Milton Bradley's Strength of Mind

Kudos to Larry Stone for getting together a roundtable involving a media rep from each of the four AL West teams.  Good read

Milton Bradley has played in Los Angeles NL, meaning that the Angels'* Bill Plunkett would have had face time with Bradley, and of course in Texas, where Even Grant works.   Bradley also played in Oakland in 2006, so all four writers had their distinctive angles on him.



Evan Grant: 

Milton's a very talented player with a whole lot of baggage. If only he understood the team concept as well as he does the dynamics of a plate appearance. He's as disciplined a hitter as there is in baseball with as little understanding of how to be a teammate as any guy I've been around. The Rangers bent over backwards to make him feel at home. He thrived here for a half, then seemed to sense a big contract coming and complete shut down. His comments last spring about protecting his averages were the last straw. Had he returned to Texas this season, it would have been a VERY TENSE clubhouse.

CRUNCH:  What is also interesting is that Milton Bradley and Erik Bedard, two of the toughest competitors in pro sports, get characterized as being mentally and/or emotionally weak.

I'm not sure where that comes from -- the fact that ballplayers who are perceived as jerks, get their on-field characters and total-ballclub contributions called into question wherever feasible -- but I'm sure as to how much validity this syndrome carries.

Get a load of this Hardball Times article.   You will not believe your eyes.


=== Sucker Pitches, Two Strikes:  40% fish rate ===

When the count is 3-2, and the pitcher throws the ball outside the strike zone, how often do you suppose the average ML hitter swings at the sucker pitch?

  • 45% of the time.  (See the THT article.)

Now, these are the best hitters on planet earth.  But on 3-2, time after time they succumb to the tension and shril-ly fish at air, hoping rather than hitting.


When the count is 2-2, and the pitcher throws the ball outside the strike zone, how often do you suppose an ML hitter swings? 

  • No, not 94%, Adrian.  The actual figure is 43%.


When it's 1-2 and the pitcher goes off the plate, what's the swing rate then?

  • 39%.


With two strikes, 45-43-39% of the time they swing ASSUMING that the pitch is NOT a strike.   This includes stuff that bounces on the grass, stuff four feet high, pitches that fool the batter so he clutches up, etc...   Essentially, with two strikes, ML hitters are swinging.   Hence all those diagrams the blogs have run with Beltre and Lopez swinging at 10 straight balls on 3-2.  They're just being major leaguers.


=== Time, Space and Reality Warp dept. ===

Now, on 3-2, how often do you suppose Milton Bradley swings?

  • 28%.

How about 2-and-2? 

  • A mere 25%.   Other hitters swing 2/5 of the time, Bradley only 1/4.


  • ML hitters 39% -- Bradley only 22%.


Because the bat's glued to his shoulder?   Nope.  Assuming there are two strikes and the pitch hits the heart of the strike zone, Bradley swings much more often than other hitters.

In other words, on a 2-2 count, Bradley has the capability to be BOTH more aggressive on incoming mistakes AND more patient on incoming sucker pitches, in the same swing.   "More" than what?  More than other great hitters.  MUCH more.

This level of concentration makes Bradley a man-among-boys even at the major league level, and it will completely transform the look of a lineup that, just recently, sported Yuniesky Betancourt, Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima, Lopez, among others...

You want to talk professional at-bats.  Milton Bradley, all by himself, will command the Edgar Martinez respect for the entire ballclub.


It's ironic to hear Milton Bradley and Erik Bedard described as weak-minded men.  The opposite is the case.  Their grit under fire is superhuman.


Dr D


misterjonez's picture

to other high-level hitters, but my initial reaction was to pick my jaw up off the floor.  Check out the perfect circle which is nearly empty belt-high down the middle for takes (I counted 15 pitches inside my 'circle' out of like 5,000 total?!?).
Wow.  Wonder what this thing would have looked like for Bonds circa-2001-2004.


One of the difficulties in judging other humans is that we can ONLY judge on what is manifested in the real world -- sight, sound, touch, etc.  But, we ASCRIBE intent to others based on a combination of the observable AND our own internal perspective.  Every person has a history, which influences every perception.
In the case of Bradley, yes - you can say factually "He said X and Y".  But, what gets lost in the static is that some people, (especially athletes), are often phenomenally poor COMMUNICATORS.  I consider myself a decent communicator -- a pretty fair writer at times.  Yet, I know for myself that there are a myriad number of occasions when there is something I want to communicate, but unable to find the precisely nuanced word I know is out there, (but cannot find at the moment), I settle for a word that gets the general meaning across, without the nuance.  And on many occasions, that word choice ends up being a bone of contention.
A more direct example - I know a guy who routinely would tell me, "I got a job today."  In point of fact, he had gotten an interview for a job scheduled for the next day.  At some point, he told me that IN HIS MIND, he wanted to treat every potential interview as a success, so he would speak in absolute terms about things that would be viewed by an outside observer as tenuous or non-existent.  BUT - prior to this revelation - the perception from the outside was simply:  "This guy is a liar.  He's incapable of telling the truth.  He just says what he thinks people want to hear."  Additionally - he was completely unaware that his language was being interpreted as a steady stream of lies.
Add in to this the reality that people can lie about their own internal thinking - and it should become obvious that it is completely impossible to ascribe "intent" with any level of certainty.  People rarely do anything for one, simple, clear reason.  Yet, when we discuss our sports stars, writers (and fans) boil everything down to nice, easy-to-understand chunks of certainty. 
I don't know if MB is really a self-centered after-my-stats guy.  But plenty of incredibly good players have been accused of the same thing.  Tony Gwynn and Ricky Henderson are both members in good standing in THAT particular club.  Unfortunately, in the modern world, we tend to put EXTREME value on motivation, (which we cannot possibly know) -- which I believe is simply because it allows us to rationalize away cognitive dissonance. 
"Team players are great!" -- "MB isn't a team player." -- "MB cannot be great."  (But, anyone posting .900 OPS figures is great).
In the real world, I've seen many people wield "intent" as their justification for derision.  "Well, Joe may sell a lot more units -- but that's just because Joe is all about money. Blah, Blah, Blah." 
Undoubtedly, MB has some mental issues -- serious anger management problems.  But, the very existence of those problems indicates a HIGH likelihood of communication problems.  In a case like that - it is best to take anything coming directly from the player with a HUGE grain of salt. 
Maybe he is completely self-centered.  In the end, I think it IMPOSSIBLE for a 1000 OPS DH to not be helping his team - regardless of what his intent may be.  I know given the choice between a 1000 OPS "I'm in it for me" guy -- versus a .700 OPS "I'm in it for the team" guy, if I am ON THE TEAM -- I want the 1000 OPS guy -- because that 1000 OPS is going to win a TON more games than a pleasant clubhouse.  Go ask the ChiSox WS winners - with A.J., Everett and Thomas all on the roster. 
Rodman was all about rebouding stats.  But, the press seemed to complain a WHOLE lot more than Jordan.


Ichiro is a completely self-centered S.O.B. in exactly the same way that Parker Brothers is.  They both focus on their own statistics and maximizing their performance internally and they both like to win and hate mistakes and get furious with themsleves when mistakes are made and hate teammates who make lots of mistakes.
I seem to recall Ichiro once stating that he thinks that players who think only of the team and don't think about their own statistics are bad baseball teammates...that you can't be a great player without thinking of your own performance.
Point being...the 2009 Mariners had the quiet, non-ejected version of Milton Bradley in the clubhouse already.  And seemed to do fine.

Arne's picture

I looked up some archives on Bradley when he got traded to Seattle. There was one article that's stayed with me: back in '98 or so, in the minors, he hit a game-winning homer to win a A playoff, I think, in Virginia, flew back to Long Beach the next day, his mom drove him home, and he didn't say a word to her about what he'd done. He seems to be extremely self-contained, kind of like Ichiro, yes. On the other hand, I also found out that he was violently blowing up on umpires as early as '98.


Your reasoning seems to be that because sportswriters dislike Bedard due to their own childish petulance, the criticism of Bradley must be because of the writer's bias and prejudice. I don't see how that follows. The two players are completely different people, and the complaints from the media are similiarly different.
As you've pointed out, Bedard is a quiet warrior who maintains his composure no matter what calls he gets from the umpires. He hasn't gotten into confrontations with any umpires, fans or coaches and I haven't ever heard of him having a problem with any teammates. The writers' irritation with him doesn't stem from how he treats people in general, just them. Thus their grudge is entirely personal.
Bradley, on the other hand, is extremely explosive and one of the most volatile players in the sports history. He not only has gotten into physical altercations with numerous people not on his team, but he clearly isn't someone any organization wants in their clubhouse for very long seeing as how he has been kicked from one team to another, including twice being traded simply because his current org wanted nothing to do with him. In the quote you provide, that is what the sportswriter is saying. He is not arguing that Milton has a "weak mind", nor is he ticked that Bradley doesn't give good interviews. Rather the point is Bradley does not get along with other people well over any extended period of time. That seems entirely fair and accurate. Do you doubt that?

Anonymous's picture

Certainly not an excuse for poor anger management - but this does partially explain to me why MB would be so upset at calls he doesn't agree with. With his exceptional eye - when a ball outside the SZ is called a strike - he KNOWS it's a bad call. Of course he needs better discipline and to accept that that is just part of the game - but his offense is built around the ability to know the difference between balls and strikes. It's ironic that he possesses such discipline in one area, and lacks so much in another. 
But I for one am really pulling for him, and I think he's going to be a real star this season.

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