Milton Bradley’s at it again. According to Mike Salk of ESPN’s radio affiliate in Seattle, the volatile slugger started into plate umpire Kerwin Danley in the sixth inning, after striking out looking with the bases loaded.
Apparently, things got so heated that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu interceded, telling Bradley to back off. Shortly thereafter, a source told Salk, Bradley approached his manager, said, “I’m packing my stuff. I’m out of here,” and left the dugout, the ballpark—and maybe the Mariners organization.
From Geoff Baker‘s Seattle Times blog:
Wakamatsu had Ryan Langerhans warm up immediately and followed Bradley into a tunnel between the dugout and clubhouse to talk him off the ledge and tell him not to quit on his teammates. At some point, Bradley was about to return to the dugout, but once he saw Langerhans playing left field in his place, left again and returned to his locker.
From there, he quickly packed and exited the stadium with the game still in progress.
General manager Jack Zduriencik said all the right things afterward, about how Bradley was still an important part of the team, and how Seattle needs him to be successful.
The reality, however, is somewhat different. Bradley unmistakably turned his back on his teammates, hanging them out to dry in a game they trailed only 3-1. This is akin to not leaving the dugout during a fight—maybe worse.
It’s why Zach Duke addressed his team through the media just last week after failing to retaliate for multiple Code violations by the Dodgers, offering a public apology when a private one might have sufficed. He knew the possibility of losing the respect of his teammates was real, and he did what he had to do to stanch the bleeding.
Bradley, however, is on his eighth team in 11 seasons. He left one of them–the Cubs–over this very issue just last year, departing Wrigley Field before their season-closing game was over. They couldn’t trade him fast enough. (It might say something that what seems to be the only team willing to take him demanded that Chicago take on Carlos Silva’s bloated contract in return.)
Unlike Duke, Bradley doesn’t have the Seattle clubhouse, because he doesn’t know the Seattle clubhouse. If anything, his teammates are more aware of his most-prime-candidate-for-anger-management-therapy-in-the-league reputation far better than they know the guy himself; they’ve hardly spent two months with each other.
If Bradley wants a job in the major leagues—be it in Seattle or elsewhere—he’s going to need to make reparations, and in a pretty major way. He keeps getting chances because he’s unmistakably talented. Never before, though, has he crossed the line to potential clubhouse pariah quite so convincingly as he might have last night.
Update: In the home clubhouse at Safeco Field today, Bradley took the floor in a closed-door meeting, and talked about the issues he had to work out. (As is the way with closed-door meetings, only the vaguest details have been released.)
Bradley also met with manager Don Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zduriencik, in which, wrote Geoff Baker in the Seattle Times, he asked for their help in dealing with turmoil in his life.
Zduriencik later met with the media, and talked about Bradley dealing with “some very personal and very emotional things in his life right now,” and how the team is going to help Bradley through whatever personal trauma he’s experiencing.
If everyone follows through and this affair has a happy ending, it would be a splendid turn of events. How many other teams have said the same thing about Bradley, however? The guy went so far as to seek counseling for his anger while a member of the Dodgers in 2004.
Perhaps the best thing he has going for him at the moment is the Mariners’ putrid offense. After all of this, it could still be that they need him more than he needs them, which is the bedrock for second chances.
Update II (May 6): The Mariners have placed Bradley on the restricted list while they reevaluate his situation.