It has been a surprisingly newsy day in baseball. Some was guaranteed with arbitration figures being traded, but it turned out to be a noteworthy day without that.
First of all, Milton Bradley finds himself on the wrong side of the law again. Details are still breaking, and the charges probably won't be squared away for a while. However, Bradley has a well-documented temper, and it was already difficult to see how he fit on the M's roster well. This very well could be the end of Milton in Seattle, but we shall see.
Earlier today, Royals pitcher Gil Meche announced his retirement. You might remember him as a late '90s phenom that soared through the Mariners system, before blowing out his arm, and then coming back from that arm injury to be successful. At 32 years old, Meche's retirement is premature, and it might have something to do with injuries that he suffered in Kansas City. Joe Posnanski has a nice blog post with details. The most interesting thing about Meche's retirement is that he is forfeiting $12.4 million he could have otherwise earned.
Originally, I wasn't going to write about either of these stories. Actually, I was going to say more about Meche, but then Posnanski beat me to it, and did a better job than I would have anyhow.
Together though, the Bradley and Meche stories are a study in contrasts.
It is interesting to think that the diamond is home to a guy as controversial and troubled as Milton, while also a place where a guy like Gil and can blow his arm out trying to help a team like the Royals win, and then walk away from money he could have easily received. They even both have ties to same the Mariners, though they never played on the same team, in Seattle or elsewhere.
Bradley posted a -0.1 WAR in 2010, and Meche a -0.2. Both were around for roughly half their team's seasons, and contributed about the same amount to their respective teams' win totals. However, as was starkly evident today, these are two different people.
I love numbers, but there are important things that they cannot capture. They will never give a total look at everything that matters when evaluating a ballplayer. If you were a GM, who would you rather give $10+ million a year to: a) the guy going to court in a few weeks with a felony charge hanging over his head, or b) the guy that forfeits the money when he thinks he can't contribute anymore?
It is very hard to put a finger on how personalities impact baseball teams. Somehow, today's stories with Bradley and Meche show how they do though, from my perspective at least.
On paper, there are similarities between Bradley and Meche. Based on scouting reports, both players were always viewed as talents, though at times questions nagged them about putting it all together on the field. Their career tracks back that up. However, on an otherwise pedestrian January day, one is getting a whole bunch of "here we go again" type of comments, while the other is getting applauded for a sincerely honorable gesture.
There's just no doubt who the preferred teammate would be today, even though Meche and Bradley could arguably have been traded straight up for each other in a fair deal since 2006 (before then, Bradley was more productive.) I guess that's why this seems to me to be a rare moment where it is easy to see how "intangibles" makes a difference in sports. Even though Meche and Bradley are virtually a toss up based on talent and production, there is no doubt in my mind who I would sign first.
At the end of the day, I'm not a GM. I'm a fan, and as a fan, I find it fascinating that two such different stories with Mariners ties can happen on the same day, both from out of nowhere. If I kept a list of reasons I love following sports, today would be one of the reasons on the list.