Few moves have had the impact of the Seattle Mariners initial acquisition of Erik Bedard. Following the Mariners’ first winning season in years, the 2007-08 off-season was difficult to get a handle on. Many felt 2007 had been a year of surprisingly good, unsustainable luck for the team. Some wanted GM Bill Bavasi fired. Others saw an annually increasing win total and held to hope of a contender.
At some point, Bedard’s name started flying in rumors, and eventually he was acquired for 5 players. Opinion was again heavily divided. Few complained about having Bedard on the team, but most felt the team had overspent to acquire him, especially given the team’s status as anything but a sure contender. Still, the future of the rotation, and the team in general, looked positive.
And then, it quickly fell apart. Bedard was named opening day starter, a move that seemed to disappoint Felix Hernandez and likely added unnecessary pressure on Bedard. He refused to play nice with the local media, answering most questions rudely or with one word answers. They proceeded to question and doubt every move he made.
Bedard pitched well when the season started, if not up to the level of 2007, when he was legitimately one of the few best pitchers in baseball. There were steady complaints that he threw only 100 pitches per start, even though that’s the common point when most pitchers lose their effectiveness. And then he got hurt, and the Mariners finished with the second worst record in baseball. They fired Bavasi, and it’s not a stretch to think that had Bedard put together the Cy Young-type year hoped for, Bavasi might still be around.
Instead, Jack Zduriencik was hired. The team was largely rebuilt, and Ken Griffey Jr. came home and tickled Ichiro all the way to the happiest 85 win team in history. Bedard contributed, starting the year pitching like we all hoped he would when he came from Baltimore, but then he got hurt again, the dreaded torn labrum, and it looked like Seattle’s last vision of Erik Bedard would be as the symbol of Bill Bavasi’s tenure: he was everything we hoped for that didn’t come true, and we were glad to see him go.
Now, pending a physical, he’s back. And this time, he is somehow a demonstration of everything we love about the new Mariners. He’s not being depended on or overpaid, and he isn’t Carlos Silva. If he’s good, it will likely mean the playoffs. If he’s not, oh well. The team will find someone else, and it will still hopefully mean the playoffs. It’s not all or nothing this time.
Some will see it as a risky signing, because there’s a strong chance he won’t return from the surgery, to his previous level or at all. Really, there’s little risk. The only way he’s paid more than $1.5 million is if he earns it. He’s not costing them Adam Jones or George Sherrill or Chris Tillman, much less all three plus a couple more. With any luck (or a lot of luck), he’ll pitch in June and by August and September he’ll be the dominant starter on a playoff team the Mariners thought they were getting two years ago. If not, we’ve been down this road before. Only now, Bedard is the potential cherry on top, not the whole sundae.