Mariners Pay Tribute To Sonics With Offense That Doesn't Exist

Pitchers, of course

I don't think it's fair to say there was only one reason to watch this game. There were several reasons to watch this game. There was the whole tribute to the Seattle (Super)Sonics beforehand, and then throughout with guests in the booth. There were young and interesting players, like Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, and Justin Smoak. There was the aged icon, in Ichiro. There was Brendan Ryan. There was all the talent on the Rays. And, of course, there was the simple fact that this was a baseball game, and we all like baseball and will miss it when it's gone.

But while there were a number of reasons to watch, there was one that was so much bigger than all the others. One that stood out from the pack. And that, obviously, was Erik Bedard's return from the disabled list. It was no secret that Bedard was going to be heavily scouted by other organizations, and so we all wanted to see some signs of life for the purpose of maximizing a potential trade return. As much as many of us like Bedard as a pitcher, there's no denying the excitement of trade rumors when you might be able to trade short-term talent for long-term talent.

So we settled in on a Friday night, crossing our fingers that Bedard would be able to work five or six effective innings. It would be nice to score and win, too, but with the losing streak over, that was less of an issue. The bigger issue was hoping for Bedard to look good.

And then he was done in the top of the second. Done with one out in the top of the second, having thrown 57 pitches. I understood, but it also felt a little abrupt, as I don't think anybody was counting on Bedard throwing so few pitches, including Bedard himself. All of a sudden, our big reason to watch was replaced by Aaron Laffey, and two batters later, the M's were down by six.

There were still reasons to watch - many of those same reasons that were there at the beginning - but they felt so uninteresting after the Bedard disappointment. I sat and I watched through to the end, but while I don't know about you, I can't really tell you anything that happened after Ben Zobrist's home run. I think Josh Lueke looked good, and Jamey Wright didn't seem to get hurt, but those were seven and a half innings. If somebody asked me to describe them, I'd say they were seven and a half innings of baseball. At least they seemed to be quick.

So the big questions to which everybody wants answers are:

(1) Just how bad did Bedard actually look?
(2) What does this do to his trade value?

That's what people were thinking about going in, and that's what people were thinking about coming out. What was the significance of Bedard's outing?

As far as the first question is concerned, my answer would be "not bad, but wild." Bedard was throwing his fastball 90-93 miles per hour. His curveball looked as sharp as it ever has. Six of the Rays' 20 swings missed, and four of their five balls in play were grounders. Bedard's stuff was there, and the Rays weren't taking aggressive swings. The problem was the location. Part of that problem was a tight strike zone, but Bedard wasn't doing a great job of spotting. As is implied by the four walks in 1.1 innings. Only 28 of his 57 pitches were strikes.

However, let's consider where Bedard was coming from. And this starts to lead into the answer to the second question. Bedard hadn't started with the Mariners since June 27th. During his recovery, he threw a couple bullpens and a 40-pitch simulated game, but he didn't make a rehab start in the minors. He went straight from the sidelines to the bigs, and so some degree of rust is forgivable, if not expected.

It's not like he was missing his spots by a mile every time. He was just a little bit off, which is completely understandable. There weren't any visible issues with his knee. His stuff, again, was there. The pitcher we saw tonight was almost Erik Bedard. It was like Erik Bedard with an inner ear infection.

So as far as the impact this start had on his trade value is concerned, I'd say it probably wasn't as bad as it seemed. I can't speak with certainty here since I'm not a professional scout and I don't talk to professional scouts, but it seems to me like what was most important was seeing Bedard healthy and throwing his pitches. Scouts should forgive him for the lackluster command, because scouts should understand that pitchers don't usually fall out of the DL right into a groove.

This start obviously didn't increase Bedard's trade value, but I doubt it did a lot of damage. Nobody was going to offer anything elite in return, since Bedard is a known risk, and would be a known risk even if he threw a shutout. At the same time, teams know how much talent he has, so it's not like they're going to use one start fresh off the DL to argue that he's mediocre. Teams will see Erik Bedard's name, they'll see that he's healthy again, and they'll offer what they're comfortable offering.

It's funny; the more I think about it, and the more I write about it, the more I think this outing wasn't actually that important after all. Sure, there were a bunch of scouts in attendance, but what could Bedard have proven, aside from his health? As soon as he showed he was healthy, how much did the rest of his performance actually matter? I wonder if this was a bigger deal for the fans than for anyone else. For the fans, it was entertaining to ruminate and speculate, but for organizations, one start is one start. What matters more - that Bedard is shaky in his first start after the DL, or that Bedard was terrific in his 12 starts before the DL?

Maybe we all just got caught up in watching an actual showcase. Players are showcased about 2% as often as a lot of fans claim that they are. But this one was legit, kind of. This was Erik Bedard knowingly or unknowingly auditioning for a contender. Of course we were going to be interested, and probably too interested. That's what we do.

It's all history, now. The start is over, and we'll see what happens before Sunday afternoon. If Bedard brings back a quality, upper-level prospect, I won't be shocked. And if he stays put and doesn't bring back anything, I won't be shocked. There's not a lot that can shock me, besides outlets.

MIchael Pineda tomorrow. Sure would be nice to see a good start out of that guy.

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