Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Milton Bradley the "Mine Field?"

This article by Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle was going so smoothly and was almost interesting (especially considering the very deliberate approach that Sabean is taking and the thus the lack of relevant coverage)...until he said this:

"General manager Jack Zduriencik earned a ton of well-deserved praise for changing the Mariners' identity, but it must have gone to his head. He traded for Milton Bradley. Zduriencik decided that unlike all those other executives and managers over the past decade, he could turn Bradley into a prince. What a foolish, team-wrecking notion.

Bradley's latest firestorm won't be ignited right away. Griffey, Bradley's longtime idol, will make sure of that. But in signing Bradley to a two-year deal, the Mariners dropped a mine field into their master plan. The Cubs, with Bradley out of their clubhouse, will have one sensational Christmas."

While I completely understand the skepticism (which is justified) that surrounds the future of Bradley, I could not disagree more with the idea that the Mariners GM somehow sabotaged all that solid team chemistry he'd built in 2009.  First off, saying that Zduriencik signed him to a two-year deal is completely false.  He did no such thing.  He traded for him and he essentially dumped a worthless pitcher for the outside chance that Bradley would recapture the brilliance he'd showed (on the field) throughout his career and especially in 2007 and 2008. The cost?  About $3 M over 2 years.  Which is certainly something the Mariners can afford in a pretty solid market with solid attendance, especially considering the fact that they had the worst offense in the AL in 2009.  I'm certain Zduriencik doesn't believe he can turn Bradley into a prince.  I think he'd be perfectly happy if Bradley would just keep his mouth shut and be a productive player.  And with the way things have been going for the new GM, I wouldn't bet against that happening.

If Zduriencik should be criticized for anything it should be the resigning of the Kid.  While Griffery is a wonderful man, he is no longer a wonderful baseball player.  He was carried off the field at the end of 2009 and it probably should have ended there.  There are only 25 valuable spots on each active MLB roster, and I'd be extremely hard pressed to believe that the Mariners could not have filled that roster spot with a more productive player than Griffey.  He can no longer play the outfield like he so wonderfully did in his younger days and thus is resigned to DH.  Unfortunately, he's not going to provide much more with the bat either.  It also can't be an attendance and revenue ploy because Seattle drew about 135,00 fewer fans in 2009 from 2008 despite a more competitive ballclub and the addition of the hometown hero.  His BABIP in 2009 was very low (.222, by far his career low) so it's not unreasonable to think he could perform better in 2010.  But at his age it's extremely doubtful he will be worth anywhere near the $3 M he signed for.  There's nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a player hang on too long.  My father telling me about a "clumsy" Willie Mays playing the outfield for the Amazings comes to mind, and it still seems unfathomable to contemplate Mays was every clumsy.  Luckily, Griffey probably won't be expected to play any defense but I have to be candid.  I wish he would have hung them up.  But then again, maybe he made a promise long ago as a boy never to quit until they forcefully took the jersey off his back...something Zduriencik clearly isn't yet ready to do. 


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