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The Padres are 11-15 in one-run games this year in what’s becoming a last-place season. Imagine if they had re-signed Milton Bradley, who is leading the American League with a .323 average for the Texas Rangers.

Yeah, good thing they didn’t sign him, I say. You want a franchise to be indebted to a border-line lunatic like Bradley?

Bradley’s bat in the middle of the lineup could have been responsible for turning around that 11-15 record in one-run games to 15-11.

That would boost the Padres, who are last in the NL West at 32-51 entering a series that begins Monday at Colorado, to 36-47. Instead of being last and 9 1/2 games out of first place, as they are now, the Padres would be just 5 1/2 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks (41-41).

Bradley’s bat no doubt would make other bats around him better, and that might be just enough to fool the Padres into thinking they can continue to win with the nucleus of their lineup.

It’s bad enough some San Diego fans booed Trevor Hoffman the other day. You want to follow a franchise that cheers Milton Bradley?

Remember that scene last year when he tried to throw first base coach Bobby Meacham out of his way to get at an umpire before manger Bud Black charged out of the dugout to throw Bradley to the turf?

Good thing his ability to hit a baseball keeps that hair-trigger temper off the streets.

Being grateful to a player like Bradley for winning a division title would be as pathetic as San Francisco fans cheering Barry Bonds for all the great memories. Of what value is success when you’ve lost your soul?

The Padres’ season has been a major disappointment for many reasons. The starting pitching and bullpen haven’t matched last season. If shortstop Khalil Greene, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and outfielder Scott Hairston hit like they did last year, the Padres wouldn’t be leaving so many runners on base and striking out so much.

And that’s not even including catcher Josh Bard and what a disaster it turned out to be to sign Jim Edmonds.

How Adrian Gonzalez has managed to knock in 67 runs in this lineup should have him leading the voting for the All-Star Game.

But the NL West is so bad this year, the Padres could get back in the race if they added a player before the trading deadline or had the bats of Greene and Kouzmanoff come alive.

Still, no matter how well the season might turn out, the Padres know by now they can’t rely on this nucleus for another year. They have to find more speed, power, athleticism and consistency.

The Padres got a lot of mileage out of this nucleus with NL West titles in 2005 and 2006 and coming with in a playoff loss to the World Series-bound Colorado Rockies (32-50 this year, by the way) from a 2007 wild-card berth.

There was nothing wrong with the Padres’ front office expecting this year’s lineup to be competitive. It was realistic to expect Greene and Kouzmanoff to hit like last year.

But another year of Milton Bradley would have postponed the Padres’ inevitable need to re-tool their lineup to fit spacious Petco Park.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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