Milton Bradley's suspension for the rest of the season is obviously the topic everyone's talking about this morning. I'll have more to say below the fold, but first, let's at least enjoy the Cubs' 6-3 win over the Cardinals in 11 innings. If nothing else, it at least gave the Cubs the satisfaction of winning the final game of the season series between the two teams and delaying the Cardinals' clinching celebration for a couple more days.
It was the type of game you'd have liked to see far more of all season. Carlos Zambrano stayed within himself and threw six strong innings -- the ESPN crew said they thought Z should have been left in for one more inning, but after 102 pitches, that was probably enough. John Grabow threw well in relief, and Kevin Gregg got Albert Pujols to end the seventh.
Unfortunately, Gregg wasn't as good in the eighth, and the Cardinals tied the game. In the last of the ninth, the Cubs appeared to have lost when a double-play relay was thrown wide by Ryan Theriot with the bases loaded; the apparent winning run crossed the plate. However, the umpires conferred and correctly ruled that Matt Holliday had slid out of the baseline -- even going so far as to show Tony LaRussa the "skid mark". The run was nullified and the game continued.
Sean Marshall, Aaron Heilman and Esmailin Caridad held the Cardinals down until Jake Fox slammed a two-run homer off Mitchell Boggs; Carlos Marmol dispatched St. Louis easily in the last of the 11th and the Cubs had their 76th win of the season.
The Milton Bradley signing was doomed to fail from the moment it was made. First, Bradley was supposedly signed due to Lou's "we're not lefthanded enough" mantra. The switch-hitting Bradley has the following career numbers:
as right-handed hitter: .305/.385/.496 (.881 OPS) as left-handed hitter: .266/.365/.431 (.796 OPS)
So right from the beginning, the Cubs were getting someone who hit significantly worse, as a switch-hitter, from the side that they supposedly needed the most production. His 2009 splits were even more extreme:
as right-handed hitter: .324/.375/.431 (.806 OPS) as left-handed hitter: .234/.379/.385 (.734 OPS)
Note: both of the above stat boxes include an 0-for-3 that Bradley registered while batting right-handed vs. a RHP this year.
From that standpoint, the Cubs would have been far better off in 2009 with Raul Ibanez, Bobby Abreu, or yes, Adam Dunn in right field. Had they signed Abreu, it would have cost them far less money (Abreu's making only $5 million this year), which might have allowed a mid-season acquisition along the lines of a Holliday -- who could have filled in while Alfonso Soriano had the knee surgery that he should probably have had in May, or a Mark DeRosa, who could have filled in while Aramis Ramirez was out. Jim Hendry bid against himself for Bradley, and now finds himself with more than $20 million that he has to remove from the payroll. There is no doubt in my mind that Bradley won't be back -- even if Tom Ricketts has to give the go-ahead to eat Bradley's contract.
A big thank-you to Bruce Miles, who broke this story on Saturday unintentionally; he was simply trying to ask Bradley some questions about his knee injury and place in the lineup, questions that were mild and that any ballplayer should be able to quickly give rote answers to. Instead, Bradley threw the entire Cubs organization, players, media and fans under the bus, and Bruce's quote of Ryan Dempster, I think, is telling:
"To say that everybody's out to get you and the reporters are looking for you and always looking to stick a microphone in your face, well, if you notice that they're always for you, I think maybe you're always looking for them," Dempster said. "I've been here six years now and haven't had a problem with anybody here. D-Lee's been here, Z, a lot of guys for a long time. Yeah, you have some tough times, but the city's great. The fans are great. You've got to realize sometimes the consequences of your own actions."
Dempster's a smart guy and he's got it exactly right. There are several other player quotes in Carrie Muskat's cubs.com article that I believe are illuminating and further, put the lie to the often-posted-here statement that "everyone says Milton is a great teammate".
"That's tough for a guy like me to understand," Johnson said. "I came from Toronto and fell in love with the city [of Chicago] and fell in love with the organization. It's hard for me to believe you can come to this city and come to this organization and not enjoy your time here.
"I've heard guys like Eric Karros and Jason Kendall say if you're playing Major League Baseball over a long career, you have to play at least one year for the Chicago Cubs. It's a good thing, not a bad thing. I think all of us are really surprised that a player could come here and not have the time of his life."
Ryan Theriot's locker was next to Bradley's at Wrigley Field, and the shortstop tried to reach out to him.
"There were good days and bad days," Theriot said.
The Cubs first baseman called Bradley after he and manager Lou Piniella got into a shouting match at U.S. Cellular Field during an Interleague game.
"I think this is a different situation," Lee said. "I would let him reach out to me on this one. He got suspended for the season. There's not much I can do to help him on that one. If he needed to talk, I'd talk."
Lee's locker is on the other side of Bradley's. What was his take on him?
"He's a quiet guy," Lee said. "I think he likes his privacy. ... I think a lot of frustration built up in him and he didn't let it out the right way."
"I don't know," Ramirez said when asked if Bradley could come back. "I don't think so."
Aramis Ramirez, a guy who doesn't say much and goes out and does his job, especially in a year where he's suffered a serious injury, saying he doesn't think Bradley could come back -- that's a damning indictment. The most descriptive line I think I heard from someone who's met Bradley is that he's a "strange dude". He also broke commitments; George Castle of true/slant.com writes:
No doubt Bradley talked a good game in persuading the Cubs to sign him last winter. He briefly seduced me during his introductory press conference in January the situation was different and Chicago would finally provide a baseball home for him. I even wrote he could rack up MVP numbers with that kind of attitude. Unfortunately, it was wishful thinking for Bradley, the Cubs and me. The real Bradley was soon exposed. See a previous blog about my experience with the outfielder, who stiffed me three times in four days after he had committed to doing an interview for my syndicated baseball radio show "Diamond Gems."
Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times makes it clear that the problems originated with Bradley:
Around the middle of the season, Bradley told a reporter he felt "isolated" in the clubhouse.
"I think for the most part that was his choice,"said Reed Johnson, whom Bradley once gave credit for getting in his face and helping straighten him out -- however temporary.
Said Piniella: "I just know that last year, I don't know how many times I heard from the media that we had the best clubhouse in the league. And things don't change that rapidly in a year."
Paul Sullivan of the Tribune quotes Hendry:
"The last few days became too much for me to tolerate," Hendry said. "I'm certainly not going to let our great fans become an excuse. I'm not going to tolerate not being able to answer questions from the media respectfully. Whether you feel like talking or not, it's part of all of our jobs.
"There's a right way to do it and a wrong way. I'm not going to allow disrespect to other people in that locker room and uniformed personnel, and I'm certainly not going to let a player, as was mentioned in the article today, (talk about) negativity of the organization."
Jim -- I think you did this to yourself. You didn't do your due diligence in trying to find out exactly what makes Milton Bradley tick. His blowups were well-documented, and there were, according to Sullivan's article, more troubles than we knew, even recently:
Bradley had been more erratic than usual this weekend, telling teammates he was having marital difficulties and sparring with hitting coach Von Joshua. Hendry spent the last three days contemplating the suspension.
The final beat-writer quote goes again to Bruce Miles, whose article contains many of the above quotes, and also this from Lou:
"I read some of his comments," Piniella said. "I can tell you this, that I've been here three years and I feel blessed that I've been able to spend three wonderful years here in Chicago. What a great city. Wrigley Field, what a fun place to play. And our fans are second to none."
Thank you, Lou. We may disagree with Lou's decisions and his apparent lack of interest this year, but he's got that right. Maybe the "disenchantment" that Bruce Miles says Lou had with Bradley all year had something to do with what appeared to be Lou sleepwalking through the 2009 season.
The final words, since this is my site, go to me. As noted above, this move was doomed to fail from January 6, the day it happened, for both on- and off-field reasons. It's almost certain that Milton Bradley has played his last game in a Cubs uniform, and for that I am glad. He's been a distraction and did not produce on the field. Why would you want a guy like that on your team? The situation is somewhat comparable, though more extreme, to the situation seven years ago involving Todd Hundley, also signed as a big-name free agent and who had the same production and complaining problems, although he simply complained TO the media, not ABOUT them, and didn't affect his teammates as negatively as Bradley has.
Jim Hendry was able to turn Hundley into two productive players who helped the Cubs win the NL Central in 2003. Perhaps he can perform the same thing with Bradley; it's been suggested by some that the Cubs might be able to send him to Toronto for Vernon Wells. Though Wells' contract is almost as onerous as Alfonso Soriano's, I'd do it. There's at least a chance that Wells will return to previous levels of production, and the alternative is probably simply to send Bradley home and pay him for doing nothing.
I never rooted against Milton Bradley when he was wearing a Cubs uniform. Had he produced, he would have helped the Cubs win games and that would have been a good thing. But starting from the injury in Milwaukee and the brief suspension that resulted from his tirade in his first Wrigley Field at-bat, Bradley was never a good fit for the Cubs, either emotionally or in the lineup. I'll be very happy when this chapter in Cubs history is just that -- history.