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Goodbye, Brad

Brad Miller is no longer a Seattle Mariner and I am very sad.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

To start things off, here are two facts:

1) Over the past two seasons, Brad Miller has been my favorite position player on the Seattle Mariners.

2) Brad Miller was traded away to the Tampa Bay Rays on November 5th, 2015 as the (arguably) best player in a six player deal.

When this news broke, I was (like I imagine many of you were) thinking about getting some food together for dinner. I'd been planning on making a fairly simple stir-fry. With some veggies and tofu. A drizzle of sesame oil. Maybe a generous sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Served with some basmati rice. I assuredly was not thinking about the Mariners and baseball's notoriously unpredictable hot stove. But maybe I should've been.

With all the shuffling around in the Mariners front office, it certainly felt like just about any player could be shipped off. Since Jack's departure, I admit that I'd felt a little uneasy about Brad's spot on the M's moving forward, but Dipoto's recent remarks about embracing athleticism and encouraging better OBP skills helped calm these worries. Unfortunately, this peace of mind appears to have been sorely misguided. Brad is gone. I didn't end up making any stir fry for dinner. Instead, I made a frozen burrito and some pizza rolls. Because sometimes you're sad that your favorite player isn't on your favorite team anymore. So you just say "fuck it".

This post isn't an in-depth analysis of this trade. Nathan did a little bit of that already, and other posts will follow later this weekend. Instead, I just wanted to share a quick story about why Brad was (is?) my favorite.

Some people hopped on the Brad Miller hype train shortly after his debut (Skeebs touches on this a little bit in his heartfelt farewell to Mr. Miller), but it wasn't until Spring Training of 2014 that I really embraced Brad. I was fortunate enough to spend a long weekend in Phoenix and catch some pre-season baseballin'. My girlfriend and I went to three or four different games, touring several of the facilities that are sprinkled around Phoenix's massively sprawly metropolitan area. The locale might be kinda strip mall-y and gross, but it's still an incredibly fun and intimate baseball experience. If you consider yourself a fan of based ball, I heartily encourage you to make the pilgrimage down there. It will almost certainly be worth your while.

In any case, the first game we caught was up at Peoria. It featured the Seattle Mariners taking on the Padres. (San Diego ended up winning 7-2. Boooooo!) Like many regulars, Brad left the game early, exiting in the fifth inning after hitting an RBI double. After a few minutes, he slowly made his way towards the exit. To do this, you have to walk by this long length of ~cast iron fencing where the massive hordes of young children seeking autographs (and the occasional older individual with a binderful of cards that they will almost certainly try and sell on eBay the next day) like to congregate. Although some players forgo giving out autographs, most stop and sign things for a few minutes. But Brad was different. Brad stuck around.

After he'd been down there for a full inning, I got it into my head that I could maybe have him sign our tickets. That seemed like it'd be a pretty fun/neat souvenir to have. So I walked down to stand in line. (I never actually got anything signed; I was probably just too shy, but I like to rationalize my decision by saying that I just didn't want to cut in front of any kids. Or something. I don't know, man. I HAVE REGRETS.) In any case, while I was hovering towards the back of the crowd, I realized that Brad was talking to every kid that he signed for. He wasn't down there having heart-to-hearts with anyone, but he gave each person at least a few seconds of his time. He'd take the proffered ball/card/ticket, sign it, and say something like "I like your hat" or (if the kid was in their Little League uniform) "What position do you play?" or "Keep up the hard work." That kind of stuff. These were simple, somewhat canned interactions, but he kept it up. Kid after kid. Inning after inning. Brad stayed down there until the game was almost over, for well over an hour. One of the players for the Padres also seemed like he stayed down there for a long time (I wish I could remember who this was), but nobody else signed for more than ~15 minutes. Brad's commitment to those kids and the way that he genuinely seemed to appreciate hanging out with them really stuck with me. This feels like such a corny reason to like a player, but there it is.

Since that time, I've learned to truly appreciate all of Brad's quirks. His lack of batting gloves: awesome. The way he grinds dirt into his palms between each pitch: badass. His incredible sock/stirrup aesthetic: classic. (By trading away Brad, the M's definitely took a hit in this department.) I even learned to appreciate that thrilling dread you'd sometimes experience when he was getting ready to make a throw over to first base; his throws were usually on target, but your inability to take him for granted made everything a bit more interesting. It made you feel like you had to pay attention. That being said, my Brad Miller Appreciation officially started on that spring evening down in Peoria. Nate Karns might turn into an excellent pitcher, but I'll always be sad about this trade. And I'll always miss Brad.

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I made this dumb image last Thanksgiving when I compared Brad Miller to a healthy serving of mashed potatoes. Since then, it's somehow morphed into a silly GIF. For whatever reason, it's probably my favorite thing that I've ever made for this wonderful sportsball blog that we all love. I'll go ahead and attach it to this post. One last time. Goodbye, Brad. I hope you have a hell of a time down in Tampa. Good luck beatin' up on those damn Yankees.