The Trials & Tribulations of Milton Bradley

On December 18th 2009, Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley and his hefty three-year, $30 million contract were traded to the Seattle Mariners for struggling pitcher Carlos Silva & cash.

The exchange by both squads rid each team of contracts that had gone completely wrong, with Silva still in the middle of a ridiculous four-year, $48 million contract given to him in the Bill Bavasi regime as general manager of the Seattle Mariners.
Today, I would like to breakdown and discuss the career of one of those players.

Milton Obelle Bradley, Jr began his Major League baseball career on July 19th, 2000 with the Montreal Expos, who drafted Bradley out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School in the 1996 Entry Draft. The switch-hitting Bradley played 109 games in an Expos uniform from 2000 – 2001 batting for an average of .222 with 3HR & 34RBI in 374 at-bats. On July 31st 2001, the Expos traded Bradley to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Zach Day. Bradley played just over two full seasons with the Indians batting for an average of .270 with 20HR & 113RBI in 958 at bats.

The offensive attribute that fans and teams alike noticed about Bradley was his knack for getting on-base. By the end of the 2003 season Bradley’s on-base percentage had drastically risen to .421.

After having a decent season in 2003, Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge had projected Bradley as his starting left fielder going into spring training. This is where the first major incident of Bradley’s troubled career became notable. Bradley got into an altercation with Wedge after he was pulled from an exhibition game for not running out a pop fly that fell for a hit. The incident forced Indians general manager Mark Shapiro to trade the troubled outfielder to the highest bidder. He sent Bradley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez (now a teammate of Bradley’s in Seattle) & pitcher Andrew Brown.

In 2004, Bradley played his first complete season for the Dodgers. He was penciled in for 141 of the 162 games on the season, hitting a respectable .267 with 19HR & 67RBI across 516 at bats. Bradley, to this day, has not played in more games than the 2004 season. He remained in Los Angeles for the 2005 season before the team traded him across the state to the Oakland Athletics on December 13th for outfielder Andre Ethier and infielder Antonio Perez. Before arriving in Oakland he had a .290 average with 13HR & 38RBI across 283 at bats in 75 games in his 2005 campaign with the Dodgers. Bradley posted a .276 batting average with 14HR & 52RBI in a limited 96 games in which he went up to bat 351 times for Oakland in 2006.

The career of Bradley at this point seemed to have regressed, minus a few incidents. One incident involved the throwing of baseballs. Bradley was putting up decent numbers, but the at-bats were not there as injuries, as well as his mediocre outfield talent, plagued his playing time. The one positive for him was that the title of “head case” that was attached to him in his time with Cleveland began to disappear during his tenure on the west coast.

Bradley’s big day in the positive spotlight of the baseball world came in game four of the 2006 American League Championship Series when he became only the third player in Major League history to hit home runs from each side of the plate during the ALCS, thus cementing him in the record books with the likes of Yankees great Bernie Williams and future Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones.

Despite the miraculous accomplishment in the 2006 playoffs the Oakland Athletics were forced to designate Bradley for assignment on June 21st of the 2007 season after he appeared in only 19 games. The A’s traded him to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Andrew Brown; the second time in their careers that the two players were traded for one another. After a stint on the disabled list to begin his career in San Diego, he played left field consistently for the Padres, catching fire for the squad, hitting for an average of .313 with 11HR & 30RBI in 144 at bats across 42 games.

Some of the rage that Indians fans witnessed early in Bradley’s career began to become noticeable once again as he broke a bat over his knee on August 28th 2007 after striking out while playing for San Diego.

The Bradley that is characterized as a loose cannon came to full fruition on September 23rd 2007. Bradley tore his right anterior cruciate ligament while being restrained by Padres manager Bud Black during an altercation with first base umpire Mike Winters. The home plate umpire during the contest Brian Runge reportedly told Bradley that Winters accused him of tossing his bat in Runge’s direction earlier in the contest. After Bradley reached first base, he questioned Winters about the alleged bat throwing incident communicated by Runge. According to Bradley and Padres first base coach Bobby Meacham, Winters used some sort of profanity towards Bradley. Bradley then moved towards Winters in an upset manner. Black would restrain his player, who awkwardly fell to the ground, resulting in the ACL injury. This caused him to miss the final week of the season. The look in Bradley’s eye during the incident reminded fans of the troubled mind that once manned left field in Cleveland. Perhaps the troubled character had returned in San Diego? Luckily for him, after an investigation by Major League Baseball, it was discovered that Winters was in the wrong. Winters was suspended for the remainder of the season and disqualified from participation in the playoffs. Bradley did not receive any repercussions due to the incident.

It is very possible that due to the incident the Padres decided against resigning Bradley, even though he was clutch for them down the stretch. Therefore, he signed with the Texas Rangers on a one-year deal. Bradley found a true home in Texas as the team’s designated hitter. He had a career season in manager Ron Washington’s potent offense, teaming up with the likes of the resurgent Josh Hamilton along with Michael Young & Ian Kinsler. Until the day of June 11th he seemed to have found his true calling in Texas. On that day Kansas City Royals television broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre made a comparison of Josh Hamilton’s accountability towards his struggles in life to Bradley’s past experiences quoting “it doesn’t appear Milton Bradley has done the same thing in his life.” The statement caused a troubled Bradley to leave the club house and make his way to the press box hoping to confront the broadcaster for his remarks. He never reached Lefebvre due to Texas general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington stopping him beforehand. In returning to the locker room an emotional Bradley broke down and stated the following amongst tears: “All I want to do is play baseball and make a better life for my kid than I had, that’s it, I love all you guys. I’m strong, but I’m not that strong.” His Rangers teammates and accompanying personnel supported him, even with the outburst, and moved on with the rest of their season.

Bradley continued to impress for the Rangers, despite the controversy, making his first All-Star game appearance closing out his tenure in a Rangers uniform with a career high 22HR & 77RBI in 414 at bats in 126 games. He also led the American League in on-base percentage with a mark of .436. The fantastic season earned him his first long- term contract deal with the Chicago Cubs, a deal worth $30 million over three years.

Bradley went into Chicago to the adoring, yet ravenous fans of Wrigley Field with high expectations. Unluckily for Chicago, the signing could quite possibly be categorized as the worst of the 2009 Major League baseball season. Bradley had a terrible first half start batting in the middle of the Chicago Cubs order and finished off the year with a .257 average with 12HR & 40RBI, even though he had substantial playing time to prove himself. The numbers are only a small factor in why his time in Chicago was a short-lived nightmare. The season began atrociously with another umpire altercation when he reportedly made contact with umpire Larry Vanover after disputing a third strike call during an April 16th contest. The incident was followed up with an embarrassing moment on June 13th 2009 during an inter-league game against the Minnesota Twins. Bradley, having already booted a fly ball earlier in the game, tossed a live ball that he caught into the stands with only two outs and two runners on base. The blooper reel moment was broadcast everywhere, but he childishly played it off to reporters with the following statement: “We talked about it today, just have fun and relax. It’s hard to get me to smile on a baseball field, but I had to smile today. You can’t just keep taking yourself too seriously. You have to chill out, have fun. If we do that, we’ll be all right.”

The smile on Bradley’s face was short-lived as amidst boos from local fans in Chicago the incidents involving Milton continued less than two weeks later when he had an altercation with manager Lou Piniella involving the attempted destruction of a sports cooler and an early send home. The incident eventually mutated into a series of other incidents that included Bradley bashing the Cubs franchise as well as their fans. This was followed by his suspension for the remainder of the season and an eventual trade to the Mariners.

Now having analyzed each situation over a long period of time I have personally come to the conclusion that Bradley, amongst being picked on throughout numerous occasions, has not taken the right path in dealing with said incidents. The man obviously has a short fuse and it is very easily lit. He is an emotional person who has a hard time controlling his temper, as well as having the unfortunate luck of having these emotions brought front row centre to the viewing world.

Is this luck? Is this coincidence? Is he unstable? Or is he being picked on because of his short fuse? That is a question that I’m sure many people, including Bradley, do not know the answer to. In my opinion it is a combination of everything.

For example, if you pick on something or someone for long enough eventually that thing or person, whatever it may be, will have had enough. That includes people. It is how bullies of the modern internet era make themselves feel a sense of accomplishment. These bullies attack people who they have never met secretly through the depths of the internet based message board. They know full hand that there will be no repercussions because they hide behind a keyboard in their mother’s basement or at their office cubicle, boring their lives away at a meaningless desk job. This is how real life bullies attack their prey as well. I am sure everyone has been picked on as a kid in their youth at school. The bully finds a soft spot and exploits it simply for his/her pleasure. Heck, I’ll be the first to admit that even sports writers pick away at every little action that occurs in the life of an athlete, simply so we have something to fill our columns with, not realizing that this may in fact be hurting the reputation of this individual.

Is attacking Bradley an escape goat for fans when they need someone to pick on? “Hey, let’s get under Milton’s skin; I’ve heard he gets upset easily” I can guarantee that one for sure as baseball fans can be a player’s best friend when he is performing and a player’s worst nightmare when he is not. Does it always have to do with his performance? Would Bradley have turned things around if the Chicago media tried to aid him after his initial poor play combined with his early season incident? Milton continued his dominant designated hitter’s work in Texas after an incident in which his team consoled him and encouraged him although he was having a tough moment. Why couldn’t that have occurred yet again with the Cubs?

The enigmatic mystery known as Milton Bradley is a case that in my opinion can only be described as “I don’t know” because when he is hitting and happy with his surroundings he is a bright, talented, contributing factor to a team. When it’s the polar opposite you get an angry, vengeful, emotional ball of uncertainty that can cripple your locker room, as well as drastically affect the performance of your ball club.

At times I feel happy for him. I will admit that I was happy to see him succeeding with the Rangers. He was out of the spotlight and put together a good season. When I saw him sign with the Cubs I had a strange feeling it was a bad move for both parties. Milton does not need that much attention or that kind of pressure put on him. It showed how an entire town can pick on one man when he is having a down year, but how much did the Cubs fans really expect from a man who has a career high 77 runs batted in?

With the Seattle spotlight being nothing of the proportion of a Chicago franchise it may in fact lead to a revival for Bradley. However, on the other side of the spectrum it may not be a good situation due to the attention that the Mariners are now getting with their newly revamped roster and their obvious intentions of competing for a division championship.

Which Bradley will baseball fans see this season for the Mariners? Will it be the on-base machine with the smooth switch hitting swing? Or will it be the emotional unstable, injury plagued slump machine?

One thing is certain. The enigmatic mystery known as Milton Bradley will continue in 2010.

Published by Gear Up for Sports

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