Remember 2010? It will forever be etched in time as the Seattle Mariners’ “Believe Big” year. Believing big didn’t really work out the way everyone hoped, but the optimism was warranted. Coming off a promising 2009 campaign in which the team posted an 85-77 win-loss mark, the ’09-’10 offseason was full of giddiness and excitement.
Neglecting the various warts in a lineup pockmarked by over-performers and aging veterans, the M’s front office pulled off two major moves that offseason. The first came on December 8th, 2009 in the form of diminutive free agent infielder Chone Figgins. The Mariners inked Figgins to a (ugh) four-year contract that day, then waited just eight more days before pulling off their next big move. On December 16th, the team acquired starting pitcher Cliff Lee from Philadelphia for a hodgepodge of middling prospects. The move was heralded as a franchise-changer, the type that would take the organization from okay to great. With Lee and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners would be unstoppable. Never mind the fact that, assuming both aces stayed healthy, the duo would appear in just 40-percent of the team’s games. This was it! This was the Mariners’ year!
On May 16, 2011, the Seattle Mariners officially released Milton Bradley from his contract, essentially firing the ill-tempered Opening Day left fielder in the process.
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.
I love this team. Don’t get me wrong. I just happen to hate this version of this team. It’s like when you’re a kid and you screw up and your parents get mad at you. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you anymore. They’re just upset for the time being. That’s all it is.
On paper, the 2011 Seattle Mariners are grosser than a Brendan Fraser movie. They’re flat boring. Brendan Ryan? Adam Kennedy? Jack Cust? Eh. Let’s be real here. None of those guys get you excited about the future of this team. They just don’t. But at least we got rid of Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Minus. Addition by subtracting the Subtraction. Though I suppose we could reacquire his goofy didgeridoo ass since he was just cut by the Houston Astros. Seriously. And he spent his entire offseason doing MMA workouts with Jay Glazer, too. Gee, I don’t know how that didn’t lead to success.
Because it’s never too early to hand out progress reports.
*Editor’s note: The following list only applies to players who have logged Major League service time thus far in 2010. Likewise, players who were re-signed to contracts (i.e. Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney, etc.) are not considered. This report card is solely designed to assess the play of new offseason acquisitions.
Player: Milton Bradley
How acquired: Via trade with the Chicago Cubs, in exchange for pitcher Carlos Silva.
When I was growing up, I used to play Super Mario Brothers religiously on my Gameboy. It was my favorite video game of all-time and it kept me entertained through what otherwise would have been some of the most boring moments of my childhood (like, for instance, road trips through Montana).
As an avid Super Mario gamer, I lived in fear of finding myself with but one virtual life to live in the context of the little Italian plumber’s two-dimensional world. One solitary life to cling to meant I was one ill-timed jump, one fireball, or one evil mushroom away from the dreaded GAME OVER, a place no video game enthusiast ever wants to find himself. Faced with the prospect of impending mortality, I employed one of two very different strategies in dealing with my imminent fate.
When Milton Bradley hit that three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday night, I’m pretty sure Doug Fister blew his load all over the Mariners dugout. And who can blame him? Seattle pitchers had been blue-balled for 21 consecutive innings, forced to watch helplessly as their offense failed to score a single run.
And then, in one fell swoop, everything changed. Bradley stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second and proceeded to golf a 2-0 fastball from Oakland A’s reliever Brad Ziegler into the right-field seats. At that moment, a veritable climax was reached.
Immediately, the television cameras panned to the dugout where Fister was toweling off cheering ecstatically for this unprecedented turn of events. The 6’8″ righthander became the team’s first starting pitcher to be credited with a win this year (relievers Mark Lowe and Brandon League were the winners in Seattle’s first two victories).
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.