So it’s some time after 2 a.m., like 2:17 to be exact, and I’m watching the replay of the game on FSN and thinking about the game earlier tonight. Yes, I need to get a life.
Anyway, what happened with Milton Bradley bothers me. It bothers me that something happened. It bothers me we don’t know what exactly happened. It bothers me that some people are predisposed to think Bradley is at fault. It bothers me that there are some people making assumptions on who was at fault knowing few if any details. It bothers me that I was speculating about what took place on Twitter. It bothers me I’ve resorted to this sort of gimmicky repetition. But I left Safeco at 12:10 a.m., and had a 45-minute commute home and now I’m still awake. So if this even reads coherently, I will be satisfied.
Here’s what we know ….
Manager Don Wakamatsu moved Milton Bradley back to the clean up spot today. When asked if Bradley was their best option at clean-up, he said:
“When you’re talking about power and average, without a doubt. He’s a guy who can do a lot in this offense, but he’s not the sole answer. The guys around him have got to have better at-bats. As a group we haven’t been able to string anything together collectively.”
Wakamatsu started Bradley at clean-up to begin the season, but after some early struggles, Wakamatsu felt Bradley was putting too much pressure on himself and dropped him in the batting order. But he moved Bradley back.
“You look at our lack of offense right now and he’s one of our more productive hitters over the last week or so,” Wakamatsu said. “You juggle it with Milton and say let’s see how it goes. If he struggles in that situation, we’ll change it again. But you like to have him up in the order as much as you can.”
In his first game back at clean-up, Bradley didn’t have a great night.
He popped up to second in his first at-bat, getting out in front on a 1-1 changeup from James Shields to start the second inning.
In his second at-bat, which came in the fourth inning with two outs and Franklin Gutierrez on first, Bradley was rung up on a called third strike on a 3-2 fastball by home plate umpire Kerwin Danley.
In what would be his final at-bat of the game, Bradley came up with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning – the situation he was moved back to cleanup for. Shields got up on Bradley 1-2, but then ran the count full. He then froze Bradley on a 89-mile per hour cut fastball — according to MLB’s pitch tracker.
After striking out, Bradley doesn’t do much but exhale and walk back to the dugout. They showed him a little later briefly walking from one end of the dugout to the other. He doesn’t seem to be upset.
But apparently he fired his bat and helmet into the dugout hallway.
A few minutes later, we see Ryan Langerhans out in left field.
At this point, I’ m up in the press box and my first inclination isn’t to think something happened with Bradley. I certainly don’t think that Bradley’s been benched for some issue. I honestly thought on a such cold night his calf might have been bothering him.
Fast forward to after the game, Wakamatsu has been talking a little while and tells us that Mark Lowe is undergoing an MRI on his lower back and the results will be back tomorrow. Then he was asked by Shannon Drayer about Milton coming out of the game.
“We just felt at that time what went on with the two strikeouts it was time to get him out of the ballgame,” Wakamatsu said.
Baker then asked him what went on with the two strikeouts.
“We felt at that time, it was time to get him out,” Wakamatsu said.
Nothing more from Wakamatsu.
Bradley was not in the clubhouse, but it was strange to see Chone Figgins, Jack Wilson and Casey Kotchman all sitting at their locker listening intently to Mike Sweeney tell them a story. This isn’t common. After a loss like that on a weekday night, guys usually leave. I thought it was strange, but I also had to go file before an 11 p.m. deadline.
After the game, Gregg Bell of the AP tells me that there might have been an incident with Bradley. Bell was still in the clubhouse when I was upstairs, talked to a few Mariners players, who alluded to Bradley’s temperament.
Here’s what we don’t know…
We don’t know exactly what happened from the time Bradley struck out till the time the decision was made to put Langerhans in, and what happened after that.
There was allegedly some sort of incident with Bradley being upset.
But was he upset about striking out? I’m sure he wouldn’t be pleased about being pulled. Bradley likes to play. He is very intense about playing and contributing.
But we also don’t know why Wakamatsu took him out. Did Wakamatsu take him out because of the two strikeouts? That seems a little unfair considering nobody has been or was doing much offensively. And unlikely since Wakamatsu seems to let most hitters stay in there despite troubles.
Did Wakamatsu pull Bradley for something he did after the strikeouts? There was some discussion about a thrown bat and helmet in the dugout. There are other rumors as well. The Bradley critics will say that he almost certainly did something wrong.
All of this is unclear. And Wakamatsu didn’t say what happened and Bradley wasn’t around. It appears the players didn’t want to talk about it — it’s the whole “what happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse” mantra.
Here’s what I think …
I think it’s foolish to say if there was a right or a wrong party involved when we don’t know all the details surrounding the event.
I think when it comes to these situations – fair or not – Bradley will be perceived as the troublemaker upon first glance. Unfortunately he has a reputation in baseball. Is it somewhat overblown? Perhaps. But some of it Bradley has earned with his outbursts and temper tantrums. No one has questioned his passion. But there have been concerns about his petulance. So when it comes down to a situation like this, some people will automatically assume Bradley is the guilty party. I’m not going to do that.
I don’t think for a second that anyone should blame Bradley for the Mariners issues. Collectively they aren’t hitting. They are getting no production from the DH spot and the catching spot. Figgins is hitting about 100 points below his average and Jose Lopez is scuffling. Even on good days it’s a struggle to score runs, and there haven’t been many good days.
Wakamatsu had his reasons for pulling Bradley. We’ve seen before that Wakamatsu is willing to stay with hitters almost to a fault. Most readers will point to the guy who hit behind Bradley on Tuesday night, Ken Griffey Jr., and Wak’s willingness to keep playing him. Also if you look at the situation, it was a 3-1 game and Bradley had just been moved up to cleanup, it seems unlikely that Wak pulls Bradley for a couple called third strikes. If Wak was going to bench guys for having back-to-back bad at-bats, the Mariners batting order might consist of three people. I know the easy thing to say is why bench Bradley and not Griffey — that’s what kind of makes people lean to the idea that it is beyond performance related.
However, a manager might make a decision based on how it will affect the rest of the season, not the rest of the game. If Wakamatsu was unhappy with something Bradley did in the at-bats or after, and felt like Bradley needed to come out to send a message, then he has reasons. You may not agree with him, but he’s earned the right to make the decision. And I’m certain he knows it will be criticized.
Or it could be that Wakamatsu felt that Bradley was so incensed about striking out that it might have been a risk putting him back out there.
There are so many different aspects, reasons and details we don’t know.
And now, it’s 3:30 a.m. And all of this Milton Bradley speculation has finally made me tired.