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Milton Bradley Must Go

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Had there been no incidents in yesterday's win over the White Sox, I probably wouldn't have posted anything this morning -- the first post today would have been the preview thread at 1 pm CDT.

But given the passion exhibited in last night's recap regarding Milton Bradley -- and I commend all of you for keeping it on topic and not making anything personal -- I felt it was important to have a post up this morning where discussion on this issue can continue, because this appears to be a real turning point for this team, just as the Michael Barrett/A.J. Pierzynski brawl did the same thing two years ago, coincidentally in a game at the Cell.

First, I continue to stand by the two things I posted last night regarding things I have heard about Milton Bradley. I learned these a couple of weeks ago but decided to sit on them at the time, only posting them last night because I felt they were relevant to yesterday's incident. No, I can't and won't post names. Believe what you will, but I have absolutely no doubt I was told the truth.

There's another take on this situation this morning from Chris DeLuca in the Sun-Times:
Veteran Alfonso Soriano, who doesn't get the credit he deserves for being a true team leader, said he had never seen anything like it during his nine-year career. And then Soriano -- always one of the first Cubs in the clubhouse -- put the onus on Bradley to shape up or ship out.

"That's my first time to see a manager fighting with a player; get mad with a player,'"Soriano said. "Sometimes you can get mad, but not like that. It's something new for me every day.

"We are 25 players, and we have to be on the same page. If he is not 100 percent to help the team win, we don't need him. If he's 100 percent and he wants to play, he's more than welcome."

That means Bradley must arrive today at U.S. Cellular Field earlier than usual -- which means, don't be the last position player to wander into the clubhouse. He must put the team first -- for the first time in his career. He must accept responsibility for his selfish actions -- instead of blaming everyone else.

You can criticize Soriano all you want, justifiably, for his play on the field. But one thing you cannot say is that Soriano has the wrong attitude. Soriano's a leader, and he is absolutely correct. I have a lot more to say, so there's more below the fold.

I'm also posting again about this because of two articles written by Cubs beat writers, one by Paul Sullivan, the other by Gordon Wittenmyer. I posted this from Sullivan's article in the comments last night, but felt it deserved further attention:

Bradley blamed himself for his poor start (.237 batting average), and conceded he didn't realize how "overwhelming" it would be to be a focus of attention on the North Side.

"People are always watching and looking at everything I'm doing," he said. "My personality is more of a guy [who likes to] go unnoticed -- to show up, do my job and go home, and really not have a whole lot of hoopla about it.

"I'm really not a guy who's seeking any attention. I'm not seeking to be noted, like 'Milton Bradley and the Chicago Cubs.' I don't want that. I just want to be part of a group and fit in and just love and be loved. That's the basis of what I am.

"Maybe years ago I might have thought I wanted all this, but I really don't want all the attention."

He didn't want the attention? Exactly where did he think he was signing? The Yukon? The Cubs get more attention than perhaps any team in baseball save the Yankees and Red Sox! They have been on national cable for 30 years and have a national fan base! Yes, I know -- he played in "major markets" before (Oakland, Dallas, Los Angeles). But neither the Athletics nor the Rangers have the huge and rabid fan bases that the Cubs do, and in laid-back LA, the Dodgers don't get the kind of scrutiny that the Cubs do, nor are they under the pressure to win that the Cubs are. Didn't Bradley think of this? Didn't Jim Hendry do his due diligence regarding Bradley's personality and whether it would fit in the pressure cooker that is Cubs baseball?

Bradley was, in some sense, signed to be "Milton Bradley and the Chicago Cubs", given the desire for LH-hitting production and the dollars he signed for. All of this could have and should have been known to him last December. I have no doubt that Bradley wants very badly to succeed and perform well. The "passion", however, that he supposedly brings to this team isn't the kind of "passion" we need. Instead, it's a daily soap opera of one kind or another. If Bradley wanted to "show up, do [his] job and go home, and really not have a whole lot of hoopla about it", he should have signed with Pittsburgh, Kansas City or Florida, places where baseball is an afterthought.

The second point, brought out in Wittenmyer's article, is more disturbing and more direct:
Piniella ordered Bradley to the clubhouse and followed him -- with Carlos Zambrano joining him -- through the tunnel from the dugout.

According to sources, Piniella then shouted at Bradley, "You're not a player! You're a piece of sh--!"

Bradley then said, "I have too much respect for you to respond to that," a source said.

Presuming the above exchange is true -- and I have no doubt that it is -- there are a couple of things I'd like to say. First, a manager really shouldn't say that about one of his players. Bradley's reaction, when he surely could have exploded and made the situation far worse, does give me some respect for him.

But keep this in mind: two years ago after the Barrett/Pierzynski incident, it's clear to me that Lou likely went to Jim Hendry and said, "Get him off my team." And two weeks later, Hendry obliged him.

It's unlikely Milton Bradley can be traded anywhere at this point, unless the Cubs are willing to eat large chunks of his remaining contract. As some say, however, he is a "sunk cost". Maybe this is the thing to do -- admit this was an enormous mistake, see if any team will send a face-saving prospect or two, eat most of the deal, and move on. Perhaps Adam Dunn could be acquired to play right field the rest of the year -- honestly, I don't care how bad his defense is, at least he'd be getting on base and hitting home runs (and you could run Reed Johnson, Ryan Freel or Kosuke Fukudome out there the last couple innings for defense). Or send Jake Fox out there once Aramis Ramirez returns -- Fox has shown he can be at least capable in the field.

If not, then the Cubs are stuck with Hendry's bad decision, and hopefully can go out and reclaim Mark DeRosa to get another bat in the lineup -- yes, the Cubs are interested and have inquired about DeRo, says Wittenmyer. For me, I will not boo Bradley unless he makes an egregious on-field mistake (such as tossing another ball into the stands with less than three outs). I'll cheer his positive contributions as long as he wears the blue pinstripes. I have no doubt that he wants to win and do well, very badly. The problem is: I don't think he knows how, how to be part of a team, how to channel that passion and aggressiveness to the team.

And I will expect nothing from him. Because that's what he has given us so far.