(Here’s the Mariner minor-league report for today).
NOTE: When I posted this originally, we had not yet heard about Milton Bradley coming to Jack Zduriencik and Don Wakamatsu today and making an emotional plea for help with some personal issues. The Mariners were correct to accept that request with compassion, and to give Bradley the time and guidance he needs. Perhaps this can be a postive turning point in Bradley’s life and the Mariners’ season. On a personal level, I wish Bradley well and hope he straightens out whatever issues are tormenting him. As Geoff said, if he’s sincere about getting help and getting through this, he deserves credit and support. I have made some revisions in this post that reflect the new information.
When the Mariners acquired Milton Bradley from the Cubs on Dec. 18, deciding that his upside-to-baggage ratio was higher than Carlos Silva’s, the move was largely hailed around baseball as another master stroke by Jack Zduriencik. Zduriencik had dumped a seemingly hopeless pitcher while acquiring a switch-hitting outfielder who, though he obviously had his issues and was coming off a volatile and under-performing year in Chicago, still had the capability of helping the Mariners’ offense. And even in December, everyone could see the M’s offense needed help.
Amidst the praise for Zduriencik, however, I kept hearing from Chicago people — fans and media who had the same essential message: The Mariners will rue the day they acquired Milton Bradley. They might think they can keep him happy. They might think that their cohesive clubhouse would have a calming effect on Milton. They might think they could make it work. The Cubs thought so too, these people said, in e-mails, in blog posts, in phone messages, in personal conversations. But Bradley, they said — they ensured — would at some point in time blow up. They felt confident that the Mariners would be disrupted, eventually, by having Bradley on the team.
“Just you wait,” they said.
I disagreed. I said that manager Don Wakamatsu had an excellent way of dealing with players, that the presence of Ken Griffey Jr. — one of Bradley’s acknowledged heroes — would be beneficial, that Bradley would thrive in the Mariners’ inclusive clubhouse. I said the Seattle media was much more laid-back than that in Chicago, which would make the enviroment for comfortable for him. I talked to former managers of his like Bud Black and Ken Macha, former teammates like Eddie Guardado, former GM Kevin Towers, all of whom had positive things to say about Bradley. I said many times, in print, on the blog and in radio interviews, that if Bradley couldn’t thrive in Seattle, he probably couldn’t thrive anywhere.
And now this incident last night, which comes at the most inopportune time for a Mariners team that has plenty of other issues to deal with — mainly, an offensive that has been offensive — and hardly needs the festering controversy of its cleanup hitter leaving the ballpark in the middle of a game.
I’m not ready to close to book on Milton Bradley over this incident, however. If Bradley gets the help he seeks, perhaps he can still be a productive, happy and accomodating player for the remainder of this season and beyond. I don’t think it’s ever going to be a completely smooth ride with Bradley, but the same factors I just mentioned can still work in Bradley’s favor. If Bradley reacts properly, this will be a mere bump in the long road the Mariners hoped to have with Bradley when they assumed the remaining $20-million-plus of his contract through 2011.
That’s the best-case-scenario, anyway — one I don’t present with nearly as much conviction as I did in December. Yet the fact Bradley came forward and sought help is an encouraging sign that he truly wants to work through personal issues that Zduriencik referred to as “so difficult, many of us can’t even understand it.”
I know there are a lot of people in Chicago right now with satisfied smirks on their faces, saying, “We warned you.”
But the ending to this story still hasn’t been told.
(Seattle Times photo by Mark Harrison)