Mariners’ Milton Bradley: I’m Baseball’s Kanye West

Mariners' Milton Bradley: I'm Baseball's Kanye West PEORIA, Ariz. — Many around
baseball have a place for Milton Bradley: in a corner where angry meets
trouble.

Bradley has no use for what anyone
thinks. He claims his own place in the game.

"If I was a musician, I'd be Kanye
West
. If I was in the NBA, I'd be Ron Artest," the 31-year-old former
Expo, Indian, Dodger, Athletic, Padre, Ranger and Cub said this week.
"In baseball, they've got Milton Bradley. I'm that guy. You need people
like me, so you can point your finger and go, 'There goes the bad guy.'"

Here's "the bad guy," the 2008
All-Star with Texas, taking batting practice on a side field, smiling
and shagging fly balls falling out of a desert sun while wearing his
eighth different uniform in 11 major-league seasons.

Here's "the bad guy," the one Cubs
general manager Jim Hendry said should "look in the mirror" and stop
blaming everyone else for his tumultuous season in Chicago. Bradley hit
just .257 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 124 games during his only
season with the Cubs. That was the first season of a $30 million,
three-year contract Hendry gave him. It ended with the Cubs suspending
Bradley after a verbal altercation with their hitting coach.

Here's that "bad guy," ejected twice
in three Mariners spring games last week. The first ejection remains a
joke to Bradley. He disagreed with another called third strike, then
umpire Dan Bellino thought Bradley gave a demonstration immediately
afterward at the plate.

Bradley thought it was the third out,
and said he was one move into taking off his batting glove to prepare to
play the field.

"Never dropped my glove. I pulled one
strap off my glove, like this," Bradley said, pulling off the velcro
strap on his batting glove. "But if you read the paper, it will say I
removed my gloves. It's exaggerated, because that's what the media does,
you know? I pulled one strap.

"That's when I glanced and realized it
was two outs. I bent down to pick up my bat, and in the periphery, I
see this," he said, thumbing an ejection sign. "That's what happened."

Had Bradley ever had an incident with
that umpire?

"I mean, I haven't been in Triple A,
so how could I have an incident?" he said with a grin.

Bradley is smiling a lot this month.
Part of it is because he says his legs are as healthy as they've been
since he hit .321 for Cleveland in 2003, tying a career high.

And then there's Ken Griffey Jr. The
40-year-old active home run leader and team crackup is incessantly
joking and teasing to Bradley's immediate left in the Mariners'
clubhouse, plus on the back fields during workouts, and on the bench and
field during games.

It's exactly what the Mariners hoped
for when they traded for Bradley in December, shipping expensive and
underperforming pitcher Carlos Silva to the Cubs in return.

The idea was that Griffey would help
make Bradley feel at home. That would presumably make Bradley content
enough to provide offensively challenged Seattle with the
middle-of-the-order production from a left fielder it has needed since
Raul Ibanez left for Philadelphia before the 2009 season.

So far, so good.

After weeks of watching Bradley do
that for him, manager Don Wakamatsu is impressed and says Bradley will
be Seattle's everyday left fielder.

Bradley has just 28 steals in the
last five seasons combined. Yet he stole one in Sunday's game against
the Angels. Then on Monday, he put a bunt down in front of Oakland's
Justin Duchscherer, who was making his first start against major
leaguers in 19 months following back trouble and elbow surgery.

Wakamatsu loved it, especially since
it came against AL West rivals.

"We're playing Oakland, and now all
of a sudden they've got to honor that," he said. "Just like the stolen
base the other day against Anaheim. He's planting some seeds."

Bradley laughed when told Wakamatsu
thought he was "planting seeds" in rivals' minds, saying it was more
because "my legs are feeling better than they have since probably '03.
So I feel like I'm complete, that I can do anything that I want to do
out there."

The physical part may have changed
but Bradley says the fiery, controversial persona won't.

"I had a teammate last year who said
if I ever change, he'd kick my [rear]," Bradley said. "So I'm not
changing. Everybody is not going to love you, no matter how you treat
other people, no matter what you say. [I] never say anything bad about
anybody. Somebody is always going to have something bad to say about
you."

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