By Danny O’Neil
The moment of joy I found on Saturday evening was admittedly immature, not entirely fair and more than just a little mean-spirited.
But I can’t deny the fact that Michael Saunders’ two-out double to center field made me giddy and not just because the Mariners took a 4-2 lead in what turned out to be the second of the team’s three straight victories in Houston.
Saunders’ hit put Astros starting pitcher Erik Bedard on the hook for the loss, and my satisfaction with this fact exposed one of the dark little corners of my soul.
It’s hard to argue that Bedard deserved to lose a game in which he retired the first 12 batters he faced, struck out 10 and left the game without having allowed a hit in the 109 pitches he threw over 6 1/3 innings.
Yet, I can’t think of a more fitting decision for the guy whose habitual inability to stay on the mound and whose petulance off it are two of the reasons he is my least favorite former Seattle athlete.
Yes, worse than Alex Rodriguez, who at least had the decency to produce at an All-Star level before he sold himself to the highest bidder. Yes, worse than Vin Baker, whose admitted drinking problem makes his difficulties as a Sonic deserving of some measure of pity.
And yes, worse even than Chone Figgins, because as surly and unproductive as he was – so much so the Mariners paid him $8 million to stay away this year – all he really cost the team was money.
Erik Bedard was 15-14 with a 3.31 ERA during his time in Seattle, but he missed all of 2010 and never pitched more than 100 innings in a season or threw more than 112 pitches in a start.
|Pitches per start:||91.4|
|Pitches per start:||97|
|2011 (traded at deadline)|
|Record with M’s:||4-7|
|ERA with M’s:||3.45|
|Innings pitched with M’s:||91.1||Starts with M’s:||16|
|Pitches per start with M’s:||94.4|
Bedard’s left arm set the Mariners back years both in what they gave up to acquire him in 2008 and the time they spent waiting on him. The fact that his public persona was nothing short of miserable was the cherry on top of this cow-pie sundae.
We pause now for a moment of perspective: Bedard’s performance – when he was able to perform, that is – wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it was downright decent. He was 15-14 with the Mariners with a 3.31 ERA.
It’s also not Bedard’s fault that Bill Bavasi – the Mariners’ general manager at the time – gave up three players who would go on to be All-Stars to acquire Bedard from Baltimore, a ransom that included center fielder Adam Jones.
And it’s not necessarily Bedard’s fault that he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch more than 100 innings for Seattle in any of his two and a half seasons with the team.
But the fact that someone with such ability appeared so consistently uninterested in straining himself even as the franchise caved him around made Bedard as unlikable as any Seattle athlete I can remember. At least tight end Jerramy Stevens had the common courtesy to try and convince us he was changing. Bedard started out miserable and pretty much remained that way.
He announced after his first spring training start that he’d be taking only six questions and when someone asked why that was, he responded that there were five questions remaining. Even if he was kidding, he wasn’t entirely joking, either. He was a singularly joyless presence in the clubhouse who was exceedingly fragile on the mound to the point his pitch count felt like both a leash and a crutch.
Now, I recognize it’s problematic and potentially unfair to criticize a professional athlete’s toughness. I don’t know how much he was hurting, and the man did undergo shoulder surgery in each of his first two seasons with the Mariners. The fact he never threw more than 110 pitches in a game for Seattle might have been a sign of a man knowing his limitations more than a lack of courage or conviction.
But if I’m being honest, the reason I dislike Bedard so much was because he seems so totally disinterested in pushing his limits and competing through discomfort. He was the guy who’d throw his five, six or occasionally seven innings and call it a day like a bank teller who’d worked his eight hours and was clocking out.
That’s what made Saturday’s game so very fitting. It embodied Bedard perfectly, capturing both his ability on the mound and the ease with which he walked off it.
Bedard did not allow a baserunner until the fifth inning when he walked Kendrys Morales. The Mariners scored twice in the sixth without the benefit of a hit as two walks, two passed balls and one sacrifice fly allowed Seattle to tie the game.
And two batters into the seventh inning, Bedard concluded he was cooked. Manager Bo Porter came to the mound after Bedard’s one-out walk to Justin Smoak, the pitcher telling his skipper that he was done. Actually, Bedard said that twice to Porter according to the Houston Chronicle.
“‘Are you sure?'” Porter said he asked Bedard. “‘Yes, I’m sure.’ At that point, I took the ball.”
So when Saunders drove in Smoak with his seventh-inning double, it left Bedard on the hook for a loss that felt downright karmic. For once, his lack of staying power helped the Mariners.