Now it’s clear why the Seattle Mariners re-signed Ken Griffey Jr.
It’s because they didn’t have enough salary room to add Jesse Jackson, Dr. Melfi, the Dalai Lama, Otto Kernberg, Nelson Mandela and the Glenn Ford character in “Blackboard Jungle.”
Without that phalanx of peacemakers and healers, the M’s have no choice but to turn to the man whose tickle therapy brokered love and harmony between Ichiro Suzuki and whatever remained of the clubhouse posse that wanted to punch him out in 2008.
Never mind the MVP or a Silver Slugger or even a .250 batting average. If Dr. Junior can keep the peace with Milton Bradley now part of the Mariners clubhouse, he should be a grand slam for the Nobel Prize.
In the space of maybe 48 hours, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has gone from Trader Jack, the demon barterer of Fleece Street, to mad scientist in the mold of Professor Frink. His Friday trade of worth-void pitcher Carlos Silva to the Chicago Cubs could be hailed as pure genius, assuming he was able to get in return even so much as a 25-cents-off coupon for Hot Pockets.
Then fell the other cleat: The M’s would be obliged to take on Misanthropic Milton, who come 2010 will be playing the outfield for his seventh team in eight years.
Milton Bradley doesn’t wear out his welcome so much as he whacks it with a frying pan, pushes it down a flight of stairs, aerates it with a cutlass and runs it through a blender. On liquefy. Overnight.
What’s more, Zduriencik had to send the Cubs $6 million in cash – probably to cover Band-Aids, a new water cooler, group therapy and a couple of extra cartons of whatever brand Lou Piniella’s smoking these days.
Yet the voice vote out there in Greater Marineria seems to be more “ayes.”
In Jack they trust.
And why not? Not only did Zduriencik make the moves that took the Mariners from 101 losses to 85 wins in 2009, including the hiring of the extraordinarily decent Don Wakamatsu as manager, but so far this winter he’s managed to sign away Chone Figgins – the ignition switch of the division rival Los Angeles Angels – and procure Cy Young winner Cliff Lee in the single most significant pitching upgrade in club history.
That’s credibility. So if Zduriencik says Milton Bradley won’t be playing pepper in the clubhouse with live grenades, who’s going to doubt it?
It will be, if nothing else, a delicious referendum on risk-reward, since the Figgins and Lee acquisitions signal the club’s intent on making a run at the post-season now.
If fan apprehension has not crested, it’s probably because of the jettisoning of Silva, who had become a symbol of the previous regime’s inept personnel dares. For $23 million, he produced exactly five wins in two years, while also being one of the splinter group stirring up the anti-Ichiro sentiment.
And in Bradley, they have a switch-hitting outfielder who as recently as 2008 led the American League in on-base percentage and hit .321 in Texas.
Where they didn’t want him back, either – though the Rangers at least let him finish the season, unlike the Cubs, who sent him home in disgust last September.
Over the years, Bradley has thrown a water bottle at a fan, been involved in police responses to domestic violence reports, called teammates racist and been injured while being restrained from going after an umpire, among other antics. He has, on occasion, issued apologies and put teammates in the position of apologizing for his behavior, but he was also quoted in a 2003 ESPN story as admitting that “I always complain about things and start controversy because … it kind of motivates me.”
And it motivates his employers to make him available.
Each time, there is a team – and a fan base – who believe they can rehabilitate him, that this will be the change of scenery that will do the trick. Zduriencik tap-danced around that Friday, saying only that, “We think this is a good fit for us on the field and we think that we have the support group that, like a lot of players on our club last year, came here and embraced each other.”
He means, mostly, Griffey who, for all of Ichiro’s Zen airs, has become a centering force in the clubhouse. And he means Wakamatsu, the high priest of building “belief systems” – whatever those are, exactly.
By next July, that could be a belief that it’s time for Milton Bradley to move it on down the road again. Or a belief that they can indeed win a pennant.
Or a Nobel.
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