Over 12 seasons, spread across eight organizations, he had that kind of relationship with a lot of people.
When he wasn't in theirs, he was requesting that they get out of his.
Now the Seattle Mariners have told him to get out of their faces, along with their clubhouse. After one full season and six weeks of another, all coming after the Mariners swapped out Carlos Silva's(notes) bad contract for Bradley's, Bradley was designated for assignment Monday. The Mariners will end up swallowing about $15 million in the transaction, because nobody's going to clean up after Jim Hendry's or Jack Zduriencik's blind ambitions.
In 101 games in Seattle, Bradley, who turned 33 last month, batted .209. Yes, he was going to get along with manager Eric Wedge this time. Yes, he was going to get help for his anger issues. Yes, he was going to stay on the field. Yes, he was a handful or two.
And yet, in a team environment and having chosen a very public life, Bradley was barely tolerable when he was healthy and hitting. As baseball went, hitting was his redeemable quality, and sometimes he did it well.
Probably, his moods and behavior were not his choices, and that's why I usually viewed Bradley sympathetically. In so many areas of his life, he seemed to seek the fight. Likely, before it came to him.
He found it in umpires, fans, managers, cops, sportswriters. Reportedly, he found it in companions as well.
Yet, I liked Bradley. We had a mutual friend. We spoke like adults and we kept it as such when I was the national baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times, in a city that – like the others – had turned on him.
So, on a spring afternoon in 2006, months after he'd been traded to the Oakland Athletics, I approached him meaning to say hello, to ask how he was getting along with new teammates and in a new environment.
"Milton," I said, and held out my hand.
He turned, his eyes darkened, and he spat his favorite words, "Get outta my face."
"What's that about?" I asked.
"I saw what you wrote," he said.
"What I wrote?"
I'd covered his trade to the A's for the paper. The deal brought Andre Ethier(notes) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. I'd also covered the story of an emergency call from his home to the police after a disturbance with his wife. It was sad, personal stuff that I believed I'd handled professionally and without judgment.
"I saw it," and then he quoted from a story he'd read supporting the trade of him, "…'Well, at least Andre Ethier's OPS isn't .911.' I saw that."
"Milton," I said. "I didn't write that."
"Get outta my face," he repeated, raising his hand and shooing me away.
"All right," I said. "All I can tell you is the truth. Remember who picked this fight."
I walked away, never to talk to Bradley again. It was then I realized Bradley would find battles where there were none, that even those who'd taken up his side – out of fairness, sympathy, pity, whatever – were fair game. Maybe he didn't want to. Maybe he'd regret it. Then, probably, he'd be too proud to admit he was wrong, because there was security in living on the edge of anger, and with the presumption that the world was waiting for him to wobble in order to take another bite out of him.
Now Bradley, on the far edge of his prime, is out of work, carrying a .218 batting average and a reputation for instability. I don't think he'll be back.
But now he has what he's always wished for.
Now everybody is out of his face.
- Milton Bradley