Justice Is Served

May 5, 2010 10:30 PM

Milton Bradley's meltdowns not a game anymore


Two things I can count on in life: The sun will eventually come up -- even in my chronically overcast hometown of Cleveland -- and Milton Bradley will jump off the deep end again.

The latest in the decade-long saga of "Game Boy" unfolded earlier today in Seattle, his new place of residence, when Bradley asked the Mariners to help him deal with the "stress" in his life. 

His decision to seek help came after he had another Milton Bradley moment. He balked at manager Don Wakamatsu's decision to bench him Tuesday night in the sixth inning.

Like Elvis, Bradley left the building.

His is an old, tired performance, played out earlier with teams in Montreal, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Diego, suburban Dallas and Chicago. He has worn out his welcome everywhere he has put on a uniform. Yet team after team thought it could harness Bradley's rage and turn it into a star.

The athletic gifts have always been inside Bradley, which explains why teams have gambled on him. But he's a bad bet -- like going all-in before the river with a pair of deuces while staring at a flop of ace, king and queen and a 10 on the turn. He's been a bad bet for all his baseball career.

To chronicle all of Bradley's missteps here would mean writing the journalistic equivalent of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. An in-depth story about Bradley shines a spotlight on a tale every bit as grim as Tolstoy's. 

But if you were looking for a gut-wrencher in the Bradley saga, you haven't followed his globetrotting closely. No tears should be shed for a pro athlete whose boorish, loutish behavior undermines what sports are about. Few men in the history of baseball have held as little respect for the game as Bradley. He didn't sully the grand game the way the steroids abuser of his time have, but he's done little to make the game better.

As talented as Bradley is, he is also a selfish athlete. He's an angry ballplayer, a bitter, hateful man who plays for himself and for nobody else. He's betrayed his teammates - the scores of them across baseball's landscape -- the thousands of baseball fans from coast to coast, his coaches and the game.

Milton Bradley, a former All Star, wouldn't care. He's never cared about any of this - not once has he stood tall and pointed a finger at his personal failures. He might want to play Greta Garbo and be left alone, but he's picked the wrong sport to play the loner.

Now, he could have found a sport to fit his fiery personality better. He could have chosen boxing, mixed martial arts or tennis. He's got the temperament for any one of these sports. No team sport, however, can make peace with a hard, unforgiving, irascible athlete like Bradley, even though team after Major League team has tried.

All of them have failed.

Well, his pit stop in Seattle should be Bradley's last. He must know it, too. For he has sought help, and the Mariners seem bent on giving him that help.

What choice do they have? They have $10 million committed to Bradley this season, wasted dollars all.

Yet they can blame no one but themselves for this disaster that was sure to happen. They traded excess baggage (Carlos Silva) to the Cubs to pick up excess baggage from the Cubs (Bradley).

A change of scenery might do wonders for him, the Mariners thought. Yet just like the Cubs, the Indians, the Expos, the Padres, the Dodgers and all the other Major League teams that Bradley has played for, the Mariners thought wrong.  

Did they learn anything from looking deep into the Bradley's past? Or did they fall in love with talent that they hoped would blossom like a white rose in the fertile Pacific Northwest?

Don't bother to ask Bradley. He'll have nothing to say about how his career has continued to unravel.

Follow me on Twitter: jbernardh; and on Facebook: J.B. Hill

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