I’m really annoyed by all the hatred that still remains for Milton Bradley. First, I want to clear something up. Milton Bradley is a jackass. He’s sarcastic, is not a “social” guy, and has a quick temper. Add a “me against the world” attitude, and you know why he’s playing for his 8th team in 9 seasons even though he’s a fairly talented baseball player. Yet, it unnerves me to know that there are so many Cubs fans and bloggers and Chicago sportswriters that seem to blame the Cubs mediocrity last season squarely on Milton Bradley.
I found myself booing him the way I once booed Todd Hundley. He couldn’t do anything right by my standards. I was disgusted by the sight of the guy that somehow stole a 3yr/$30mil contract from the dumbass aka Jim Hendry. I knew the Cubs were still in contention, but I kept imagining Bobby Abreu or Raul Ibanez in his position, and kept thinking that the Cubs would be atop the Central instead of trying to gain ground on the Deadbirds.
July and August come around, and suddenly, besides DLee, Bradley was the Cubs best hitter(check his numbers). It seemed like the summer would be saved, and then he popped off in late August about hatred. Racial epithets directed towards him, which a good number of people shrugged off, and some even insinuated that he used as an excuse for his poor numbers. I can only think of one fanbase off the top of my head that is more vanilla, and that is Boston’s. Watching home Yankees games gives you a glimpse at just how diverse New York City is. The same can be said for Dodgers and Angels games. The sad thing is that Chicago is just as diverse, but you wouldn’t know it by watching games at Wrigley, or even The Cell for the most part. Now the animosity between Bradley and everybody else increased. Once again, he vented to a reporter that Chicago is a negative place to play and he wasn’t surprised that the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in 100 years. A couple doses of sarcasm to a reporter in September and finally, Jim Hendry pulled the plug on the Milton Bradley Experiment. Bradley finished the season hitting .257, with 12 homers and 57 RBI. His .OBP was .378 and his slugging percentage was a disappointing .397. He was ejected, threw mini-tantrums, made baserunning, fielding, and mental errors, struck out looking too often, and just simply didn’t produce.
It was clear that Bradley would be traded in the offseason. There was no way the Cubs could bring back a guy that had caused so much controversy on and off the field, on top of not producing. A matter of the team and players involved in the trade for Bradley was all that needed to be resolved. December, 19, 2009, Jim Hendry gave many Cubs fans an early Christmas present with a trade sending Bradley to the Seattle Mariners for underachieving pitcher Carlos Silva. Most Cubs fans prematurely penciled in another 10-15 wins for the Cubs next year, mainly due to the departure of Bradley. The clubhouse would be a lot better, and there wouldn’t be a moody presence in the dugout, either.
Yeah right. It’s funny how fans have no problem with an asshole as long as that asshole is producing. Cubs fans, remember Sammy Sosa? The guy who struck out 150+ times a season, mostly on pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone? The guy, who early in his career routinely overthrew cutoff men and attempted steals like a madman no matter the situation late in the season to reach the 30HR/30SB plateau? How many times did he wind up with only a single because he did a premature “Sammy hop”? I do believe it was Sosa who was the owner of the boombox that blasted salsa music in the clubhouse. While most other guys hit a homerun and went back to the clubhouse to be congratulated by teammates, Sosa made a production of it. The hop. Touching home and throwing two fingers to the sky. Coming back to the dugout and finding the camera and sending his own form of a shoutout to whoever the recipient was. When he was hitting 40HRs and winning ballgames by himself for the Cubs, no one had a problem with his ways. When he tailed off, we were ecstatic to trade him to Baltimore, virtually for Scary Hairston, Jr. Granted, he didn’t help his cause by leaving the ballpark early on what was Fan Appreciation Day, but Cubs fans lost all love for Sosa long before that. When you’re hitting .250 and striking out more than twice as much as you walk, you don’t have much leeway with any fans, let alone Cubs fans.
I do not point the finger only at Cubs fans. Ty Cobb was a well-known racist. Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Albert Belle, Jim Rice, and Barry Bonds were not known for being great guys either, but all of them were elite players that for the most part, were given passes by fans for being assholes. There are examples in football, basketball, hockey, and soccer as well(which I won’t get to now).
If Bradley were hitting .321 with 22HRs and a .436 OBP(he posted those numbers in 2008 with Texas in 126 games, only two more than he played with the Cubs in 2009)on September 20, 2009, I guarantee no one would have called for his head. Face it, we(because I am a Cubs fan, too)are not exactly an optimistic bunch. I’m only 24, and have had my heart broken by the Cubs more than I care to remember. We’re basically waiting for the dream to end every season. Some seasons it ends very early, and others we are driven(1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008)to the point of self-destruction. And if you don’t believe that out of all of those drunk white guys in the outfield bleachers on a summer day at Wrigley, that not one would have the beer guts to shout something racist at an underperforming, already sour Bradley, you’re delusional.
The Cubs 2009 season was a disappointment, and not just because of Milton Bradley. It’s obvious that Bradley had a bad year. So did Alfonso Soriano, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles, Geovany Soto, ARam(I include him only because of his injury, from which I don’t think he ever fully recovered), Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Aaron Heilman, Kevin Gregg, and Carlos Marmol(until he was named the closer). Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot were both average, so I tend to ignore their contributions. I don’t understand how Cubs fans have forgotten Sori’s huge contract and low production to this point, or that Zambrano is one of the highest-paid pitchers in the majors even though he’s the ace by default. Hendry missed out on a chance to add a proven ace in Jake Peavy to re-sign his buddy and clubhouse comedian, Ryan Dempster. Dempster is a good pitcher, but not a 4yr/$52 mil pitcher. Hell, add Lou Piniella and his weird management of the bullpen and lineup to that list, too.
There’s no way that Bradley’s bad performance stood out more than Soriano posting his worst season since his rookie year in the majors. Soto smoked pot, got fat, and proved that for some players, there is such a thing as a sophomore slump. Everyone is waiting for Zambrano to finally pitch more like an ace and not an overhyped #3. Gregg blew saves left and right while Marmol couldn’t throw more than one strike at a time, and it seemed like most fans were waiting for a Bradley strikeout or error.
Bradley was wrong to speak so badly about Cubs fans, simply because we pay his bloated salary. I’m sure a lot more athletes feel that way about their home cities, but they’re “smart” enough to keep those thoughts to themselves. Also, it wouldn’t have hurt him to be nicer to members of the Chicago media, seeing as how they’re the ones that paint the final picture of him. Still, Cubs fans should’ve known that we were getting an ill-tempered, sometimes volatile, outspoken, injury-prone right fielder. Even though Bradley himself admitted that he had a bad year, his numbers weren’t that far from his career averages. When I read that Bradley wanted to be here, and that he told Byrd to enjoy it and not do the same things that he did to earn fans’ ire, I believe it. The guy’s a ballplayer. He’s just a different type of ballplayer. He’s not Mark Grace or Eddie Banks, guys that you would like to have a beer with. He didn’t produce like Sosa, allowing you to see past his ornery ways. He, along with many other Cubs, had a bad 2009 season. Bradley was just the most convenient whipping boy. Despite subpar performances from so many, the Cubs were still in playoff contention with several weeks left to play in the regular season.
Bradley will be the left fielder/right fielder/DH for the Seattle Mariners(who are my pick to win the 2010 AL West, by the way). The Cubs have signed center fielder Marlon Byrd, and Fukudome will move back to right field. Byrd will hit fifth, and a lot of people are counting on new hitting coach Rudy Jamarillo to help Cubs hitters rebound from a horrible 2009. The pitching is solid, but Lilly won’t bring his stale face to the bump every 5 days until around May, hopefully. So that means that we’ll have to pray that Randy Wells can work some more of his beginners magic. Speaking of “hopefully”, Marmol has finally found his place as a closer. I wouldn’t mind it if Piniella would resign as manager, and Ryan Sandberg(with Mark Grace as his bench coach)would take over.
In conclusion, GET OVER MILTON BRADLEY. He’s not even in the same league anymore. Be aware: If you see a guy at Wrigley in a Cubs Milton Bradley jersey, it’s me.
P.S. I miss Karen!!!
P.P.S. #shoutout to everyone that doesn’t blame the 2009 Cubs season on Milt…