On March 17th when all pre-season stories are still exceptionally rosy, I wrote about Eric Wedge having to, once again, deal with Milton Bradley since signing on to manage the Seattle Mariners. At the time, the quotes were all positive from both sides of the equation. As the Seattle Mariners leave town after this weekend’s rain-soaked series in Cleveland just under two months later, Milton Bradley is gone. He was designated for assignment on May 9th. The Mariners, meanwhile, face the very real possibility of having to cough up the roughly $10 million remaining on Bradley’s gaudy deal.
One would have to think that this might finally signal the end of a tumultuous career for Bradley. At 33, he would seemingly have enough gas left in the tank physically. Mentally, it’s a completely different story. I don’t say that lightly or with humor, either. The lasting impression of Bradley will probably be of him getting ejected, fighting with umpires, or his actions when the Indians visited Seattle earlier this season.
Bradley attempted to use the umpiring crew as an advocate against heckling fans. The problem was that the umpires seemed especially confused as Bradley was playing in front of a home Seattle crowd. Bradley would finish the game with brightly colored earplugs in his ears both in the field and at the plate. It is hard to tell exactly what Bradley was attempting to block out. Safe to say after the earplug incident and two ejections in two weeks, Bradley was never able to block out whatever it was he was attempting to squelch from his ear canals.
Is this another case where Eric Wedge shows up again in Milton Bradley’s life and again he is ousted? In fairness to Eric Wedge, it is hard to really put the blame anywhere but squarely on Bradley himself. Bradley is a guy who has played the race card before, but that story-line is pretty much over. Bradley once accused teammate Jeff Kent of not knowing how to deal with African-Americans. Bradley’s departure from Cleveland when combined with Brandon Phillips’ departure cast at least a small shadow on Eric Wedge.
In the end for Bradley, it is very hard to justify cries of racism for a guy who has been given chances by eight different teams since his career started in the year 2000 with the Montreal Expos. I can’t say that he hasn’t heard it from the stands, but that is a different story. When it comes to baseball as a league, after eight years and over $35 million in salaries, I think it is safe to say that talent and potential carried a whole lot of weight.
If this truly is the end of Milton Bradley’s Major League career, it is the end of a strange trip. I know I was disappointed when he was shipped out of Cleveland because all I saw was a talented player that I thought the Tribe needed. In a town that not only accepted Albert Belle, but defended him against baseline collisions, trick-or-treaters, and Hannah Storm, surely we could deal with Milton Bradley, right? Wrong.
For now, that’s the end of the story, I guess. Milton Bradley sits in limbo until the Mariners’ ten day time limit to trade him ends. I’ll be waiting to see if anyone else gives Bradley a chance. It is hard to imagine, though. For all the talent and potential that Bradley has shown, he never did reach Albert Belle’s level on the field. He might have finally tipped the cost/benefit scales too far toward the cost side of the equation for even the shallowest of Major League Baseball teams to risk bringing him in.