January 19, 2011
Milton's Latest Mishap
It's all over the internets by now: Milton Bradley's talent for trouble has become news again, as he was arrested yesterday morning on a felony charge of threatening a woman. While he's out on bail and we'll have to wait and see if there's anything the Mariners can or should do, it's important to remember a few relevant facts.
First, whatever his past and whatever anyone thinks of him, he is as entitled to his innocence until proven guilty as you or I. Bradley's life from the outside looking in seems like a mess, but frankly, we don't know, and really can't. That fact might engender sympathy, or not, but I suspect there's not a lot of public patience left for the man, even after the Mariners were understated and professional in their handling Bradley's issues last May. But as I said then, "the meltdown risk was one taken on from the moment that Jack Zduriencik pulled the trigger on the Double Disappointment Dodge." That's no less true now, even as causes for easy outrage mount up.
Second, as we already saw in the Francisco Rodriguez situation last year, ballclubs can make noise when it comes to piling on after a player runs afoul of John Law, but barring any specific contractual language--as the exceptional Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times noted in that initial link--there isn't a whole lot of leverage for the club.
From there, we can waste our time with unknowns. Once whatever details that will leak out do, the Mariners could try to effectively grandstand on the issue by publicly punishing Bradley first, either by noisily suspending him, and then muddle through the legal mess and a grievance they'd likely lose. They would not end up paying a dime less, but they would at least appear like concerned (reactionary) citizens in front of the sports radio set. Or they could release him outright, pay out his contract, and just wash their hands of the situation.
While either course would make for a major break from last spring's action, one thing might perhaps change the Mariners' stance on the subject: the organization-wide black eye over acquiring Josh Lueke. That's not especially fair and really shouldn't be directly relevant to Bradley's situation, except in how both men's actions might reflect on the team in terms of public relations: badly. That may not be fair to the Mariners--to some extent, they can retreat into the claim that they're just employing adults, who do good or ghastly things on their own time. But after that embarrassment, meting out organizational "justice" might prove much more tempting. They would not spend any less fighting Bradley over a suspension or separation agreement that would eventually favor him, but they might decide to attach some value to being seen in public as having had enough.