I don't know how far back this goes, but the Seattle Mariners are thought to be a family-friendly organization, and they've long been thought to be a family-friendly organization. I don't mean that people think the Mariners place a lot of importance on family-friendliness; I mean that there are a lot of people who think family-friendliness is the essence of the Mariners' mission statement. There exists a belief - not unanimous, but pervasive - that the Mariners cater to children and their parents with just about everything they do. There was a lot of this in the early part of the last decade, and still you hear about it now.
Yesterday, during an otherwise quiet weekend, the Mariners traded Josh Lueke to the Rays. One point reminds of the other, and given the perception of the Mariners organization, I thought I'd take this chance to quickly discuss a couple recent experiences.
It was in the middle of December in 2009 that the Mariners traded Carlos Silva and a backpack full of Benjamins to the Cubs for Milton Bradley. I vividly remember that morning - still basking in the afterglow of the Cliff Lee trade, I arrived at my old work and saw a Tweet I never could've imagined from Larry Stone. The Mariners were trading a guy who was expensive and bad for a guy who was expensive and talented, albeit a guy with major personality concerns.
I don't need to go over Bradley's history. You're all familiar with Bradley's history - maybe not with every detail, but with enough of them. That history was well-established at the time of the trade. It was well-established, and well-known. In Bradley, the Mariners were taking a chance on perhaps baseball's most famous malcontent.
And then they stuck by him, for a while. The Mariners didn't only trade for Milton Bradley. They traded for Milton Bradley, and kept him, through a handful of meltdowns both minor and major, and through an arrest. Bradley was not good in 2010, and ended the season on the disabled list. During the winter, he got arrested. In 2011, he was the Opening Day left fielder. He was dropped in May, but only after he continued to underperform at the plate and in the field.
Then there's Josh Lueke. Lueke, as you remember, came over in the other Cliff Lee trade, in early July 2010. Lueke was not well-known, because he was a relief pitcher prospect, but he was a relief pitcher prospect who had faced rape and sodomy charges, and who had pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. Lueke's history quickly emerged, in excruciating detail, and in an otherwise dull and dreary season, it became a major story. People found out.
The Mariners made attempts at damage control, some sensible and some bewildering. Lueke finished the season with Tacoma while lesser-qualified teammates got September promotions. But then Lueke remained and broke camp with the Mariners in 2011. After he struggled early on, he was demoted to Tacoma, but then he earned his way back and got a fair amount of work in the final few months. Sunday, the Mariners traded Lueke away, but not for pennies - rather, for a cheap lefty-hitting catcher who's shown the ability to get on base.
Over the last two calendar years, the Mariners have acquired Milton Bradley and Josh Lueke. Both players came with colorful pasts that didn't jive with the family-friendly image many have of the organization. The Mariners then proceeded to give Bradley and Lueke extended opportunities to perform, passing over earlier opportunities to get rid of them. It would've been easy for the M's to ditch Bradley and Lueke earlier than they did - easy and justifiable - but they didn't, and ultimately, Bradley was dropped because he didn't play well, and Lueke was traded because the M's saw a chance to get a cheap young catcher. The Mariners actually traded Lueke for what seems like a good return.
The lesson to be learned here is that, while the Mariners might make family-friendliness a priority, it is not their guiding principle. Their guiding principle is amassing as much talent as they can. Maybe that isn't much of a lesson, and maybe you already assumed as much, but this is more for the extremists out there than it is for you. It is impossible to reconcile a belief that the Mariners are family-friendly first with the acquisitions of Bradley and Lueke. Impossible. Therefore, the belief must be incorrect.
Yes, the Mariners are family-friendly. They ought to be. They need to make money, and families have money. If anything, though, the Bradley and Lueke moves might indicate that it's less of a priority for them than it is for some other teams. Maybe it isn't, I don't know, but the attempted family-friendliness of the Mariners and the attempted family-friendliness of the Mariners' roster are two related but separate things that one mustn't conflate.