Entering that day, the team had a record of 16-23 and were losers of six straight contests. Just hours after Bradley’s termination was announced, however, the ballclub bested the Minnesota Twins by a score of 5-2, snapping their skid and improving to six games under .500. Exactly one week and seven games later, the M’s are winners of seven of their last eight and a mere one game below equilibrium at 23-24.
Now, it may not be all Bradley’s fault that the team got off to a sluggish start, but let’s be honest with ourselves here: there has to be some correlation between the club’s recent hot streak and Milton’s aptly-timed exodus.
The record since the man’s departure speaks for itself. On top of that, dugout morale appears to be at an all-time high. Sure, winning will breed a positive attitude (you won’t hear Chone Figgins going into his “Dumb question, next question” routine anytime soon, for instance), but this is no chicken-and-egg scenario: the unemployment of the embattled Bradley predates the first victory in this string of success, if only by a few ticks of the clock.
If addition by subtraction weren’t enough (and really, the team might have improved by sticking a tree out at Milton’s position), the M’s are getting similar — if not better — production from their left field platoon in Bradley’s stead.
While baseball’s Kanye West (Bradley’s comparison, not mine) supplemented his salty disposition with a .218 average, .356 slugging percentage, .669 OPS, 13 RBI, and three home runs, the tandem of Mike Wilson and Carlos Peguero have combined to put up these digits: .220 average, .420 slugging, .655 OPS, 11 RBI, and two home runs. A fair enough juxtaposition, made lopsided when you take into account the fact that Wilson and Peguero have done this over eleven days. Bradley? He concocted his numbers over a 39-day, 28-game span. Advantage, new guys.
And while the impact of Bradley’s dismissal may very well be temporary, consider the six-game winning streak the Mariners are currently on. Only three times in the past nine seasons has this franchise compiled a lengthier sequence of consecutive victories: in April of 2002 (10), from May into June of 2003 (nine), and most recently in June of 2007 (eight).
If that weren’t enough, the team’s existing 23-24 win-loss record is the best they’ve had on May 23rd since that ’07 season, a year in which they conquered their opponents 88 times.
Yes, it’s still early. And no, this team does not have all the answers. Their offense, while improving, could still benefit from another big bat or two. Their bullpen, while effective, has had trouble closing out ballgames. Their starting pitching is dominant, but likely due for a regression.
But above all else, the surly elephant in the room is gone. With his exit and this wholly unanticipated turn of events, there’s one thing left in Milton Bradley’s wake that takes precedence over all else: hope. It’s time to start believing in this team, Mariner fans.