I am not a betting man. The closest that I get to it is the annual fantasy baseball league or two that I play in with my best friend. However, I think the time has come to lay odds on what Erik Bedard will do now that he is out of Baltimore. Everyone is predicting a pitcher that will win 20 games next season and lead the team in the Emerald city to the playoffs. I’m really not sure that I agree.
Make no mistake about it, Bedard is the best pitcher and only ace the Orioles have had since Mike Mussina bolted for Bronx pinstripes. I think that it was in the spring of 2002 that I watched Bedard throw the most wicked curve that I had seen since Gregg Olson was in his prime to Rafael Palmeiro (then of the Texas Rangers….and not yet disgraced) in a spring training game. I went on the air with Nestor the next day and said “I have seen the future, and his name is Erik Bedard!” There was no question in my mind that he should have been in the lead for the American league Cy Young Award before he got hurt. Let me emphasize BEFORE he got hurt, and never pitched again. There was no question that he is a talent, and although it took a little while longer than those of us in Baltimore would have liked, for the most part, we saw that talent come to fruition. Talent however, (as I have heard a few people say in the last day or so) is not the only ingredient needed to be a champion.
A lot of people that have watched Bedard play question his heart and his desire. There are people in the organization who privately questioned his heart and his desire. I have to count myself among this crowd. Yes, it is hard to say that after watching the majority of his last two seasons in Baltimore when he made much of the American League look like little boys with tooth picks in their hands. That said, when I think of a leader, I have never thought of Erik Bedard.
Bedard and former Oriole ace Mike Mussina are similar in a few ways. Bedard and Mussina are both from small towns. They could both be aloof when it came to the media and the fans. They have both been perceived at arrogant by the masses. While Mike got there almost immediately in his career, when they arrived at the elite status, they both took the league by storm. At that point, much of the comparison comes to an end. Mike was a leader. Don’t mistake what I am saying. Mike wasn’t a leader of men. Certainly not! Mike was a pitching staff leader.
Mike always wanted the ball. He never wanted to come out of games. Mike was not only capable, but desirous of going 9 innings. He always cared about winning. If a season was going south, Mike still gave it all he had when he was on the mound. Whether it was for selfish, or for team reasons can be debated, but the results certainly cannot. They still benefited the team. As much as people would say that all of the conditions had to be right for Mike to pitch, I remember him holding the ball on the mound a whole lot of the time.
It always seemed pretty easy to keep Bedard off the mound. It wasn’t so much that people questioned that he was hurt when he missed starts, but many would question how long he would be gone, and how long it would take him to heal. It is true that this is an era in the game where completing what you started as a pitcher is a rarity. That said, it does happen! In his five year career, Erik Bedard has one complete game. ONE! That came last season in his most brilliant performance. You want your ace to be able to go the distance on occasion to save the pen and boost the team. I’ve heard some people criticize guys for not taking the ball on three days rest and not killing themselves to win. I think that is a bit much. However, your best pitcher should be able to carry the load.
Despite what he said yesterday at his press conference, I’m not sure that Bedard really cares about winning. While I will not put him in the category of being a bad guy as some have, I do think that rubs off on young impressionable players. The Orioles have gotten rid of a lot of the guys they had in the last few years who thought that as long as they were in the big leagues, that was enough. There are still a few left. Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen strike me as guys who do have a fire to prove something and to win. It would have be a shame to see that snuffed out. Perhaps I am underestimating him, and all he needs to turn on the eye of the tiger is the thrill of the pennant race. If that is the case, isn’t that in reverse? Don’t you want your staff leader to lead the charge rather than ride the wave? Let me put it another way; do you really think that the Baltimore Orioles will turn this decade long losing streak around with players who cannot find it in themselves to be winners? Particularly when that player is the staff pitching ace?
If the Orioles had kept him, he would have been a free agent in two years. Despite so many of these glaring issues, Bedard will probably command $18 – $20 million dollars. Frankly, I don’t think that he is worth it now, and I would bet that he won’t be worth it then. If even a couple of the players that the Orioles received prove to make an impact, that is money well spent if you ask me. If Adam Jones is one of those players, the Orioles could be in good shape.
I think that I have given you a decent picture of what I think of Bedard. So, the over/under on what I think his season will look like:
Wins – 15-17: I don’t think Bedard will win 20 games. Only one pitcher has done it in the last two years. His improved bullpen will help him. So will pitching the majority of his games at Safeco. I am not sure however how much better the Mariners offense is going to be than what the Orioles had last year. If they had kept Jose Guillen, I might think more of it. They have some holes that they need to figure. Bedard also doesn’t go deep enough into games to bridge the gap in the close ones. Finally, he can’t stay healthy through an entire season.
ERA – 3.50 – 3.85: That is a product of talent, execution, knowing the league, and defense. He can handle his end when he is healthy, and the Mariners should be an exceptional defensive team.
STRIKEOUTS – 225: Yes, he almost reached that number in five months last season. If he is smart, he will see how good his defense is, and save some of his arm by letting his guys catch the ball. (Adrian Beltre and Yuniesky Betancourt may be the best defensive left side of an infield in the American League.)
TIME ON THE DL – 30-35 days: There is no question in my mind that he will spend at least a month on the 15 day DL sometime this season. It could be an oblique. It might be a strained hamstring. He might wear his new hat too tightly causing migranes. Whatever the case, I would bet that he suffers a legitimate injury requiring an illegitimate recovery time.
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS – 0: I think the Mariners have overestimated how good they are from top to bottom. Felix Hernandez is much like Bedard was a few years ago. He has tons of talent, but is still figuring it out. I think that he is far too young to be considered staff ace 1-A. As I mentioned earlier, I think the offense is going to have trouble. Despite the recent news that Kelvim Escobar could be out for the Angels, I think that they are still the team to beat in 2008. Yes the A’s and Rangers are rebuilding, which makes it a two team race, but anything can happen in a 4 team division. Don’t be surprised if the Rangers return to the top of the division in 2009. They still have a nice collection of talent in Arlington. A year from now they might finally have the pitching staff to go with it.
NUMBER OF CHAMPIONCHIPS IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS – 0: (See above.)
FREE AGENT SALARY IN 2009 – 18.5 million dollars annually, 5-7 year deal: No matter what you or I think, he is one of the best pitchers in the game. With what some of the jokers out there are making, there is no doubt that barring injury, Bedard has a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge pay day coming! Who knows, if the Orioles want him back, maybe they’ll pony up the dough. I’d just assume they’d pass.
I have nothing against Erik Bedard. I don’t have a problem with what he said yesterday. Frankly, he told the truth, and didn’t embarrass Baltimore while doing it. I couldn’t care less whether he ever speaks to the media. I also wish him well in making as much money as he possibly can. I just don’t think he is made of the stuff that you want in a champion. Good luck in Seattle Erik! I’m looking forward to watching Adam Jones go get ‘em in center!