The Curious Case of Daniel Bard

The Guru
Contributing Writer

Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard seemed the heir apparent to inherit the closer role from the Sox all-time saves leader Jonathan Paplebon. He could have been a name included with the likes of Pap, Stanley, Radatz, Reardon and Gordon. The tragic thing is, it all went so wrong, so quickly.

The Red Sox announced Sunday they have designated the once prominent reliever for assignment.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said,
“Given what he’s been able to do in the past and dealing with the struggles with consistency that are there, unfortunately he’s in the position he’s in. He won’t be able to pitch in Lowell until the waiver period expires. If he’s still in the organization – and we would hope that would be the case unless some other team puts in a claim and works out a trade for him – we haven’t turned our back on him and yet we needed the roster spot and hopefully that will get Daniel back on track and what he was at the big league level, which was a dominant one."

The 26-year old Bard, a key part of the back end of Boston’s bullpen from 2009-11, has battled control problems the last two years. He bounced around the minors this season, pitching in Triple-A, then Double-A and finally Single-A. Bard just never regained control or confidence. Bard had 27 walks and nine strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings in the minors this year. In his most recent outing for Single-A Lowell on Saturday night, Bard walked four batters in an inning of work and had a wild pitch.

It seems the Red Sox had seen enough.

Often in the Boston sports media world, when things go terribly awry, the finger pointing begins as a scapegoat is not only sought, it's required. In the case of Daniel Bard, there is no easy target.

Are the Red Sox to blame for attempting to make Bard a starter before the 2012 season? All indications point to it being Bard's decision to become a starter.

Was it the agents fault for pushing Bard to become a starting pitcher? After all, there's certainly more money to be made in the rotation than in the bullpen. Again, the final decision was left with Bard.

Did the Red Sox overwork Bard in his three seasons in Boston? In 2010 and '11, Bard was one of then manager Terry Francona's go to arms and was arguably one of the best setup men in the game. In 2010, Bard notched 76 strikeouts to 30 walks in 74 2/3 innings with 34 holds. The following year his ERA was a bit higher, but regardless, he had another 32 holds with 74 K’s and 24 walks. The workload seems on par with the other dominant relievers at the time.

As a starter last season things began to unravel for Bard, he walked 43 in just 59 1/3 innings. Can we blame Bobby V? While that would be the perfect place to lay the blame, it was not Valentine's call to make Bard a starter. The decision had been made even before the ballroom buffoon had been hired. In fact Valentine wanted to keep Bard in the 'pen.

It would seem the curious case of Daniel Bard remains just that, a curious one. The problem was never a physical one, it was between the ears. There have been players throughout major league baseball history that just suddenly "lose it." See Rick Ankiel, Steve Sax, Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Blass.

Now, the Red Sox have 10 days to work out a trade or simply (pardon the pun) let Bard walk. If Bard has any luck, and he could use some, he’ll get a fresh start in a new uniform. A change of scenery may be just the cure for what ails him.

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