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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Suspending Disbelief, And Milton Bradley Too

The Cubs suspended Milton Bradley on Sunday after he made what management considered intemperate remarks to the Daily Herald:
When asked if he was disappointed in his own performance, he didn't want to answer that, either.

"I'm not talking about that," he said. What do you think I did?"

Bradley claimed to have no opinion on where he bats - "In the lineup," he said of his preferred spot - and the only time he became expansive at all was when he was asked if he had enjoyed his first season in Chicago.

"Not really," he said. "It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You got out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity.

"And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is."

Jim Hendry's response:
"There have been a lot of issues that we've lived with during the year," Hendry said Sunday, "but the last few days became too much for me to tolerate, to be honest with you. I'm not going to let our great fans become an excuse, I'm not going to tolerate not answering questions from the media respectfully. Whether you feel like talking or not, it's part of our jobs. I'm not going to allow disrespect to other people in that locker room and uniformed personnel.

"The only real negativity here is his own production."

Certainly, Bradley has had one of the worst full seasons in his career, with terrible batting and slugging averages (for him, anyway). It's a situation that almost begs for someone to bend themselves in pretzels trying to justify or absolve this punishment; Joe Sheehan tries to do the latter today;
Really, now. This is why you've suspended one of your best players for two weeks, because it's mission-critical that your players respect the fans and treat the media well? That's nonsense, and the rush to back up Hendry and tear down Bradley is yet another example of the co-dependent relationship between baseball teams and the free media they rely upon. Players don't take two-week suspensions for being rude, and they don't take two week suspensions for the content of their quotes. Come to think of it, players don't take two-week suspensions; the last non-drug-related suspension of this length was Albert Belle's, and he threw a baseball at a fan who was heckling him from the stands.


Bradley isn't being suspended because of what he said; he's being suspended because he did so with a .240 batting average and the Cubs are buried in the standings. ... The outfielder hasn't played to expectations, but those expectations were unrealistic—last year was a peak season and involved lots of DH time. Moreover, Bradley has played more than he has in almost any season, and despite a low batting average has been a productive member of the lineup. Bradley is fifth on the Cubs in Runs Above Replacement Player, and tied for third among their regulars with a .271 EqA. His .378 OBP has been a significant asset for a team that carried three OBP sinks in the lineup for most of the season.

Questions about Hendry's ability — legitimate, considering Bradley's fragility was well-known prior to his signing — tend to get lost as a consequence of this suspension, but they need to be asked anyway. But for all that I like to hammer the Angels' love of RISP2 and clutch hitting stats, it's an art Bradley has forgotten this year, hitting .200 with men in scoring position and two outs, well below his .257 season average. If you want to know why the team isn't happy with his production — not to mention the fans — that would be a fine place to start.

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You'd think Milton would have realized what the Chicago media was like before signing there.
Or Jim Hendry would have recognized that he's hitting .266/.365/.431 as a lefty over his career, and that's just not good enough for a guy expected to spend most of his days there.
It's the Cubs' fault for paying Bradley to be a star, when he is merely a good but oft-injured player with a history of behavior issues that has ultimately led to his departure from at least three different teams. It's Bradley's fault, though, that he's Milton Bradley. He no longer gets the benefit of the doubt when character issues are raised. That's all on him.

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