The unfortunately named and often irascible Milton Bradley is a Seattle Mariner, coming over from the Chicago Cubs in an offseason trade for the underperforming Carlos Silva. This trade has a tremendous upside for both clubs, and for both players. The Mariners and Cubs have each shed a player who had become a cancer on the clubhouse, as in Bradley’s case, or an overpaid bust like Silva. For both players, the switch to a new team means a fresh start.
I’ve spent much of the offseason trying to determine how much of this is wishful thinking, but I believe that Milton Bradley will flourish in Seattle in 2010 (the 2011 seasons and beyond are a different matter entirely). Bradley has three factors in his favor:
The City: Seattle is a great place for a guy like Bradley to play. Lacking the media spotlight of the big-market teams in the East, the Emerald City offers Bradley a chance to find his feet (largely) outside the MLB circus. Mariner fans are rightly known for their politeness and hospitality (one example is from 1999, when a trade with the Reds swapped beloved superstar Ken Griffey Jr., for several players, including Mike Cameron and Brett Tomko; Seattle fans quickly embraced the athletic Cameron, despite replacing Griffey in center Field), which can only help ease Bradley’s transition to playing in the Pacific Northwest.
The Organization: In his rookie year as manager in 2009, manager Don Wakamatsu was able to make an 85-game winner out of a franchise which had only the year before lost a dismal 101 games. There is no doubt that the Mariners overachieved in 2009 (just as they underachieved in 2008), but they have improved over the off-season. If the Mariners can play as well or better than they did last year, a run at the post season is not out of the question. All this means winning, and if the team is winning, problems–including any potential Bradley problems–tend to fade into the background. Sadly, the converse is also true, and prolonged periods of losing can cause relatively minor problems to metastasize into clubhouse busters. Bradley’s locker is located between Mike Sweeney’s and Griffey’s, the thinking being that the two affable veterans will have a calming influence on Bradley.
The Man: I first saw Bradley when he came over to the Dodgers before the 2004 season. Even then he had a reputation for hotheadedness and volatility, although not what it would become after his stint with LA, and particularly after his seasons in San Diego (2007) and in Chicago (2009). It was hard not to admire his passion for baseball, and in interviews not to be charmed by this articulate, thoughtful young man who so clearly wanted to do right, but kept coming up against the wrong end of things. He got angry, but he wasn’t a thug. Whenever Bradley exploded, whether from a bottle-throwing fan or disagreements with manager “Sweet” Lou Piniella, the only person who seemed to come out of the affair hurt was Bradley.
This is not to excuse his behavior. Bradley, on his 8th team in 11 seasons, is running out of chances. If he finally gets that–really gets that, the upside for the Seattle Mariners, and for Bradley himself, could be huge.