There were rumors flying about a few different starting pitchers last week. The Red Sox were one of the teams looking for a starter. Once they missed out on Ubaldo Jimenez and Huroki Kuroda refused to waive his no-trade clause, the Red Sox turned their focus on Erik Bedard and Rich Harden. Reportedly they had a trade in place for Harden, but were scared off by his medical reports.
Bedard no-doubt knew about the rumors as he took the mound last Friday night against the Rays. Bedard is legendary for his some-what odd personality. As Gerry Callahan noted in yesterday’s Boston Globe:
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.
So, that led people to wonder if he would even want to be traded, especially to a place like Boston. The Red Sox don’t play a lot of day games, but there is certainly a lot of media, crowds and attention. There are a lot of people who love baseball as well.
It seems almost ridiculous to suggest a professional athlete would intentionally look bad so that he would not be traded. In fact, Seattle radio personality Mike Salk notes, ““There’s definitely a belief out here that he tanked it so he wouldn’t have to go anywhere.” One could find the evidence of this if they were looking for it. It was reported that Bedard threw three straight wild pitches to begin his warm-ups. Once he took the mound against the Rays he allowed four walks and five runs in just 1.1 innings.
A closer look at the game, reveals that the Rays had some very good at bats. Bedard featured mostly fastballs and curveballs. Against lefties, the southpaw rarely threw a curveball. That’s not an unusual strategy. In fact, against Matt Joyce in the second, he threw three fastballs to get ahead, wasted a curveball and then tried to get Joyce on fastballs. After three straight foul balls, Bedard tried a curveball and missed, walking him on the ninth pitch of the at bat. Later in the inning, Desmond Jennings came up with the bases loaded and Bedard walked him using mostly curveballs.
It was not as if Bedard was unusually wild. He did have a terrible strike (29) to ball (28) ratio, but if he were intentionally throwing the game, wouldn’t it be worse? Why battle through tough at bats before just walking the hitter anyway? Does Bedard even care that we’re questioning his integrity to try his best for every start? I have to believe on some level that he does. He may not have been pitching hoping to be noticed, but if he really was “tanking” the game, then that was a really bad trade by the Red Sox.