Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Milton Bradley vs. Carlos Silva & Cash, Part 1

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 8, 2010

Congrats to Kurt Suzuki of the A’s for his walkoff double last night.  As you can see in the video, Mariners LF Milton Bradley, who managed his first home run (and hit) with his new club last night, doesn’t quite pull that one in.  Is there a little schadenfreude on my end?  Not really, since it isn’t Bradley himself that causes me to draw attention to him.  The majority of the baseball commentariat – talking heads, writers and bloggers alike – was convinced that Seattle had fleeced the Cubs in the off season.  In an exchange of bad fits, they said, Bradley was by far the better option and well worth the extra money Seattle has to pay Chicago to take on Carlos Silva.  Foolishness.There were two schools of thought when Chicago GM Jim Hendry and Jack Z of the Mariners came together this past winter to exchange a pair of festering sores on their respective teams.  No one was particularly enthused about either side’s haul.  The least controversial part of the trade was the $9 million being sent to the Cubs.  Bradley, ever the malcontent, came with baggage as well as a litany of excuses for his poor play, none of which involved his own responsibility.  Silva’s contract, worth $12 million per year, was never justified.

Loathed by the Mariners faithful for his weight, poor performance, and outspoken criticism of the 2008 team, Silva’s departure was seen locally as a blessing.  The arrival of Bradley as a complementary player was an intriguing proposition.  Seattle was ridding itself of Bavasi’s poor decisions in short order under Jack Z, and the buzz was to aim for the playoffs against a depleted Angels team in the AL West.  Bradley, if well-mannered, could be a contributor without the media spotlight and “run-producer” pressure Chicago placed on him.

In Chicago, news travels far and fast.  Numerous semi-public conflicts in the Cubs clubhouse came to light and, following his late-season banishment, the other players’ opinions began to trickle out in waves of unbridled applause.  Just like every other major acquisition, Milton had to endure the stress of the high expectations and minimal patience of the Cubs fans.  He never quite got out from under it, and the situation became so toxic that Hendry had to make a move.  Even in Chicago, Silva was seen largely as the cost of doing business.  A mop-up man, if healthy, who could possibly be an emergency starter and provide more stability than an average bottom-of-the-barrel reliever.  And the cash would allow the short term flexibility needed to put a patch on the deteriorating outfield situation.

Now let’s take a look at half of this transaction a little more closely.

One of the arguments was that Seattle, unlike Chicago, wouldn’t be asking Bradley to be something he isn’t.  However, Bradley enters the season as Seattle’s starting left fielder AND cleanup hitter.  Now, if Bradley wasn’t going to hit for power in Wrigley, at the GAB in Cincy, at PNC in Pittsburgh…he’s going to be a middle-of-the-order run producer in Seattle, of all places?  And he’s going to be able to patrol SafeCo’s spacious outfield?  Even in a three-way platoon with Griffey at DH and Eric Byrnes in LF, Bradley is being asked to be the premier producer (between Casey Kotchman and Griffey or Jose Lopez).  In Chicago, he was protection for Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, someone to bring balance to the lineup with his strong on-base percentage and a bit of pop (comparing AL-quality opponents in Arlington to NL-quality opponents in Wrigley was really a fair comparison).  He was a colossal failure who barely got his average over .250 (yeah, I know, average is imperfect, but Bradley doesn’t like to take the bat off his shoulder, so he deserves to have it counted).

Upon being dealt to Seattle, Bradley said his problems were behind him, parts of his departed youth.  He was going to be a model citizen and help his team win and enjoy the process.  The past is behind him, and he’s confident that he will be a great part of the team:

“I can be like that guy that you watch all the time for whatever reason,” he said, referring to his track record of angry outbursts and run-ins. ”But I really think I’ve outgrown it, a lot of the stuff that I did when I was younger.”

He told Keith Law of ESPN that, “This is a new chapter. I can turn the page and close a lot of that book that has been written and start a new one.”

Unfortunately for Mariners fans, both of those quotations antedate his 2009 debut with the Cubs.  He and GM Jim Hendry both said the right things then, no matter how many eyebrows were raised.  But Yahoo! Sports‘ Steve Henson offers a glimmer of hope for Mariners fans.  Quoth Bradley:

Getting upset has caused me to hurt family, hurt friends, hurt my team, hurt fans. I need to talk to somebody about anger, get treated, find a way to correct that situation. It’s not even about baseball. This is about what I need to do for my life. I let anger get the best of me.

Sorry.  That was a glimmer of hope for Dodgers fans in 2004.  My bad.  But don’t you worry, Seattle fans.  Uncle Miltie, now a mere week shy of his 32nd birthday, has matured not only beyond his tempestuous emotions, but also beyond such trivial matters as wins and losses:

I didn’t care whether I liked it or not as long as I was winning, because that’s all it’s about for me. But at this point in my career I want to enjoy it. I want to have fun. I’ve been fortunate enough to play on a lot of teams and met a lot of guys, so I’ve built some lasting relationships. That’s stuff that I take to heart.

This one is legit, dated to his arrival at Seattle training camp some six weeks ago.  A pair of ejections arguing the strike zone soon followed.  Then there came quad tightness – but he’s being a man and playing through it, so it’s okay.  On a Mariners team devoid of run producers, Milton earned the LF job and the cleanup spot on opening day, which offered him a chance to stand out.  Which he did by splintering his bat in a fit of anger following his 9th inning strikeout with runners on.  But hey, at least he went down swinging, which is more than you can say about his 2009 season.  A quiet Game #2 as DH was uneventful, and Game #3 started most promisingly.  Bradley’s first hit as a Mariner left the park, but later on, he just had to give it back with the botched warning track defensive Web Phlegm that gave Oakland a win.

Is Bradley a skilled baseball player?  Yes

Is Bradley statistically more likely to contribute than Carlos Silva?  Probably

In a game of Strat-O-Matic Baseball, is Milton Bradley’s 2008 card a thing of beauty?  Has to be

But would you bring him into your clubhouse?  Would you take the chance?  If you don’t know him yourself, then maybe you need to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has met him on a professional level.  Let’s use, as an example, Bradley’s public comments on an interaction with former Dodgers catcher Paul LoDuca:

I live by a simple creed. If you don’t know me and I don’t know you, don’t approach me and I won’t approach you. Don’t insult me and I won’t insult you. Because you don’t know what I will or won’t do.

Talent vs. Attitude is what it all comes down to.  Can the calming influence of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Sweeney keep him in check?  Can Ken Wakamatsu help guide his team through any stormy waters more effectively than Sweet Lou?  And, does Milton Bradley’s presence in the lineup get them closer to the playoffs than having Silva in the bullpen and spending the $4.5 million for each of the next two years on a less bellicose OF/DH who can put up a similar .275 BA, .820 OPS, and maybe even play more than 125 games?

I’ll be examining the Carlos Silva half of this equation in the near future.  Silva’s issues with the Bavasi/Riggleman regime, his health and injuries, his ugly raw numbers from 2008, and the sabermetric stats that tell us a bit more about his pitching and effectiveness will come into play.  And more so than for Bradley, the supposed worse half of this trade is seen in a new light with the help of the data available over at Fangraphs.


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