I don't post here often, so forgive me. I usually only show up when I'm pissed about the Cubs as this is the only catharsis I have.
So what did we learn from the Bradley incident that management needs to apply going forward? To me, the answer is obvious: the Cubs need to stay away from head cases that can't handle pressure. Bradley obviously couldn't hack it in a big media market, let alone in Chicago on a team that hasn't won in 100 years. It's not another fluke Cubbie occurrence that Bradley had the worst season of his career here - it was the PRESSURE. I truly believe that playing for the Chicago Cubs is the most stressful, pressure filled environment in sports. Combine the pressure of that 100+ years and the bloodlust for a championship among us fans, and many of our guys just try too hard. I still remember DeRosa on that WGN special sharing how badly he wanted to win a championship for the longsuffering fans- and when DeRosa booted that DP ball in game 2 last year, immediately my mind hearkened back to that comment. No surprise he choked - he was just trying too hard! Same issue in 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008- we simply wilted under the pressure.
With that said, the way we evaluate players needs to change. It's easy to say in retrospect, but we should have done our homework better on Bradley before signing him, or just used some common sense. At the time, I kept hearing from so many on this board that "Bradley can rake when healthy..." but what part of a career high of 77 RBIs did we miss here? The man may be able to hit, BUT NOT WITH MEN ON BASE and that's all that matters. The RBI gets dismissed as an outdated statistic, but Bradley's 40 some RBIs all season last year is all you need to understand. Contrast this with Abreu, a man who consistently drives in 100 runs a year while hitting less than 20 HRs (and in a pressure cooker in NY previous, no less), who would have been a far better option.
It seems that every year since 03, we have a common theme on this team: poor average with RISP, can't get men in from 3rd with less than one out. This isn't surprising- those are PRESSURE situations, the thing that has unglued this franchise for years. Yet we try and address this issue by signing guys like Soriano and Bradley, and we wonder why it doesn't work.
With this in mind, I'd love to see us pay a little more attention to RBIs, BA with RISP, SLG with RISP, ability to close games, and a player's overall response to pressure in the past before signing them in the future. To be sure, I can't comment on a player's mental fortitude ahead of time, but it isn't my job to do so- it is, however, the job of a competent GM. Maybe that'll spare us the Bradleys, Hawkins, and Sorianos of the world in the future. I'd dance with joy if we traded Zambrano- you really think a headcase like him will lead us to October glory? Please. When we see signs of mental frailty in a player early on (Marmol, Hill), we need to dump him ASAP, knowing that headcases cannot prosper at Wrigley (mark my words, Marmol's value will plummet by year's end). Of course it's easy to say this in retrospect, but for the life of me I can't understand why such thinking never appears to even enter the mind of Cubs brass when assembling a team.
I've said it before and I'll say it again- it would take an unusually strong group of men to win a World Series for the Chicago Cubs. Men who cannot handle the pressure cooker of Wrigley need not apply. And at the point a Cubs team does not seem to have the fortitude to win it all (see 2007, 2008), blow it up and start all over again. This is the only way we'll ever win it all. Mr Ricketts, I hope you are listening.