I’ve tried to keep my love for Milton Bradley a bit quiet during his slump. I understand why people are quick to jump down his throat and vilify him. Most of it is ignorance, and blind faith in the national media.
I want to be a journalist some day, and when I see what certain unnamed hacks say about Bradley with minimal or no insight, operating on what I believe is the same phenomenon that Dave Cameron called confirmation bias yesterday, it makes me more determined to be nothing like today’s current crop of journalists. They frame situations how they want to and create angry mobs based on minimal or inaccurate information.
The Times is generally pretty well-off in Seattle, but unfortunately other team’s writers seem to really want to write about Milton, and refuse to let bygones be bygones.
He flips off fans, he returned my heckling my way in right field two years ago, he breaks bats, and he curses at fans. Clearly a guy that’s easy to hate, isn’t he?
Not for me. I love Milton Bradley and have been saying since spring training that he is going to end this year as the Mariners’ best overall hitter (unless we trade for Adrian Gonzalez, but that’s obvious). Sure, his early season numbers look bad even on the periphery. Coming into today’s game he had an awful 40.9% strikeout rate, though that was offset at least somewhat by an impressive 21.4% walk rate. Bradley’s swings and misses look bad, but he’s patient enough, and I have to believe his strikeout rate will be closer to his career percentage of 21.9% and his walk rate will likely regress closer to his 12% career average.
It should also be noted that Bradley has now put a mere 17 balls in play thus far. These include five ground balls, 11 fly balls, and one line drive. Bradley’s career line drive rate is 20.9%, so unless we are to assume that he forgot how to swing a baseball bat after hitting .273/.377/.415 in the second half of last season, we should expect his line drive rate to return somewhere closer to that 20.9%.
Bradley has appeared to press at times, but his approach has been solid (he’s seeing 4.9 pitches per plate appearance right now) and it’s very clear that he has the ability to hit the ball hard, so this shouldn’t be seen as anything more than a 3-for-26 slump. It happens to the best of players. Ichiro has looked pretty bad thus far too, and no one is worrying about him, are they? He’s flailed and missed at plenty of hittable pitches, so I think the lesson to be learned here is that since we are fans, not scouts, we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that a guy may look kind of crappy at the plate. What player does look good when he’s slumping?
Bradley needed his 2-4, 2B, HR night tonight like no one else. But in my opinion, Bradley’s best is yet to come. Slumps suck, but they’re not indicative of a player’s true talent level. Hopefully after tonight, those arguing against Bradley without any real evidence will temper their arguments and give him a chance to succeed. I think you’ll all be pleasantly surprised. Milton Bradley is fine. Now let’s give him a longer leash, folks.