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

May 9, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Jet-lagged thoughts on the end of the Milton Bradley era

miltonap.jpg

Here is today’s Mariners’ minor-league report.

It’s been a weird day. I’ve felt like I’ve been about two hours, and a thousand miles, behind the action. Mainly because I have.

I got up at 3:20 to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Houston (don’t ask), en route to Baltimore. When we landed in Houston, I eagerly turned on my Blackberry as we taxied to the terminal to see what roster move the Mariners had made to clear a spot for Mike Wilson. Like many people, I fully expected to see that Milton Bradley had been designated for assignment, but instead it was Ryan Langerhans. In the brief time I had before scurrying off for my connecting flight to Baltimore, the Twittersphere seemed to be buzzing with puzzlement and disappointment.

When I landed in Baltimore three hours later, same drill. This time, my Blackberry told me that Bradley, too, was a goner — DFA’d and replaced by Carlos Peguero.

It was the right move, on many levels. In a season that should be about building for the future, Bradley wasn’t part of it. Neither was Langerhans, for that matter. Peguero and Wilson might be, and it’s going to be a heck of a lot more interesting watching how they do than wondering when the next Bradley eruption is going to take place.

The reasons for keeping Bradley on the roster were dwindling by the day. He had an embarrassing weekend performance in left field, and he wasn’t cutting it in the vital No. 3 spot in the batting order. Then there’s all the baggage that comes with Bradley, which doesn’t need to be dredged up. It all added up to too much drama and not enough production.

I thought he should have never been brought to spring training at all this year, but you can’t blame the Mariners for wanting to exhaust all possibilities that Bradley is done before eating the remainder of the $12 million he is owed for 2011. That’s a lot of dough. But that money is sunk cost; they were going to have to pay it whether or not Milton was around, and they can proceed with their rebuilding project much more smoothly without him around. As Geoff wrote earlier today, I sincerely wish Milton well in his life after baseball (because I am almost certain that his career is over. I can’t imagine any scenario by which a team will take a flyer on him, even at minimum salary once the Mariners are forced to release him). He has some demons still to tame, and being away from baseball might well be the best thing for him.

Ultimately, this is Bill Bavasi’s misjudgment on Carlos Silva coming home to roost. With the Mariners coming off a second-place finish in 2007 marred by a September collapse, Bavasi signed Silva to a four-year, $48-million contract on Dec. 20, 2007, with an eye on making a run at the division title in 2008. Their other big off-season move was trading for Erik Bedard.

“It’s a big add for us in a spot where we had to add some power into our rotation,” Bavasi said at the Silva press conference. “I don’t think he’s a good fit just for [our] club. I think he’s a good fit for any club. Guys who come in and throw strikes and are consistent at that, and have done it in the American League … fit anywhere.”

But Silva didn’t fit on the Mariners, going a combined 5-18 with a 6.81 earned-run average in two seasons before the “our problem for your problem” trade with the Cubs that netted them Bradley in December of 2009. I’d have to say the Cubs got a little more out of Silva than the Mariners did from Bradley. Granted, the Cubs already bit the bullet and cut Silva at the end of spring training this year after an embattled exhibition season in which he had trouble getting anyone out. But the Cubs at least got half a season of strong pitching from Silva last year. On July 6, he was 9-2 with a 2.96 ERA and a legitimate candidate to make the All-Star team.

He didn’t; in fact, his season crumbled. But the Cubs got 10 wins out of him. The Mariners got virtually nothing from Bradley last year, and not much more this season before cutting him loose today.

They M’s tried a gamble to salvage the Silva debacle and came up empty. Now they are wisely cutting their losses and moving ahead.

(Photo by Associated Press)

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