The argument started after my buddy, Chris, made a joke about Milton Bradley’s batting average: “You can’t even make a phone call with your average, Milton.” True, in fact, since Bradley was batting .048 at the time and one would require fifty cents to use a pay phone.
This one-liner came after two other friends, Seth and Paul, had chanted-slash-slurred for Carlos Silva and had started mock-booing Bradley as soon as he walked to home plate.
That’s when the little guy sitting in front of us, slightly inebriated, turned around and said to Chris, “Shut up, man. He’s a Mariner.”
Well, yes. Milton Bradley is a Mariner. But that doesn’t change the fact that he sucks right now.
Milton’s double-digit batting average, plus alcohol, plus a group of 20 people to back you up can make you say a lot of things you otherwise might not say. In this case, some of those things were directed at Milton Bradley. Albeit from the upper deck.
So anyways, here’s this noble diehard (and I respect him for that) defending Milton’s honor to a group of 20 people. Probably didn’t hurt that one of the three guys in his group had actually dropped $22 for a “BRADLEY 15” jersey shirt.
Still, that doesn’t excuse the fact that he had told one of our friends to shut up. And so the verbal war ensued.
From rational to irrational the kid went, at one point telling Chris that he was twice the Mariners fan that Chris was because he had “probably been to twice as many Mariners’ games as you.” In the end, he was slightly subdued when I asked him his thoughts on Greg Briley, and further embarrassed when Milton made a costly fielding error an inning later.
It certainly didn’t help matters when Milton arrived at the plate in the latter innings with a batting average of .045. The jokes shifted from telephone calls to postage stamps at that point. And even the kid in front of us realized that his battle was fruitless by now.
The reality is, the Mariners aren’t doing so hot at this point in time. And while I love this team wholeheartedly, I do not have to like these guys right now. And frankly, I don’t. I am the parent, and the M’s are my unruly child that got sent to the principal’s office at school. I love you, but I am not liking you at the current juncture.
Two total hits in a hot mess of a home opener is pretty pathetic. Facing a guy in Justin Duchscherer whose fastball tops out in the upper-80s and who didn’t play all of last year is even more pathetic. But that’s currently where we stand.
While Milton Bradley might be the epitome of the M’s failures at the moment — in addition to his .045 batting average, he has scuffled with fans in both Oakland and Texas and is already making headlines for his erratic behavior — only one person in the entire lineup possesses a batting average above .250. That would be the inimitable Franklin Gutierrez, who is pacing this team with his .419 average and Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Outside of Gutierrez, however, the story is bleak and gloomy.
Super-sub Matt Tuiasosopo is batting .400. But that involves a hitting line of just 3-for-5.
Ichiro is next with his .250 average. But as everyone knows, he is a notoriously slow starter.
From there, it gets ugly fast.
Ken Griffey Jr., Chone Figgins, and Casey Kotchman have batting averages of .200 or better. Everyone else — a total of six hitters — is below the Mendoza Line. And if this keeps up, we might have to consider renaming .100 the Milton Line.
It’s not time to panic just yet. As mentioned previously, the M’s do have a few slow starters in their lineup. Ichiro is the best example, but even top-of-the-lineup cohort Chone Figgins isn’t exactly a big fan of April. Eventually, those guys will come around.
Plus, you have to like what the pitchers are bringing to the table. Ryan Rowland-Smith (or Nolan Ryan-Smith, as one anonymous drunk put it yesterday) went seven strong innings on Monday, allowing four earned runs (which technically should have only been three, had Bradley not committed that fielding error) and scattering three hits in the process. Every fifth day you have the guarantee in Felix, soon there will be another guarantee in Cliff Lee, and the remaining starters just need to hold serve. Pitching, as we all know, is this ballclub’s strength.
All that said, it’s tiresome waiting around for this team to peak. Especially after dropping six ballgames in the first week to division rivals. As meaningless as these early games are to some, come September they play a vital role in the jockeying for divisional supremacy.
And in the American League West, where the only guarantee is a close race for first, every game is important. Love it, like it, hate it, or despise it, the fact remains: Every game matters.