MILWAUKEE -- In Tyler Colvin's first major league plate appearance, last night vs. Milwaukee, he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. On his next at-bat, in the third inning, he hit a line drive into right field for his first major league hit. The ball was returned to the infield and second base umpire Tony Randazzo held his arms up to signal for the ball, as is the tradition for players' first hits in the major league, so they can keep the ball as a souvenir.
That was about the only thing that went wrong in the Cubs' 10-2 mashing of the Brewers last night. The win clinched the season series for the Cubs; they lead 9-6 with two games remaining. Colvin, for his part, wound up going a productive 1-for-3, with that RBI fly ball and a walk in addition to his single.
The Cubs started the game as if they were going to duplicate their eight-straight-hit feat from the game in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. The first four Cubs all hit safely and by the time Colvin's sac fly drove in the final run of the first inning, the Cubs had a 4-0 lead on Braden Looper. They extended it to 7-0 in the second when Derrek Lee homered with Kosuke Fukudome on base and Aramis Ramirez followed with a homer of his own. Lee wound up going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, giving him 107 for the season. That ties his career high set in 2005, with 13 games remaining to add to the total. D-Lee has had an outstanding season, made even more impressive by the fact that he was hitting .194 going into the game on May 16. Since then he has hit .333/.419/.640, with 31 HR and 92 RBI in 108 games, a most impressive line.
I decided to make one last trip up I-94 for the season; of the announced crowd of 34,192 on a pleasant but coolish night with the Miller Park roof open, maybe 22,000 or so showed up, with the usual contingent of about 30-35% Cubs fans. That runs my personal road record this season to 12-6; perhaps the Cubs should send me on more road trips.
Tom Gorzelanny, auditioning for a possible spot in the 2010 rotation, threw reasonably well for five innings. He allowed a pair of homers to Mike Cameron for the Brewers' only runs, but also struck out nine. Aaron Heilman and Justin Berg finished up. I like Berg -- out of all the rookie pitchers who have inhabited the Cubs' bullpen this season, Berg strikes me as the one who might have a chance to stick as a middle relief/setup guy. He's not young -- he'll be 26 next June -- but he's got a good arm and most importantly, throws strikes. He's the product of a trade chain that began when the Cubs sent Jason Dubois to the Indians on July 18, 2005 for Jody Gerut. Two weeks later, the Cubs shipped Gerut to the Pirates for Matt Lawton and four weeks after that, having gotten little production out of Lawton, they traded him to the Yankees for Berg. If Berg sticks in the 2010 bullpen, the Cubs will at least have gotten a major league player out of that long sequence.
I wasn't going to write again about Milton Bradley, but I feel compelled to after seeing both this ESPN.com report that the MLBPA may file a grievance over his suspension and Joe Sheehan's Baseball Prospectus column, also being discussed in two FanPosts made last night. Quick summary: Sheehan blasted Jim Hendry for the suspension.
First, on the MLBPA action: I am a union member and generally supportive of union actions to protect their members. In this case, I don't think the MLBPA has a leg to stand on. Bradley, presumably, is being paid during this suspension; I don't, obviously, have access to his contract, but I don't think anything in it forces the team to play him and I don't think that would be beneficial to either party in this case. The suspension was clearly for conduct detrimental to the team, and I believe the Cubs are within their rights to do that.
For his part, Sheehan is clearly off base -- he's looking at this as an isolated incident, which it clearly is not. As several of you pointed out in the FanPosts, the "80/20" rule seems to apply here; we may know 20% (or even less, possibly) of what's truly gone on between Bradley, his teammates, and management. It's the other 80% that is hidden from public view which only culminated in the quotes in Bruce Miles' article on Saturday. The only thing, in my opinion, that Joe Sheehan is right about in his article is that Hendry shouldn't have been surprised by Bradley's lack of production and that to have signed him under the premise that he was going to be a lefthanded middle of the order bat was incorrect.
There are two articles from today's Tribune that also bear quoting here: first, David Haugh's column. The most telling quotes in Haugh's column, are from a sports psychologist:
"He has physical skills and mental toughness, but not that third ingredient -- emotional toughness," said Gregg Steinberg, a professor of sports psychology at Austin Peay State University who has observed Bradley from afar. "If you can't handle that, it's going to come out in different forms."
Which is exactly what has happened. And, from Bradley's high school coach:
Bradley's mercurial behavior sounds familiar to Ken Munger, who coached Bradley in the early 1990s at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.
Munger recalled, for example, how pro scouts visited practice but Bradley ignored them, waiting at the opposite end of the field for a ride from his mom.
"The Cubs suspending Milton doesn't really surprise me," Munger said. "The Milton I knew was talented but immature. He was never able to resolve conflict."
The other Tribune column containing useful information today about this situation is Fred Mitchell's. Mitchell spoke with Andre Dawson about the Bradley situation. Here are the most important parts of Mitchell's column:
"I have never met Milton Bradley. But I would tell him that this (chance to play for the Cubs) is a blessing," he said. "And you shouldn't take for granted what it is you are blessed with. The game can humble you, and your career could end at any time.
"You are one of a select few players who get to do this, and do it for a number of years. You want to make as much as you can as long as you can. And don't allow an organization to take that uniform. You want to give the uniform back, hopefully, on your terms, and not find yourself in the position where you are out of the game or unemployed because of selfish behavior or behavior that is not conducive to what you are trying to accomplish out there on the playing field."
Bradley has said he dreads coming to Wrigley Field. Dawson basked in the atmosphere, and the bleacher fans often would stand and bow toward him after he hit a home run or made a great defensive play.
"Any player who gets the opportunity to play at Wrigley should welcome it," said Dawson, who spent 20 years in the big leagues.
Exactly right. Dawson also addressed Bradley's claims of racist remarks from the bleachers:
"I heard things in Florida. I heard things to a degree in Boston," he said. "In Montreal, I didn't really hear it until after I had become a Cub. But that's a part of the game. It hurts when your home fans ride you a little bit, but they have a right to do so. And even though it is tough, that is when you really have to reach back.
"It probably angers you a little bit more when you are at home, but you have to know how to contain your anger and your frustration and not press. When that happens, you are pretty much done."
Damn right, Andre. "Pretty much done" describes Milton Bradley's tenure with the Cubs, and possibly his baseball career. The Cubs may wind up paying him $20 million to stay home the next two years. In my opinion, that would be worth it to not have to deal with Bradley's attitude and demeanor. Time to move on, for the Cubs, Bradley and the MLBPA. I hope I hear in the next few days that they have decided not to file a grievance. Enough.