Daniel Bard gets out of bed and looks in the mirror. “You’re the MAN! You’re THE man! YOU’RE the man!” He rubs his beard which has grown a little longer, a little more disheveled. Self help books are strewn askew on bedroom tables and bureaus. The shades are drawn. Daniel Bard faces another day.
I’m not Daniel Bard, I have no idea what’s going on in his head. I can only imagine it. I don’t know how it feels. But I do know if I were one of the most consistent and dominant set up men in the majors from 2009-11 and had so profoundly tanked in 2012 as Boston’s once and then banished starter/closer, my appointment book would be loaded with sessions with the team sports psychologist.
From 2009-11, Bard sported an average 2.97 ERA, 71 Ks and walked just 25 per year while appearing in an average of 64 games in each year. In 2012, when he was moved to Boston’s closer role after Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey went down in spring training with a thumb injury that took him out for most of the season, all the wheels came off the cart.
In just 17 games, Bard’s ERA ballooned to 6.22 on 38 Ks and, the most damning statistic, 43 walks. They weren’t just walks, they were odysseys. He wasn’t justing walking wild. He was scary wild. In his 64 games from 2009-11 Bard averaged just 2.3 hit batsmen per year. In 2012 in 17 games he beaned eight batters. That’s bad. That’s Steve Blass bad.
OK, not necessarily Steve Blass bad. After Blass led the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Championship in 1971, hurling five shutouts during a 15-8 regular season with a 2.58 ERA and again powering through lineups in 1972, going 19-8, he became the couldn’t-find-the-plate-with-radar poster child. My father more plainly stated it. “He couldn’t find his ass with both hands.”
In 1973 Blass went 3-9 with an obese 9.85 ERA. More alarmingly, he’ beaned 12 batters, walked 84 hitters in just 88 2/3 innings and got hit – hard. In 1974 Blass pitched one game and gave up five runs, walked seven and spent the rest of the season in the minors. By 1975 Blass was out of baseball.
I believe Bard can get it back. Perhaps it’s just that his early career dominance is still fresh in my mind and, like many fans, I’m waiting for the skinny whip to return to a set up role the Red Sox need. I think he can do it. I hope he can do it.
Kermit the frog sang, “It isn’t easy being green.” Bard’s opposing batters from 2012 echo back, “It isn’t easy being beaned.” Daniel Bard hasn’t had a lot to sing about lately and will have a lot to think about this offseason. Here’s to getting clarity and confidence.
It’s not easy bein’ green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky
– It Isn’t Easy Being Green, Kermit The Frog