With the “everyone is innocent until proven guilty, even Milton Bradley” caveat out of the way, the inevitable next question is whether the Mariners can get out from under his $12 million contract for 2011.
Short answer: doubtful. We went through this exercise with the K-Rod business last summer of course, so here’s the quick refresher:
The Uniform Player Contract in Baseball contains two relevant clauses: Paragraph 7(b)(1) authorizes a team to terminate a contract if a player “fails, refuses or neglects to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the club’s training rules.” Paragraph 7(b)(3) similarly lets teams terminate a contract if a player “fails, refuses or neglect to render his services hereunder or in any manner materially breach this contract.”
On their terms, sure, it looks simple: making threats of death or bodily harm is bad citizenship. Being in jail tends to keep one from being able to render services hereunder. Easy-peasy, voidsy-woidsy, right?
Wrong. Teams almost never try to void deals, and if they do, they’re always met with grievances from the players’ union. A lot of this is because of the nature of our justice system. If Bradley gets indicted and goes to trial, it could be several months or longer before he sees the inside of a courtroom. During the pendency of that case, he’s out on bail, presumably with court approval to travel with his team and all of that. He can and will claim that he’s not been convicted of anything, he likely can and will proclaim his innocence and he will be able to perform under his deal, even if Eric Wedge never considers penciling his name into the lineup.
The Mariners are highly unlikely to try and advance their case to void Bradley’s deal in an arbitration with the union while Bradley still has criminal charges pending. At most they’d maybe consider approaching Bradley about settling the last year of his deal in a mutual walkaway for lower money, but even that’s unlikely given that Bradley ain’t exactly the go-along-to-get-along type. Why would he be in this case? What’s in it for him?
Another possibility, raised by someone who spoke to the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker last night, is if Bradley has a clause built into his contract that speaks specifically of felony behavior and/or charges. Such a beast could, if present, convert Bradley’s contract into a non-guaranteed one.
Personally, if I were signing Milton Bradley — a player with a long and rich history of anger management issues — I’d want an out clause in the deal. But I didn’t sign Bradley. Jim Hendry did. He didn’t exactly drive a hard bargain on the money, so he probably didn’t drive a hard bargain on sensitive stuff like “if you get hauled away by police after blowing your top, I don’t have to pay you” clauses either.
The upshot: unless there’s an unexpected out-clause built into Bradley’s deal, Milton Bradley’s $12 million for 2011 is just as guaranteed as Oliver Perez’s $12 million for 2011.
Meanwhile, Gil Meche is not going to make a red cent. I love America.