Friday, May 7, 2010
Milton Bradley: A Reflection of Mariner Fans
Despite the misgivings of damn near every outside observer about his checkered past and temper, Milton Bradley (a wheel and deal acquisition in miraculous return for the overpriced mistake Carlos Silva) came in with expectations of big things for this season. He quickly disappointed, and as the pressure mounted to produce in light of a sputtering start he began to wind up and get angrier with himself, which only made the problem worse. He had flashes of the brilliance everyone expected, but he couldn't even string it together over more than a few games, sometimes not even through an entire game. The frustration led him to rock bottom and he eventually got fed up and gave up but, realizing his hope and respect for what the team is about, he reneged and asked for help to try and salvage things instead of break them down all over again.
Despite the misgivings of damn near every outside observer about their offense, Mariners fans came in with expectations of big things for the 2010 season after Jack Zduriencik's miraculous wheeling and dealing produced several quality acquisitions (Cliff Lee, Casey Kotchman, Bradley, Brandon League). The Mariners quickly disappointed, and as the pressure mounted to produce in light of a slumping start the hitters began to press and try too hard, which only made the problem worse. Sometimes the team showed flashes of the potential everyone saw in them, but they couldn't string together more than a handful of good games... sometimes they couldn't even manage a single good game. The frustrated offense eventually hit rock bottom and the fans got fed up and stopped paying attention. But, realizing their hope and respect for what the team had rebuilt themselves into, they reneged and resorted to begging the GM to try and find a bat or two to salvage things... instead of throwing their hands up and resigning themselves to another lost season.
Of all the things said and written about the Milton Bradley situation, what struck me the most was how it reflected the Mariners in themselves, and how fans react to Milton kind of reflects how fans perceive the Mariners. Some "knew" the guy was going to fail, and now that he's finally melted down they want him gone ASAP even though losing him would cost the Mariners one of their best power bats. Likewise, some fans, remembering the crappy teams of the last few years, believe the team just wasn't cut out to compete, and now that they're losing they've given up on the team since it's likely they're going to spend May caving in and falling out of contention just like those past seasons.
But some realize that Milton's actions following the outburst were far different and more positive, and are willing to show him support believing that this time is going to be different. Likewise, some fans realize that this new GM is different from past regimes, and his smarter approach to team building has given the team real upside and hope that past teams didn't have... and are willing to maintain their support despite an 11-17 start believing that, with 134 games to go and only a 3.5 game deficit for the lead in a weak AL West... this time things are going to be different, that this team isn't going to cave in and fall out of contention in May like past teams but hang in there and get back into the hunt.
As one can say with many media controversies... the situation itself is a microcosm of the world from which it spawned. And how you react to Milton Bradley says a lot more about you than it does about Milton Bradley.