Upsetting The No-No Mythos

The Astros' Erik Bedard controversially pulled himself from a no-hitter against the Mariners. (USA Today Sports)

The Astros' Erik Bedard controversially pulled himself from a no-hitter against the Mariners. (USA Today Sports)

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.

8 thoughts on “Upsetting The No-No Mythos

  1. The Houston Astros are on pace to lose close to 110 games this year. If they go on to lose 120 or more, you can look to this game as the day they collectively tossed in the towel.

  2. The absolute lack of competitiveness showed by Bedard makes me wonder how he got to the majors in the first place. Name me one pitcher who pitched before 1980 (hell, 1990) that would VOLUNTARILY pull himself from a no-hitter, much less any game. Pitchers used to want to finish what they started. Pathetic. The Astros should release him based on that decision alone. I’d rather have a raw-armed rookie who has a hunger to win than this guy.

    • Just because pitchers back before 1980 were bred to not question the idea that they should sacrifice their entire future for a single game with essentially no meaning doesn’t mean it was right.

  3. I don’t understand the anger at a MLB-quality pitcher who has had a bad history of injury and pain. He gave it 6 1/3rd. What’s the big deal if he thought his arm was done?

  4. I agree. Porter should have taken the heat vs. laying it on his player, but a very slim chance for a no-hitter for a lousy team doesn’t merit risking this guy’s arm

  5. I’ve come to the conclusion recently that no-hitters simply aren’t that impressive. The difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game is that you still allow baserunners, and as long as you are allowing baserunners why does it matter how they happen to get on?

    Perfect games are still the singular individual achievement in sports to me. But in an era where we understand that the hit isn’t the one “true” way to get on base, and walks and hit batsmen and errors and everything else have nearly as much value to scoring runs, just allowing those while avoiding hits doesn’t lend itself to being a notable event.

  6. A no hitter isn’t that big of a deal. A lot of bad pitchers have them. A perfect game is huge, but a no hitter, not so much. If Bedard pulled himself out with 2 outs in the eighth with 100 pitches, I could see the argument, but he still needed to record 8 outs. He was pitching on fumes, so he would have had to labor for those 8 outs. He would have needed another 30+ pitches to get through this. He wasn’t going to finish. I’m sure Bedard would love to have a no hitter on his resume, but the lack of shutout kind of taints it any way. I see no reason why he should have continued.

    • This is very true. Look at The Freak and his almost 20 ERA from the past week. He pitched his first no hitter of his career.

      I agree with the greater good… the ball club is horrid this year AGAIN, and it doesn’t take one player to lose a game when you have 8 others on the field with you.