handle the big time. If Seattle ever wants to be “big time” in baseball again, it has to stop harboring these guys. Whether it’s bad news like Milton Bradley or bad luck like Erik Bedard.
If I read some national writer saying once more that “(insert player name here) will thrive in Seattle because of a lack of pressure or expectations” I’m going to explode. Time to set higher expectations folks. Let’s get some winners into this town who want to be here for reasons other than last resort.
Maybe that was Bedard. But he’s had extra chances here. Those are done. Time for this team to move on to someone else and resist the urge to take the “incentive-laden” candy. Incentive to what? Half a season? Please, prove me wrong. Somebody. I wanted Bedard to be traded here.
Good luck Mr. Bedard. I hope you win a World Series and can retire to your peaceful hometown with the serenity and privacy you crave. Sounds like a good life. You aren’t a bad person. Just no longer right for M’s baseball.
I also hope the M’s win a World Series someday.
Zduriencik made a very good deadline deal with not much going for him this afternoon. All in all, because of this deal, I’d say he had a very good weekend and now has a surplus of outfielders he can package in a trade or trades at the upcoming winter meetings in Dallas.
With today’s deal, Zduriencik moved on. Here’s to hoping he truly stays the course and doesn’t backtrack. Because from this point forward, some of us expect to see the guys who actually will be part of a championship team someday out on the field for the Mariners. We’ve seen enough of the placeholders and fill-ins up to this point.
At some point, this rebuilding plan has to kick into gear. And after the trials and tribulations of his fourth season here, I just can’t see Bedard as a part of it.



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