Shut Down: The Tragicomedy of Daniel Bard

The Guru
Contributing Writer

The English writer Aldous Huxley once said, "We participate in a tragedy; at a comedy we only look."

That's from Brave New World. Page 84 I think. I'm not really sure as I went to an "alternative" high school for dysfunctional teachers. It was a cross between Glee and Welcome Back, Kotter. Imagine the sweathogs singing "Don't Stop Believing".

That brings us dear fans and readers to today's tragic comedy that is Daniel Bard. Hey, it only took me eight sentences to get to the Red Sox part. But it's not every blog that you get references to Huxley, Horshack, Journey and the Boston Red Sox. You're welcome. *tips cap*

The Red Sox have announced that Daniel Bard has been shut down until further notice. How did things go so bad so quickly?

Daniel Bard made his Red Sox debut in 2009 pitching two scoreless innings against the Angels. The next season Bard was impressive as Boston's primary setup guy striking out 76 in 73 games with a 1.93 ERA. In 2011 Bard set a Sox club record with 25 consecutive scoreless appearances. However, there were signs that all was not well.

Bard had a terrible last month of the year. He finished September 0–4 with a 10.64 ERA, issuing more walks (nine) than he had in the previous three months combined (eight). I don't want to get all sabermetrician here, but let me pull on your coat about something. Based on Bard's WPA, (win probability added), which is a fancy stat that attempts to measure a player's contribution to a win, the player most responsible for Boston's historic 2011 collapse: Daniel Bard.

Numbers don't lie. But believe me, I am not the only baseball geek that reads Yes, I'm looking at you Ben Cherington.

Still, at the start of 2012 Bard seemed the heir apparent to departing closer Jonathan Papelbon.

But Bard had other plans. Bard wanted to be a starter. He wanted to reach for the gold ring and potential 100 million dollar contracts that elite starters are rewarded. And the wheels fell off.

Whether it was pressure from the greedy agents looking for top dollar or the smartest-guys-in-the-room mentality of the Ivy League front office, the Bard as a starter "experiment" failed. Miserably.

As a starter Bard went 5–6 with a 5.24 ERA, striking out 34 while walking 37 and hitting eight batters. In his last start Bard made it through 1.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up five runs, six walks, and hitting two batters. The Sox manager who-shall-not-be-named said at the time, "I had to get him out of there before he killed someone." Bard was optioned to AAA Pawtucket the next day.

This season Bard was sent to Double-A Portland. Thoughts were pitching far away from the spotlight Bard would find his old form. He didn't. Bard is 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA to go with 17 walks and eight wild pitches in 12 2/3 innings. That's the kind of stuff that turned Rick Ankiel into an outfielder.

And just when things couldn't get any worse they just did.

According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, "He's back to throwing bullpens right now." There is no timetable for him returning to the mound. Farrell said, "Once there's some repetition to the bullpens, he'll get into a game."

Farrell has reiterated that Bard's issue is not a "physical" one. Telling The Boston Globe, “It comes from repeating a delivery and what allows that to happen. That’s being in a good place mentally and confident you’re going to execute a pitch in a given situation. That’s been elusive for him right now."

The Red Sox have had their in-house sports psychologist and former MLB pitcher, Bob Tewksbury, working with Bard.

You can call all the doctors you want Boston, but Bard's once promising career appears at its final crossroad. Summon Dr. Drew, get Bard on Dr. Phil's couch, call Dr. J if you must (it can't hurt right?) but this comedy of errors has truly turned tragic and the road back to Fenway Park has just got a whole lot longer.

Questions, comments, mental health referrals below. Find The Guru on Twitter @TheGuruGS
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