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January 20, 2011 at 9:51 AM

Milton Bradley needs to find peace off the field more so than on it

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None of us knows what happened to cause Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley to be arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of making criminal threats. Bradley may yet turn out to be innocent in the matter, so we have to keep an open mind before convicting him of anything.
But still, regardless of whether Bradley is found guilty or not guilty, the fact that he keeps having off-field issues isn’t really up for debate. You don’t hear about police showing up at the front door of Franklin Gutierrez’s house. Or coming to take Chone Figgins away. Josh Wilson didn’t have to come up with $50,000 bail.
Regardless of whether or not Bradley can end his legal troubles in a satisfactory way for himself, it’s pretty clear there was some type of episode or disagreement that occured on Tuesday that resulted in police being called. Pretty clear that Tuesday morning was anything but a peaceful, quiet day in Bradley’s life.
And that’s nothing new. After all, there were no criminal charges or police involved last May when Bradley abruptly left Safeco Field mid-game. But the episode and things leading up to it were so disturbing to Bradley — so disruptive to his inner peace — that he pleaded with the Mariners to get him counseling.
When Bradley came back off the restricted list and explained to me the reasons why he sought counseling, I remember him saying towards the end that things wouldn’t always be perfect, but he was in a better place. And I remember making a mental note to remind myself of this the next time Bradley had a setback. To remind myself how compassionate I felt towards him that day, how sympathetic I was towards a tortured soul. And to remember not to jump all over him when that inevitable setback finally arrived.
Well, it’s here. He’s had his very bad day, regardless of how the legalities play out. And no, I’m not going to jump all over him.
But I’m also not going to be his enabler. Not going to pretend that his continuing to play baseball for the Mariners, or some other team, will be the tonic that brings Bradley inner peace away from the field.
We’ve seen too much of that phony, fantasy storyline repeated for public consumption throughout the NFL season.

Here’s a newsflash. Michael Vick did not redeem himself by putting an MVP caliber season together for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s great that Vick is finally maturing on the field and doing the things a successful quarterback needs to do. But it has nothing to do with any real “redemption” for his past crimes.
Vick will earn redemption based on how he conducts himself as a human being away from the football field. If part of that involves being better at his job, then great. But it’s only a tiny part. We’ll know in a few years whether or not he’s changed in a permanent way and even then, some will choose to forgive his past mistakes and others won’t. But in theory, whether or not he does well on the football field should have nothing to do with it. What defines the man isn’t the number of touchdowns he scores.
Same goes for Ben Roethlisberger. Even if he does win a Super Bowl in a couple of weeks, it will have zero to do with any “redemption” as a human being. That latter part, again, can only come once Roethlisberger finds peace within himself away from the field. And not everyone is going to be willing to forgive him, regardless of the legal technicalities of his case. He’ll have to come to terms with that as he moves forward in trying, so he says, to make himself a better person.
But if he thinks the Super Bowl will fix everything, he’s in for a big surprise. It might make for some over-dramatized network segments — cue the orchestra — on the pre-game shows. And yes, there will always be people who actually do think life is about scoring the most touchdowns and winning the most trophies. Many times, those people are the ones struggling in their own personal lives.
So no, I’m not going to be an enabler and further the myth that Milton Bradley can earn some “redemption” or make his life better by coming to spring training and re-discovering his swing. Having heard him on several occasions last year say that some of his inner turmoil would not exist if he could only hit the ball better, I’m pretty sure Bradley does believe he can earn at least some redemption on the field.
And that’s the sad part. He can’t.
Bradley wants to be a good person. He takes enormous pride in having been “a good teammate” and tells writers to ask anyone he’s played with about that part of things. And when you ask the question of those teammates, they’ll tell you, to a man, that Bradley wants to be a good guy. They’ll also tell you, in private, that they don’t think he has complete control over it.
And Bradley alluded to as much when he discussed his struggles last May.
Being a good person has to start with inner peace. It involves getting one’s demons under control in whatever way works best. And it has to start away from the clubhouse and the field. Bradley has to be able to get through an entire off-season without being the only guy on the team to have police show up at his door.
The idea that Bradley could have fixed all that ailed him after a two-week stint on the restricted list last May was a laughable one. But then again, the season was ongoing and the Mariners were in a bind. They are running a pro sports team, not a counseling service.
But Bradley had most of the second half of the season to continue to work things out, given that he barely played and could afford to shift focus a little more towards the off-field stuff. He has since had four more months away from playing baseball. But still, any peace he’d found was clearly shattered Tuesday morning by police coming to take him away.
So, I don’t know that he’s had enough time to work things out for himself. From this distance, it looks like he still has things to improve upon. Maybe playing baseball again will help Bradley, but so far, throughout his career, that hasn’t been the case.
He’s now almost 33 and doesn’t exactly need the money anymore. Or, at least, he shouldn’t after signing that three-year, $30 million deal.
And he doesn’t exactly have a defined role on this team.
So, I’m not sure how much benefit there will be for Bradley the human being to continue to play baseball.
I’d much rather see Bradley the human being find inner peace and live a long and prosperous life. Much rather run into him on the banquet circuit in 20 years and hear him talk about how the Mariners saved him by not letting him continue to play baseball.
Because these types of things don’t often end well. Bradley is everyone’s favorite internet joke these days and has been for a long time. But there is a human being under that facade. And there was another human being — a woman plaintiff — involved in this latest episode who probably wants some peace herself.
Life isn’t a game played on the field. Redemption doesn’t come from scoring touchdowns and hitting home runs. Inner peace doesn’t come from being great on the field and a mess away from it.
It’s a struggle. And sometimes, winning that struggle requires your undivided attention. I hope Bradley eventually wins his struggle. But I also think it requires more attention than playing major league baseball allows him to devote to it. And I’ve got an eight-team paper trail that backs me up on that.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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