Albert Belle was one of the most anti-social players imaginable. He could divide a clubhouse and turn a great job into a nightmare for the people charged with supervising him or playing alongside him.
He also could hit like few others of his era. Belle’s 1995 season was epic. His second half in 1998, with the Chicago White Sox far from a playoff race, was one of the most impressive displays of hitting, day in and day out, I have seen. There was no mystery to why teams put up with his behavioral issues.
But Milton Bradley? Does his possible impact on a lineup really justify all of this?
The Seattle Mariners went to great links to assimilate Bradley, 32, into their clubhouse after bravely taking him off the Chicago Cubs’ hands over the winter. They did so even though he never has had more than 22 home runs or 77 RBIs.
And faced with their first crossroad, the Mariners are making him even more of an organizational project after he bolted the team in midgame Tuesday and came Wednesday to general manager Jack Zduriencik asking for help with issues related to his emotional and psychological health.
This is in stark contrast to the way the Cubs dealt with Bradley last June when Lou Piniella sent him home during a game and chased him into the clubhouse screaming at him, and in September when GM Jim Hendry told him he would pay him to stay away from the ballpark.
Bradley, who was placed on the restricted list Thursday, is being praised in Seattle and other places for admitting he has a problem and seeking help.
A year ago, after Hendry gave him a three-year, $30 million contract, Bradley hit .257 with disappointing secondary numbers. He’s a certified team-wrecker.
So was Belle. But until an arthritic hip limited him, he didn’t let his issues get in the way. He directed his anger at the baseball. Maybe the Mariners should bring him in to consult with Bradley.