Milton Bradley angry

Can the Mariners void Milton Bradley’s contract?


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.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

cardinals logo

The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.