Perhaps it was because of the mythos that surrounds the no-hitter in this league and the relative dearth of them so far this season compared to last, or perhaps it was just that the local sportswriters were looking for something — anything — to care about in the Houston Astros’ intentionally disappointing season thus far, but after veteran pitcher Erik Bedard removed himself from Houston’s 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners during a mound conference having pitched 6 ⅓ innings of no-hit ball, Astros manager Bo Porter actually found himself having to defend Bedard’s decision.
It was probably more fruitful to ask Porter than the man himself. Bedard has developed a reputation for being prickly in the locker room, especially when reporters are angling for quotes. (One fairly famous, semi-apocryphal story from his time in Baltimore had a beat writer approaching him at his locker to ask if he had time to talk; the pitcher said, “You have three questions.” The reporter looked at him and asks, “Really?” to which Bedard replied, “Now you have two.”)
That said, all of the reasons Porter gave in his postgame presser made perfect sense: Bedard had gone over 100 pitches during the first at-bat of the inning and followed that up by walking the next batter, Justin Smoak. He’s had multiple shoulder injuries over the course of his career, and though Porter left it unsaid, there’s still some minor hope in the Houston front office that the club might be able to turn him into something at the trade deadline if teams get sufficiently desperate for pitching help. Not very likely, to be sure — Bedard has a 4.41 ERA in 98 innings so far this year — but even a slim chance is better than absolutely none, which is what it would be if Bedard were to injure himself this late in the game. Besides, as Porter points out, no one knows his arm and his limits better than Bedard does, and Porter’s role managing this Astros team prioritizes being a caretaker and mentor far higher than a precision tactician positioning his team to win games by any means necessary.
The counter-arguments, most of which have also been left unsaid, are fairly familiar. Houston fans want something to feel good about, and should have gotten to see Bedard try to make history even if it did put his shoulder in danger. It also says bad things about Bedard’s competitive nature and makeup that Porter didn’t have to pry the ball out of his hand to get him off the mound, never mind Bedard removing himself voluntarily. The reason these arguments remain mostly unsaid is because they’re signs of the frustration of losing and an overcredulous reliance on nonsense thinking, respectively.
Pulling Bedard when he felt he was done was the only way to keep the no-hitter in line anyway; he wasn’t going to be able to go the entire way, but perhaps the Astros could have had a combined no-no (Houston reliever Jose Cisnero came in and promptly gave up a two-run double in the inning, but that’s hardly Bedard’s fault). Anyone who thinks this shows that Bedard doesn’t have that fire in his belly driving him to perform probably also has a lot of great opinions about beer and fried chicken in the locker room that none of us want to hear again.
So Bedard left with a no-hitter unfinished in what would eventually be a losing effort, and on the whole there’s no real problem with that as far as I can tell. Even if they can’t get anything for him in a trade, Bedard has significant value to the Astros simply by staying healthy and playing out the string for the rest of this miserable season, taking starts that Houston might otherwise have to rush a minor-leaguer to fill. And as far as Bedard himself is concerned, he’s in Houston this year to prove to other teams he can still stay healthy and perform at the back of a rotation. He has no interest in shoulder surgery No. 4. Like so many things about the Astros decision-making this year, pulling Bedard wasn’t the satisfying or immediately gratifying decision, but it was the right one.