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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Mariners have run out of reasons to keep Milton Bradley

milton.jpg

(Photo by Associated Press)

I’ve done a lot of ruminating about Milton Bradley since the news broke Tuesday that he had been arrested on suspicion of making a threat against a woman — a felony charge.

My conclusion: I simply don’t see how the Mariners can bring him to camp when it opens up in mid-February in Peoria, Ariz. The full squad reports on Feb. 18 — eight days after Bradley is scheduled to appear in court in Southern California.

Geoff did an excellent job yesterday of conveying the need for Bradley to find inner peace, even if it requires stepping away from baseball.

I agree, and I sincerely hope that Milton can tame the demons that have haunted him throughout his baseball career.

But I also believe the flip-side is true. Just as it could benefit Bradley to get away from the pressures of the major leagues, so would it behoove the Mariners to free themselves from the distraction and baggage that would come with bringing Bradley to camp in a couple of weeks. In fact, I have a hard time envisioning how they could attempt that — or why.

Let’s stress that Bradley hasn’t been convicted of anything, but regardless of how this all works out legally, it would bring a whole new level of scrutiny to Bradley — and a whole new level of distraction for the Mariners. Every national reporter who showed up in Peoria would probe the Bradley angle, and his history indicates that at some point, he will give an explosive, controversial quote. That’s hardly what the Mariners need to be worrying about as they try to rebound from their second 100-loss season in three years.

Even before this latest incident, having Bradley return for 2011 was going to be problematic, in light of his history with Seattle’s new manager, Eric Wedge. Though Bradley praised Wedge’s hiring, and Wedge insisted he would have a clean slate regarding Bradley, having Milton in camp would create an inevitable tension that a new manager simply doesn’t need. Everyone would be watching to see how they co-exist, prodding at the dynamics of their relationship. It would just be uncomfortable. Unecessarily uncomfortable.

There has been little to indicate that Bradley will be a major contributor from a baseball standpoint. He’s had two consecutive sub-par seasons since his monster 2008 year with Texas. If the Mariners’ hope was to entice another team into trading for him (an occurence that realistically would have required the M’s to eat most of his remaining salary), that hope undoubtedly transformed from “slim” to “none” on Tuesday.

The reality is, this $12 million they owe Bradley is a sunk cost — one that originated from Bill Bavasi’s ill-fated signing of Carlos Silva to a four-year, $48-million contract. There’s the prospect of perhaps recouping some of that expenditure by invoking the personal conduct clause in the standard conract, but as I wrote earlier this week, that hasn’t been too successful over the years.

I still think trading for Bradley last year was a gamble worth taking by Jack Zduriencik — and the Mariners weren’t blind to the fact that there was risk involved. (The one part of that transaction I’ll never understand, however, is why the Mariners had to include cash in the deal, considering how desperate the Cubs were to dump Bradley).

It would have worked out great for them, if Bradley had regained the form of just one season earlier, or even a reasonable facsmile. Instead, he dealt with personal issues that landed him on the restricted list in May, and batted just .205 in 73 games. Silva, meanwhile, flirted with the All-Star team (he went 9-2, 2.96 in his first 16 starts) before tendinitis and heart issues limited him to just four starts (with an 11.12 ERA) after the All-Star break.

Those things happen. Now the Mariners have Bradley with one year left on his contract, a court date pending, and ever more potential distractions brewing.

They have enough problems to deal with. They don’t need this one.

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