Milton Bradley has played just seven games for the Mariners, yet manager Don Wakamatsu has already had a pair of sit-downs with the troubled outfielder.
Wakamatsu met with Bradley after he flipped off the crowd in Texas last week and they had a late-night, closed-door session yesterday to talk about his 1-for-22 start to the season. Here’s how Wakamatsu described last night’s chat:
We talked about not fueling the fire, and relying on your teammates to help you out. That’s what we’re focusing on right now. There are going to be people looking for him and I understand that, but lead by example. I think he’s found a comfort level with this ball club, and doesn’t want to let his teammates down. A lot of fans don’t realize he cares sometimes too much about his performance, and what he’s supposed to be bringing to this club.
Either that or he’s just nuts.
Bradley should eventually get on track offensively, because he’s been an above-average hitter in each of the past seven years and bounced back from a similarly slow start with the Cubs last year to hit .271/.385/.412 in his final 113 games. However, his defense has been absolutely brutal in left field so far and that seems unlikely to change at age 32.
And of course the fact that he’s playing for his eighth team in 11 seasons and has had incidents at every previous stop isn’t simply a matter of “caring too much about his performance.” Still, if he hits something close to his .276/.370/.448 career mark and keeps the incidents to a minimum things will be just fine in Seattle. Unfortunately for the Mariners, history suggests that if Bradley’s slow start continues much longer the issues may begin to snow ball.