If he leads the league in O.P.S., as he did for Texas in 2008, the Mariners could be very good. But injuries have shadowed him, and he hit .257 with 12 homers and 40 runs batted in last season for the Chicago Cubs, who were eager to unload him. The Mariners are Bradley’s eighth team in 11 seasons.
“Two years ago, I played, and I was good,” Bradley said. “I go to Chicago, not good. I’ve been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me.”
He added: “Just no communication. I never hit more than 22 homers in my career, and all of a sudden I get to Chicago and they expect me to hit 30. It doesn’t make sense. History tells you I’m not going to hit that many. Just a lot of things that try to make me a player I’m not.”
That is what the Mariners hope. Unless they trade for a big hitter (and how about that, the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez trains right here at the Peoria Sports Complex), they will count on Bradley to be their primary slugger in Don Wakamatsu’s batting order.
“We made the deal because we were looking for someone to hit in the middle of our lineup,” said Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik, who acquired Bradley for pitcher Carlos Silva. “Milton fit that spot. We like what goes on here. We have a lot of faith and trust in Don. He allows players to be who they are, and that’s all we want Milton to do: come here and be a productive player for us, and have fun. That’s the environment we want to create.”
It's Bradley's comments about Chicago that are getting all the attention, as blaming a whole city for injuries and ineffectiveness seems hardly befitting a 31-year-old professional.
Then again, nobody ever accused Bradley of being a mature 31.
I would rather focus on Zduriencik's comments. I agree that the Mariners need some punch in the middle of their lineup. I agree that Bradley could provide that punch, if healthy. What I can't figure out is why Zduriencik believes Bradley will actually be productive when the M's are setting him up for failure.
Of course I'm referring to Bradley's supposed position: left field. Bradley has played 100 games in the field just twice in his career: 138 games in 2004, 109 games in 2009.
When it comes to Bradley's well-known, umm, issues, perhaps management figures that Ken Griffey Jr. is the cure for whatever ails Bradley's psyche. Which is the wonderful conundrum: Griffey seems to have performed a suplex on the DH slot, which is obviously Bradley's best (only?) position.
Zduriencik knows all this better than I do, and figured he didn't have a lot (i.e., Carlos Silva) to lose. I agree. But there's a reason the projection systems are relatively pessimistic about the Mariners this season: runs. As in, not scoring enough of them. The Mariners might allow fewer runs than anybody in the league, and also score fewer than anybody.
Actually, that's what they did last year. They probably won't do either of those things this year; the mean is a powerful magnet. But as the roster now stands, the M's look like a pretty good bet for .500 but not a lot more.