MILTON BRADLEY – “I can fix him”
MLB reports: Milton Bradley. The name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
The board game references are endless and I’m sure Milton has heard and seem them all. For me, if I had to draw a comparison, having Milton Bradley on a team is like playing operation. You have to hold the tweezers gently and play very carefully. Once false move and watch out, ZAP! Game over. Over the years, since 2000 to be exact, 8- count them 8, major league teams have played the baseball version of operation by employing Milton Bradley on their respective teams. The history is well-known by all MLB fans, but here is a recap for those of you new to the game:
Team 1 – Montreal Expos 2000-2001: Drafted Milton and traded him to the Indians for Zach Day.
Team 2 – Cleveland Indians 2001-2003: Bradley’s longest tenured team (NO joke). Bradley had an altercation with then Indians’ manager Eric Wedge in spring training of 2004, Bradley is then subsequently traded to the Dodgers for Franklin Gutierrez and Adrian Brown.
Team 3- Los Angeles Dodgers 2004-2005: Bradley and then teammate, future hall of famer Jeff Kent trade barbs in the media, essentially Bradley accused Kent of a lack of leadership and not knowing how to deal with black people. With all due respect to Kent, dealing with Bradley and Bonds is a difficult task regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Bradley is later traded with Antonio Perez to the Oakland Athletics for Andre (gulp) Ethier. Definitely not one of Billy Bean’s finer moments. Sorry Billy.
Team 4- Oakland Athletics 2006-2007: Oakland represented Milton’s last team run beyond 1 year, but just barely. On June 21, 2007 Bradley was designated for assignment by the A’s and was traded subsequently with cash to the San Diego Padres for the infamous Adrian Brown. Quite the distinction of twice being traded for one another.
Team 5- San Diego Padres 2007: Bradley in September of 2007 had his famous run-in with an umpire which caused his manager at the time Bud Black to restrain him and Bradley ended up tearing his ACL in the process. Bradley ends up leaving Padres as free agent and signing with Rangers.
Team 6- Texas Rangers 2008: While with the Rangers, Bradley had his most celebrated season in the majors, leading the AL with a 1.036 OPS. Despite a lofty season capped by an all-star appearance, Bradley has one known incident where he sought out Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre to “discuss” comments Lefebvre made about Bradley during that tame. At the end of the season, Bradley signs with the Cubs as a free agent for a whopping 3 years, $30 million.
Team 7 – Chicago Cub 2009: The Milton Bradley era in Chicago lasted a grand total of 1 year in Chicago, with Bradley fighting with everyone that was anyone that year and making his heavily criticized contract seem well, very ….very…..very bad. The tables started to really turn on Milton in June of that year, first from a suspension relating to an umpire bumping and later Sweet Lou blowing up at Bradley and sending him home during a game. The Bradley Cubs era unofficially came to an end on September 20, 2009 when the Cubs suspended Bradley for the rest of the season for disparaging remarks made by Bradley about the Cubs and city of Chicago. Lovely exit. Officially on December 18, 2009, Bradley was traded to the Mariners for Carlos Silva in a “your junk” for “my trash” deal.
Team 8- Seattle Mariners 2010 -?: The Mariners acquired Bradley in the hopes of rejuvenating a stagnant offence and instantly inserted Bradley as their cleanup hitter. The low-pressure stage of Seattle was to have a calming effect on Bradley with many experts expecting a comeback season, yours truly included by drafting Milton in the 15th round of my fantasy draft that year. In May 2010 Bradley removed himself from a game and took a two-week leave of absence for “personal reasons” which have not been explained to-date to my knowledge. The rest of the year was a fairly meek one for Bradley, with neither his bat or his team ever getting on track. As of the new year, Bradley was arrested on January 18, 2011 for allegedly uttering criminal threats to a female patron in his home.
Given his track record of incidents and altercations, my question is: how can so many teams and related executives have continued to give this man so many chances and employ him in baseball? It appears that Bradley wore out his welcome in almost every city he played in and lasted only 1-2 years at a time at most stops. The lifetime statistics are good- .272 average, .366 obp, .443 slg, but not great. Bradley though was never a particular strong home run hitter, did not drive in or score many runs and did not steal many bases. He did a lot of things, but none exceptionally well. A constant malcontent and injury prone player, team after team acquired him only to be left with egg on their faces.
Then again I ask, why the fascination with Bradley? How did he manage to have a career that lasted this long? Simple. Everyone wants to be considered a genius, to have a breakthrough. Imagine the person that is able to motivate, settle down Bradley and extract all the talent out of him and turn out the results that were expected of him. That executive would succeed where all else have failed and that is saying a lot. One by one some great minds in baseball set out to achieve this result and one by one, each failed. The closest achieved result was in Texas, where the Rangers led by Ron Washington were able to get an all-star year out of Bradley where he kept his nose clean for the most part and produced. Did the Rangers lock him up that offseason. No. They thanked their stars for getting the results they did and left the relationship on a high note. The result? Bradley I read in reports contacted the Cubs during that offseason and expressed his desire to play for Chicago. The Cubs were apparently so moved by his sincerity and gesture that they chose to sign Bradley over other available similar free agents Raul Ibanez and Adam Dunn. Yikes.
When news spread of the Cubs signing of Bradley to his monster contract, people in the industry were floored. The common theme that arose was “nothing good can come of this” and sure enough, nothing did.
As we are now in the year 2011 and Bradley has paid his bail and is now back resting at home, the reality is that this is a baseball player at the end of his rope. He has now played and been blacklisted on 26% of the MLB teams and the other 74% have taken note. We have entered a new era of major league baseball, one where speed, defence and youth has a higher premium than it did compared to recent years. Older, slower, defensively inclined players have been pushed aside for younger, cheaper talent. As we stand today, Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero and Johnny Damon are still looking for work. I’m sure the Mariners have a team of lawyers working as we speak trying to find a way to void Bradley’s contract. If unsuccessful, we will probably see a release of him as the final footnote to his career. If Vlad can still be unemployed given his strong showing last year the Rangers, teams will equally have no issue leaving Bradley dangling on the waiver wire.
In my era we have seen Joey/Albert Belle, Carl Everett, Manny Ramirez and now Milton Bradley sideshows in baseball. Train wrecks that people criticize but can’t stop watching. I believe executives are getting smarter and more sophisticated in judging character and personality before drafting and promoting players. As we stand in the new MLB, we will see fewer, if any, Milton Bradleys in baseball. Baseball executives will choose not to play “operation” with their teams and their own baseball careers. Happy trails Milton Bradley. The game will continue, just with a different player in your place.
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