By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — Milton Bradley always has played baseball one way — to win — and if the process wasn’t enjoyable, he had no problem with that.
“I didn’t care whether I liked it or not,” Bradley said Monday after reporting to the Seattle Mariners’ spring training camp. “It was all about winning.”
That’s not to say winning is less important to him now, but Bradley has added another element to his goals for 2010.
Having a good time.
“Primarily, which I’ve never said in the past, I want to have fun,” said the controversial outfielder who is known more for his outbursts and conflicts than his .277 career batting average, his .371 career on-base percentage or the potential for offense he brings to the Mariners.
Those are the things that attracted the offensively needy Mariners when they traded pitcher Carlos Silva to the Chicago Cubs for Bradley.
“He’s a very intense player, and that’s something we can’t and won’t take away from him,” Ken Griffey Jr. said. “You don’t have too much to say to him other than write his name in the lineup and let him go. He has established himself over the years as a guy that hits you 20-25 home runs and drives in 80 to 100 runs and hits .275 to .300.”
And about that having-fun stuff?
“He will have fun,” Griffey added. “There is no other choice than to have fun.”
This time last year, all seemed well between Bradley and the Cubs, who signed him to a three-year, $30 million contract. Near the end of the season, after disagreements with manager Lou Piniella and the Cubs’ management, they suspended him on Sept. 20.
In a conference call with reporters after the Dec. 18 trade to the Mariners, Bradley wouldn’t discuss his experience with the Cubs, and Monday he wasn’t asked. He did say, however, that the last time he truly had fun in baseball was in 2008 with the Texas Rangers.
What made it so right with the Rangers?
“It’s being in an environment that’s conducive for playing baseball,” he said. “It’s a good environment down there, very cohesive, working together, no animosity, nobody trying to out-do the next guy, everybody playing ball and having fun and clicking together.”
That could describe the Mariners, whose passion for winning is a clearly defined goal, but who also emphasize communication, welcome input from everyone and, in the process, have some quirky fun.
“We are a strange group,” Griffey said.
Bradley, 31, said he doesn’t believe in “all that cliche stuff” about a new team offering a fresh start. What he wants most this year is good health and the opportunity to be himself with the Mariners, his eighth major league team.
“When people allow you to be you and don’t steer you in a certain direction, or steer people’s thoughts in a certain direction, things will work out the way they’re supposed to,” he said. “I just want to play baseball. When everything is lined up right, I can play pretty good. Hopefully there won’t be a lot of distractions and things, and I can just play.”
Bradley was nothing but a smiling ballplayer Monday, especially when asked what it’s like to be a teammate with his baseball idol, Griffey.
“I just think of all the memories and all the time I was watching baseball on TV,” he said. “Griffey made me jump out of my seat. I don’t get excited about a whole lot, but I get excited about Ken Griffey.”
Griffey was asked how it feels to hear Bradley talk about him like that.
“Other than old?” Griffey asked. “It’s a mutual respect. He respects what I have done over the years and if I see something when he’s struggling a little bit I will say something to him. He can flat play and I don’t see anything other than him being a professional wanting to do things the right way. He is fun to watch.”