This trade is just another reason to celebrate Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik’s arrival in Seattle.
Sure, Bradley is a vial of nitroglycerin suddenly sitting in the finally tranquil Mariners clubhouse.
Sure, Bradley sometimes has trouble with numbers, like last season when he caught Joe Mauer’s fly ball in right field, with runners on base, and tossed the ball into the stands.
Despite a career on-base percentage of .371, Bradley has traveled more than George Clooney in “Up In The Air.” The Mariners will be his eighth team in 10 years.
That’s what we call a red flag.
But Bradley is worth the gamble. If his head is right — a big if — he could be the steal of the winter.
And at this point in their resurrection, the Mariners are strong enough in the clubhouse that they should be able to absorb one volatile player. Maybe Bradley is incorrigible, but he will know, under manager Don Wakamatsu, that if he acts up, he is gone.
Seattle could be his Last Chance Corral.
The Mariners, at least, got a player. The Cubs got a dirigible. Chances are, Silva will start the season in Chicago’s bullpen and be released some time in June.
So why would Zduriencik threaten the good-ship Mariner culture that prevailed throughout last season’s dynamic turnaround?
“We think he’s a good fit,” said the general manager, whose words are not to be misconstrued as “we think he’s good for a fit.”
Call it a low-risk, high-reward gamble, the kind that’s Zduriencik’s speciality. If Bradley’s 2010 season mirrors his 2008 work in Texas – without that charging-into-the-broadcast-booth incident in Kansas City – the Mariners have identified an elusive middle-of-the-lineup presence.
And if Bradley morphs into the volcanic Mount Milton? He’s likely presented a one-more-strike-and-you’re-out ultimatum by manager Don Wakamatsu.
There will be no pressure to coddle Bradley, as the $22 million remaining on the final two years of his contract essentially replaces the two years and $25 million the Mariners owed Carlos Silva, the snake-bitten pitcher whose only role next season was to replace Miguel Batista job as the mop-up man in blowouts.
If the Bradley experiment works, swell. And if it doesn’t, at least the albatross of the Silva deal has been removed from the books.
But there’s another dynamic in play, and reflects some hubris: Zduriencik is confident Wakamatsu and his coaching staff can bring the best out in a player whose only impediment to stardom has been between his ears. Wakamatsu has few numbers to show for his brief big-league career, but he’s got a mighty impressive stat as a manager: zero ejections in 162 games.
In any case, Bradley won’t be able to cite a century’s worth of baseball failure in Seattle. The Mariners have deprived their fans of a world championship only since the franchise was born in 1977. Explanations abound for the frustration, and one common explanation is that management has been too cautious to take chances with eccentric firebrands who don’t always follow the company line.
Chances are slim that a pariah discarded by the Cubs ever will be recalled as the kind of folk hero Dizzy Dean became, but what if Milton Bradley discovers the joys of poise? What if the Sultan of Swatted Water Coolers – the Jack of All Tirades – learns to breathe evenly for six months and proves to be the catalyst in the Mariners’ first trip to the World Series?
The season will be a blast, and the movie made about Milton Bradley might even be better