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Sentence of the Week

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

On turning to the Seattle Times’ sports section Wednesday morning, I saw a piece about Seattle Mariner outfielder Milton Bradley that opened with the following astonishing sentence:

A former major-league general manager said Tuesday night there would have to be specific language in Milton Bradley’s contract for his arrest on suspicion of making a felony threat to alter his deal.

Have you read it? Can you make sense of it? Do you have the impression that Bradley was arrested for threatening to alter his deal, and that such a threat is apparently felonious? Is there any other way to interpret this sentence without additional information?

On reading further into the article, I was eventually able to figure out what the writer, Geoff Baker, was trying to convey. Here are the issues:

1. Bradley allegedly made a criminal threat the day before against a woman and was arrested.

2. The Mariners owe Bradley $12 million for the coming season.

3. The Mariners wouldn’t comment on the situation, following club policy.

4. Baker, in need of some further insight about how the team might handle Bradley’s contract, contacted a former GM, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

5. The issue arose in their conversation of whether the Mariners would be able to forgo paying Bradley salary that was guaranteed under his contract: “The former GM . . . said the language needed to convert contracts from ‘guaranteed’ to ‘non-guaranteed’ is very specific. ‘It depends on the guarantee language,’ he said. ‘If the guarantee language includes a felony conviction, it allows the contract to be converted to a non-guaranteed form if that player is convicted of a felony.'”

It’s now possible to return to the opening sentence and see that Baker was, perhaps prematurely, explaining that Bradley’s deal with the Mariners might be alterable in light of the alleged felony, if language in the contract addressed such a scenario. Of course, the location within the sentence of the phrase “to alter his deal” is awkward at best, but one can parse it once one has enough information. The sentence needs re-writing, but more, it needs re-locating within the article. Even the fact that it opens with mention of a former GM is utterly mysterious until later.

I am relieved, in any case, to know that threatening to alter one’s contract is not a felony.

Categories: Baseball, Journalism, Language
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