On a day when the normal focus would have been tonight's stellar pitching matchup between the Mariners Cliff Lee and Tampa's Matt Garza, a large media contingent arrived at Safeco Field to talk about Milton Bradley.
There has been much speculation about what transpired last night after Bradley was called out on strikes in the sixth inning of a 5-2 loss. There were reports of an incident between Bradley and Manager Don Wakamatsu. There were reports of a thrown helmet and bat. There were reports he said "he quit." There were reports he left the stadium.
Neither Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik or Wakamatsu addressed them directly.
"Milton wanted to enter the game again, Milton wanted to go back on the field, but Don thought it was in the best interest to not let that happen," Zduriencik said. "Anything that happened after that, if it happens in the dugout or it happens in the locker room, it’s strictly between us. We’re handling all of that internally I don’t think that’s public knowledge."
Said Wakamatsu: "There was a lot of speculation of what happened yesterday. I think a lot of it got blown it out of proportion. It wasn't a big issue. I think a lot of it was tied into the emotional stress he has in his life."
There was only a couple of us that knew what happened. It was over here by the dugout.
And on the decision to pull him.
"It wasn't his decision," Wakamatsu said. "He was going to go back out. I just felt that because he was emotional at that time, the best thing to do was to take him out of the ball game."
But what happened on Wednesday was surprising.
Apparently in the morning Wakamatsu and Zduriencik were meeting and getting ready to head out to the annual D.R.E.A.M. event at local Seattle schools, when Bradley called Wakamatsu and asked to meet with the two men face to face.
Bradley came to Safeco and then asked the two me for help in dealing with some personal and emotional issues that he was struggling with.
"Milton expressed himself in a very professional manner," Zduriencik said. "He’s going through some things in his life right now that are very personal and emotional. Therefore, Milton has asked us if we could be of assistance to him that if there is any way as an organization in can help him get through this period of time."
"The biggest thing is that Milton came to us for help and that's a step in the right direction," Wakamatsu said. "This is a critical point that he came out and said he needed some help. I know he’s under a lot of stress right now."
Besides asking for help from Wakamatsu and Zduriencik, Bradley later asked for help from his teammates. The Mariners closed the clubhouse and he addressed the rest of the team, telling them about his problems and asking for their help, while also apologizing for any trouble he has caused.
Wakamatsu and Zduriencik later addressed the media.
Throughout all the questions and answers, and the mentions of Bradley receiving help, there was never any specific description of Bradley's issues or what exactly the treatment will be. Obviously there was enough innuendo and hints that the problems are emotional and psychological on some level. And the help will be of that nature.
But still as common-place as these types of problems are in our society, in the macho world of professional sports, admitting such issues seems to be avoided. Sure there are people like Justin Duchscherer and Zack Greinke, who have had publicized battles with them. Still, it's not something the average player would admit. In this situation, the two hardest things to do are to admit there is a problem and then ask for help. For someone like Bradley, who's maintained the idea of not changing who he is, it's exponentially more difficult.
"Milton said it was a long time coming," Zduriencik siad. "He said “it is something that I have needed to address and deal with.’ Again, some of this is very personal and things that unfolded over a period of time.
Many players in course of their careers, and even in your business, that get to a point where they have to step back a minute and realize, ‘hey there are some things I need to take care of in my life’ and that becomes the priority for you, whether it’s in a business you’re in or a professional athlete, which is the case here.”
Wakamatsu said could see all of this slowly building to a crescendo. The reactions after the strikeouts and misplayed balls were not positive, and slowly getting worse.
"This is a critical point, where he finally came out and said he needed some help," Wakamatsu said. "I've seen a lot of stress in his game. I know he's under a lot of stress right now."
Much of that stress could be labeled self-imposed. It started last season and his struggles with Cubs, it carried over to the offseason and spring training with media reports and mistimed comments, and then there was his own pressure to perform and prove people wrong.
"Those who’ve been around him know that he’s put an awful lot of pressure on himself to produce. He’s come here with high expectations and some if it is self-induced," Zduriencik said. "He’s a guy who’s probably harder on himself than anyone in this room is hard on him. He expects himself to perform at a high level. When he lets himself down and when he feels that he lets his teammates down, he internalizes some of it.
I’m not a psychologist, but I do know that Milton cares deeply. A lot of his issues this year, it’s been things that he’s been tougher on himself than anyone else. These are things that sometimes have worked for him in the past, but at this moment I think that it has worked against him."
So what does this mean baseball-wise for the Mariners?
Well that's kind of a gray area. The Mariners are trying to figure out what to do. For now, he'll stay with the team and is in uniform tonight, but not in the starting lineup. Could he play? Technically yes, but most likely he won't.
"My guess is he'll probably need a few days off," Zduriencik said.
The Mariners probably won't place him on the disabled. But there is some thought they could put him bereavement list. Bradley is meeting with assistant GM Jeff Kingston now, to figure out their options roster wise.
If Bradley is unavailable, they have Mike Sweeney, Adam Moore and Josh Wilson on the bench -- all right-handers.
Wakamatsu admitted it hamstrung him, but they are hoping they will have a solution as to exactly what they will do with Bradley in the next few days.