he Red Sox [team stats]’ long and arduous search for a starting pitcher is finished, Erik Bedard is on his way to Fenway Park and now begins an even more daunting task: finding someone who believes Bedard is a good fit in Boston.
It was two minutes before the trade deadline Sunday when Theo Epstein acquired Bedard from Seattle, and it was about two minutes after the deadline that we began to wonder why. Maybe Theo couldn’t coax Matt Young out of retirement. Maybe the Sox decided John Lackey needed another ornery 32-year-old out of the AL West to keep him company. Or maybe they were so desperate for a starter to replace Clay Buchholz that they settled for a square peg and will try to jam him into a round hole.
Bedard is a hard-throwing left-hander with the proverbial good stuff, but when you take a look at the complete package, it’s obvious he belongs in Boston about as much as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie belongs on an Abercrombie & Fitch billboard.
Bedard doesn’t like the media. He doesn’t like crowds. He doesn’t like attention. He doesn’t like day games. Some people wonder if he even likes baseball.
His disdain for the press is legendary. Once Bedard supposedly told the assembled media that he would answer five questions. When a reporter asked if he was serious, Bedard responded, “That’s one.” He allegedly answered four more before walking away.
In attempt to get some answers from the enigmatic pitcher, ESPN The Magazine solicited the help of Bedard’s teammates in Baltimore. Aubrey Huff asked the first question, which was, “Why do you hate the media?”
Bedard’s answer: “I’m not going to answer that one. That just stirs up stuff and leads to more questions.”
Oh, there are lots of questions waiting for Bedard when he gets to Boston. Such as: How come you never pitch after July 31?
Bedard has been on the disabled list 10 times in his career and hasn’t made a start in August or September in four years. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s August, and the Sox need him to pitch in big games down the stretch.
Bedard was in Seattle for 31⁄2 years, and by all accounts enjoyed his time in the laid-back Northwest. Indeed, his propensity to end up on the DL just before the trade deadline has led some to wonder if it was his way to thwart any possible deals to big-market teams.
“To me, that’s a sign he doesn’t want to be traded,” Jim Duquette, who was in the Orioles’ front office when Bedard was in Baltimore, told the Herald.
Bedard did not come down with an injury at the deadline this year, but he did not make it easy for the Mariners to deal him. All the scouts were watching closely when he made his final start Friday night. It was the 157th start of Bedard’s career and probably the worst. He lasted 11⁄3 innings, his shortest outing ever, and gave up four walks and five runs in an 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay. Seattle radio guy Mike Salk said yesterday on WEEI that Bedard’s final outing began with three straight wild pitches to the backstop in the bullpen.
“There’s definitely a belief out here that he tanked it so he wouldn’t have to go anywhere,” Salk said.
If that was Bedard’s plan, it didn’t work, as Epstein acquired him two days later. Bedard will wear No. 23 (and not his usual 45, last worn here by Pedro Martinez) and start Thursday night against the Indians. Salk called Bedard to the Red Sox “the ultimate recipe for disaster.”
Let’s be fair: No one is alleging that Bedard fondled a waitress or crashed his Ferrari into another motorist while going 100 mph, leaving the other driver partially paralyzed. Bedard hasn’t stomped on the face of a defenseless opponent. That’s another new guy in town. That’s Our Albert, and it’s been, like, months since he assaulted a teammate. And doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance, especially guys with lots of talent?
And just like Our Albert, Erik Bedard has talent. Since 2006, he has the best batting-average against (.229) in the American League, and his ERA during that span is 3.41. And in his career, he’s averaging almost a strikeout an inning (8.8 per nine innings). Epstein saw the upside and took a chance.
With Buchholz apparently out for the season, the Sox had to do something. Hiroki Kuroda wouldn’t waive his no-trade, and the price for Ubaldo Jimenez was just too high. The Sox thought they had a deal for Rich Harden but were scared off by his medical reports. They settled for Bedard, and now can hope for an upset. Can a player who doesn’t want to be here, who doesn’t like the big stage or the bright lights, thrive in Boston in a pennant race? Seems like a longshot.
Duquette, now with the MLB Network, said he “even tried to dissuade a couple of big-market clubs” from acquiring Bedard, a shocking admission from a former GM. Apparently, the other clubs took Duquette’s advice and shied away. Not the Sox. They dragged Bedard to Boston against his will, and now they will ask him to pitch them into the playoffs and beyond.
That’s asking a lot of a guy who hates answering questions.