This time, it wasn't about the bad attitude of Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley. He was just bad, period.
This time, it wasn’t about Milton Bradley’s bad attitude. He was just bad, period.
Bradley, the mercurial and tormented outfielder, spent 101 games over two seasons with the Mariners and left the saddest impression of his controversial career. The problem wasn’t his notorious temper, though. The problem was his skills, which had allowed him to get opportunity after opportunity despite his emotional problems.
He can’t play anymore.
Therefore, he is done. With the Mariners. And, likely, with Major League Baseball.
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Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said it best in a news conference explaining why the team cut ties with Bradley: “We just felt that Milton was not part of our future, and he is not part of our present.”
All of baseball should feel that way.
There are only three career killers in professional sports: devastating injury, long imprisonment and insufficient talent. History shows that barring any of those terminal traits, an athlete can commit mistakes repeatedly, become a glutton for the mulligan and they always can find another understanding victim, er, team.
Bradley has played for eight teams in 12 seasons because he was too good to quit. He never reached his potential, only showing flashes, but left teams thinking he could give them more. In 2003, he hit .321 in 101 games with Cleveland. In 2008, he led the league with an incredible .999 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in Texas. Bradley teased just enough for the next manager or team executive to believe his bat was mightier than his issues.
That’s not the case now. He failed in Seattle because he failed. This time, his temper didn’t obstruct his talent. His diminished talent obstructed his temper.
Sure, there were problems. Bradley infamously left the ballpark after being removed from a game last season, which led to him taking a leave to address his mental and emotional problems. This past offseason, he was arrested for threatening his wife, Monique, who has since filed for divorce.
But Bradley was as comfortable and happy in Seattle as he is capable of being. When he made mistakes, the Mariners supported him.
General manager Jack Zduriencik swapped Carlos Silva for Bradley before last season in an attempt to acquire a warm body for Silva’s high-priced worthlessness. Jack Z did his best to make something out of perhaps the worst acquisition of former general manager Bill Bavasi’s tenure. He ignored the perpetual headache that is Bradley and tried to help him, on and off the field.
Ultimately, though, the effort was futile. Bradley’s performance doesn’t warrant that kind of energy and attention.
Bradley is only 33, but he’s in an irreversible decline. He hit only .205 in 73 games last season. He was hitting just .218 this season. His slugging percentage over the past two seasons is far below his career average.
His defense in left field is even worse than that. Bradley was booed Saturday at Safeco Field for his outfield misadventures, and it seemed his effort was lacking on a few plays. On Sunday, his defensive woes included a clumsy crash into the wall on a fly ball that a good outfielder could’ve caught, and a terribly errant throw to home plate that resulted in chaos, most of which was catcher Miguel Olivo’s fault.
The Mariners need better athleticism, youth and desire in left field, and that’s why they got rid of Bradley. They’re willing to eat the remainder of his $12 million salary this season just to move on. It’s the right move, and it’s the only move.
For 12 seasons, Bradley has always been worth the risk for some desperate ballclub. Not anymore. It’s hard to envision another team taking a real chance on him. He’ll probably flirt with some teams, but his days as a full-time major-leaguer are over.
There’s no value in signing Bradley for his veteran leadership. Unless you want Bradley to teach his teammates how to get thrown out of games, what’s his worth? Unless you need Bradley to perform a seminar on wearing earplugs to muffle hecklers, why would he be useful?
Bradley doesn’t have a stable pro career now, which means he’ll be an adult existing in a world that won’t coddle him. I hope he can survive. He rarely acted like a grown-up as a big leaguer. In the real world, the punishment for his tantrums will be much tougher than being banished to another losing team willing to pay him millions.
His bat doesn’t make teams sympathetic anymore. For all the noise he made during a troubling career, Bradley exits facing a reality that he can’t fight.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer