Milton Bradley tries to dig his way out of his tunnel of darkness

Milton Bradley has asked the Seattle Mariners to help him, help himself.

Thank God

It won't be easy; he has all the signs of a man who will end up institutionalized or living on the street. He has tried to beat his anger addiction in the past but has not been able to make it happen. For most of his career he has spent his perceived misfortune blaming everyone but himself.

Once again he sounds like he has taken some steps to begin the process, and it would not be out of line for anyone to take this with a grain of salt. Still he's trying, and that is all anyone can do when confronted with their own failures. Instead of ridicule, he should only get support. If Mike Sweeney had been his teammate in 2004/2005 instead of Jeff Kent who knows how the Dodger fortunes would have turned out. We have heard for years that Mike Sweeney was a great teammate, it was great to read just how great a teammate he really is. Most would have turned their back on Milton's latest antics, but instead Sweeney reached out to a man he knew was drowning in emotional pain and gave him a hand.

On May 4th Milton Bradley once again lost his temper and left the team in a huff. On May 5th he was scheduled to show up at Lakeridge Elementary school with fellow Mariners, Ichiro, Griffey, and Mike Sweeney. No one knew if he would show after it appeared he had left the team but he did. When it was his turn to talk this is what he had to say:

The man who in March told The Associated Press he was baseball's Kanye West interrupted himself at one point because he was getting overcome with emotions during an impassioned five-minute talk to students on the Mariners' annual education day.

"I grew up in Long Beach, Calif., me and my mother," Bradley said softly through a microphone while in front of a stage in the school's lunchroom. "She worked in a grocery store, checking out groceries every day, 40 hours a week. Every day she'd come home, get the mail. She'd get in the same chair with the bills. She'd put in one pile the bills she could pay. In another pile she'd put the ones she couldn't pay. Bill collectors would call. I saw her fall asleep in that chair.

"I saw that every day. That was my motivation," to reach the major leagues.

Then, Bradley -- who recently complained that no one ever asks him where he's from, what he's about -- shrugged. With a previously buzzing student body nearly silent and teachers watching intently, Bradley said through glistening eyes: "I'm kind of getting a little emotional right now, because this is my heart."

Then he waved his hand over the kids.

"The whole world's ahead of you," Bradley said. "Someone in here might change the world. Motivation is what's most important."

As Bradley sat down, Sweeney hugged him. The five-time All-Star then gave Bradley's back a comforting pat. The slugger smiled.

After the school event, Sweeney said the Mariners are going to help Bradley.

"The way we're going to do that is just, to love on him," Sweeney said. "His track record shows he's had some ups and downs. But we can embrace him and get him to click the way he did in Texas [in 2008, Bradley's All-Star season].

"He's a beautiful man, with a beautiful heart."

Several hours later Milton stood before Mariner management and asked for help. That hand may not be enough, but everyone should be lucky enough to get one when they need it most.

The first significant move Paul DePodesta made as Dodger GM was to trade for Milton Bradley when he came available because of anger issues he had with the Indians. The price was our best outfielder prospect but it would be years before the best defensive center fielder in baseball would reach his potential. In the mean time, Milton became the Dodger center fielder and a fan favorite. For most of 2004 he was exactly what the Dodgers needed, he played a solid center field, had a very strong arm, was fast, some power, some plate discipline. He was not a super star but he was a very good center fielder and he played the game with emotion. He quickly became my 2nd favorite Dodger (Beltre was king).

When the Dodgers traded for Steve Finley as part of the remaking of a team already in 1st place it created a situation in the outfield that resulted in Milton being moved to RF and Finley getting to stay in CF. I dont know if that was what Depo had anticipated when the deal was made but that was the lineup that Tracy used. Steve Finley sucked in CF in 2004. That was my subjective opinion watching him butcher a position that Milton had played with aplomb. Using FanGraphs I can see his -10 UZR helps support that notion. Milton on the other hand had a +5.5 in 2004.  As a RF, Milton never looked comfortable, he had been the captain of the Dodger outfield and now he was in a position he had never played. His good times as a Dodger were about to end. The plastic bottle incident occurred on 9/29/2004 and the relationship between Milton and fans would never recover.

 

As 2005 started Milton had the manager in his corner. Jim Tracy was known for talking but I had never experienced it before. In the spring of 2005 I had the misfortune of attending a season ticket pow wow the Dodgers put together in the Stadium Club. The ownership was still new, no one really knew what to expect so they decided to do this little get together and answer questions about the team for 2005. Frank did his spiel, then Depo took his turn. He had just signed Jeff Kent, D Lowe, and JD Drew to big contracts but had let Beltre walk after his 48 home run season. Paul was articulate and answered the stupid questions as best he could without any sense of arrogance. Jim Tracy was next and someone made the mistake of asking Jim about Milton Bradley. 20 minutes later, Jim was still talking to himself about Milton Bradley. I got up and left; Jim had used up all the rest of the time. I never liked Tracy again, but the point of his answer was that Milton was a great kid who just needs to be given a chance.

 

The 2005 season started with crazy excitement. Opening Day at Dodger Stadium was one of those crazy ass games you will never forget, and Milton was in the middle of it. The Dodger trailed the Giants 8-5 headed into the bottom of the ninth but rallied to win the game 9 - 8 in what many might consider the most exciting opening day ever. The key blow was Milton hitting a bases loaded single to LF which went right through the wickets of defensive replacement Jason Ellison allowing everyone to score with Kent being the winning run. The Dodgers on April 20th were 12 - 2 and it looked like another great season was in store.

That was the peak of the 2005 season as injury after injury cascaded upon the Dodgers. That seasons collapse is a story for another day. Milton was having a decent season when he played but multiple injuries kept him from playing as much as he had in 2004. This was the beginning of the end for Milton physically, as he would not top 500 at bats again until he became a full time DH in Texas several years later. Eventually Jeff Kent and Milton had the infamous confrontation that would ultimately end Milton's Dodger career. Up to that point I had been in Milton's corner. However as the facts came out, I gave up that support. I was not a Jim Tracy fan but no one had Milton's back more then Jim Tracy. Jim had implored Milton to deal with the Kent problem internally but Milton ignored him and went to the media to whine about perceived racial problems with Kent. Ignoring Tracy and DePodesta ensured that Milton was done as a Dodger.

Ned traded him in his first and greatest trade, and Milton's emotional issues were no longer a Dodger concern. As he confronts his demons once again, he's past his peak physically, and the career arc of Carl Everett that I predicted for him back in 2005 is probably his future. He still has time to turn his career around and have some productive seasons but at this point he simply needs to turn his life around and have a productive life. I hope he does it, as everyone has said all along, underneath that anger is a good man with a good heart. Many people have started with less.

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