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September 21, 2009

Prospectus Today

Bradleygate?

by Joe Sheehan

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In something of a surprise, the Cubs have suspended Milton Bradley for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. There are about two weeks left in the season, so in the midst of the big pile-on, I'd like to ask one question: Who the hell has ever been suspended for two weeks for what they said to the media? This is a severe and unwarranted overreaction, a cynical public-relations ploy designed to curry favor with fans and the media and distract both groups from a Cubs season that is ending with a whimper.

The interview, published in Saturday's Arlington Daily Herald, certainly wasn't a high-water mark for Bradley. When asked if he'd enjoyed his time in Chicago, he said he hadn't, he pointed out that it's a media-saturated environment and he connected what he perceived as a negative atmosphere to the Cubs' inability to win a World Series for a century. He clearly hasn't been comfortable in Chicago, and coupled with the perception that he's played poorly and a few incidents in which his notorious temper has gotten the better of him, he's become a lightning rod for blame.

His comments in the Herald weren't particularly new or enlightening, and they didn't attack any individual. They weren't profane or notably inflammatory. For this, he gets sent home for two weeks. By doing so, Hendry is blatantly pandering to the disgruntled fan base and the local media, as Carrie Muskat reported as far as Hendry's comments on the subject for MLB.com:

"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."

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.

Hendry can do this because he's the general manager of a team that woke up on Sunday 11 games out of first place and seven games out of the wild-card race, effectively eliminated from contention. Let's be very clear that this suspension would not be happening if the Cubs had continued their late charge to the fringe of the race, or if they had any kind of chance of making the postseason. Let's also be very clear that this suspension would not be happening had Bradley's stats been comparable to last year's. 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.

Here's what really bugs me, also from Hendry:

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

I expect the sports-radio mongrels and the beer-swilling casual fans to be unable to look past a .240 batting average and 40 RBI, to evaluate Bradley using the same metrics they did Andre Dawson and Ernie Banks and Hack Wilson. I expect more from Hendry, who should recognize that those figures don't do Bradley justice. 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.

The big surprise is that for all the questions about whether he could, Bradley has mostly stayed in the lineup, starting 107 games in the field and playing 915 defensive innings. That's the second-highest mark of his career, and the most he's played afield since 2004, when he was 26.

Bradley can do three things: he can hit, he can play in the field and he can stay in the lineup. As his entire career has shown, though, he can do just two of those things at any one time, and for Hendry to have been surprised by this-in fact, for him to throw the player under the bus for it-is ridiculous. Bradley played about as much as could reasonably be expected for a player of his known physical limitations. He posted a .378 OBP in the process. His batting average and power suffered, and he didn't play a particularly good brand of right field, but he played. If he was a disappointment, it was a case of excessive expectations-or not remembering that the Cubs can't use the DH-as much as it was a problem with his performance.

Moreover, the Cubs aren't all that far from where they were supposed to be. They're on pace to go 83-79; I had them going 87-75, and I still think that was pretty realistic. The Cubs are four games off that projected pace, which seems so much worse because the Cardinals are 15 games ahead of theirs. The Cardinals resurrected Joel Pineiro, got a mostly full season from Chris Carpenter, and traded for Matt Holliday, none of which has anything to do with Milton Bradley or the Cubs. The Cubs are off their feed because Aramis Ramirez missed time and was replaced with zeroes, because the bullpen was even worse than expected, because Alfonso Soriano was awful, and yes, because Milton Bradley didn't hit for as much power as was expected. He's part of the picture, but far from the entirety of it.

I expect Jim Hendry to know these things, but if Hendry were to admit that Bradley has played about as well and as often as could reasonably be expected, then he'd have to answer the question, as valid today as it was nine months ago, as to why he was signing a player who was a poor fit for his roster and his league. I expect Hendry to realize that much of last year's success was built on players who had no place to go but down, but I suspect he doesn't. So it's much better to turn the spotlight on to Bradley's mouth and hope no one looks too carefully at the original decision. Signing Bradley was a mistake at the time, not because Bradley has a temper, but because he can't do all three things at once.

As far as Bradley is concerned, I feel much the same as I do every time he gets himself into this kind of situation: he shouldn't talk to the media. He doesn't have any ability to be circumspect, to speak in clichés, to say something without saying anything. I don't necessarily mind this quality in people, but it's a recipe for disaster in today's sports world. There are going to be microphones and notebooks and cameras, and he's simply never found a way to co-exist with them. It doesn't help that, because of his past, he's an attractive target for reporters; if you talk to Bradley, there's a chance that you'll end up with a story, a chance that isn't there with, say, Ryan Theriot or Kosuke Fukudome. It's similar to what would happen to Barry Bonds, where reporters would interact with him just so they could write their standard "Barry was rude to me" tale of woe. It really shouldn't be a story any longer that Milton Bradley has a temper, or speaks out of turn, or even that he isn't terribly happy in Chicago or with the Cubs, but it is.

Even if it is, suspending him for two weeks for expressing those thoughts is disproportionate to the point of ridiculousness. If it's considered fair game to suspend a player for what were fairly measured (if critical) comments, I shudder to think what kind of doors this opens up for player discipline. Milton Bradley may or may not have been out of line here, but Jim Hendry definitely was.

--

I don't have another place for this, so I'm going to put it here because it kind of is the intersection of the Cubs and reliever usage, the latter topic being a regular theme here of late. A couple of weeks ago Lou Piniella moved Kevin Gregg out of the closer role because Gregg's performance had cost the Cubs a lot of games. Gregg's tateriffic tendencies-a homer allowed every five innings or so-are one reason why the Cubs have fallen short of expectations this season. So it would make sense for Piniella to keep Gregg out of game-critical situations.

So how is it you don't want the guy closing out games, but you think it's a good idea to have him face Albert Pujols with a runner on first, two outs, and a one-run lead in the seventh? That's the situation in which Piniella brought Gregg into the game last night. It makes absolutely no sense to me that you would choose Gregg, the most homer-prone reliever on the staff, to pitch to one of the best home-run hitters in baseball in a spot where a home run could lose you the game, and all other outcomes are survivable.

This is where we've gotten with reliever usage, where the number attached to the inning is all that seems to matter. That was the ballgame, right there, and Piniella chose the pitcher he's already decided he doesn't want pitching in high-leverage spots to get him out of it. Set aside that it worked and just consider the thought process that got him to that point. What's the path through the decision tree that makes you decide a guy is unfit for protecting ninth-inning leads but suited for pitching to Albert Pujols in the game's biggest moment?

The way in which the industry uses relief pitchers is broken, and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

85 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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buffum
(458)

"One of [their] best players?" I suppose, technically, but Bradley has a 9.2 VORP (14th on the team, 7th for position players), slugs under .400, and is not a good outfielder. That's Ben Francisco territory. I will grant a high OBP, but ... he may be one of the most talented Cubs, but he certainly hasn't had one of their most-valuable performances in 2009.

Now, I agree with the overall point IF the suspension is solely due to his public media exposure. I strongly suspect that it is not. Bradley didn't seem like that bad a guy in Cleveland, but one was hard-pressed to find a Cleveland player who expressed much in the way of a lamentation upon his exit.

I don't understand why the Cubs didn't handle this quietly instead of publically, though. I'm totally on board with Joe on this sentiment.

Sep 21, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 5
 
Sharky

You can't understand it? It seems pretty clear: they're using Bradley as a scapegoat to deflect blame.

That said, he has performed miserably (at least relative to his compensation). But that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Sep 21, 2009 11:45 AM
rating: -2
 
Sharky

Joe, I applaud your writing on both of these topics. Bradley won't win humanitarian of the year awards, but he is clearly a scapegoat here. As for reliever usage, I don't plan to hold my breath waiting for a change. The Red Sox tried it a while back and after a short-term hiccup abandoned ship. Maybe it will happen when a more enlightened media (and fan base) is ready for change... say, 15-20 years from now?

Sep 21, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 3
 
Richie
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"sports-radio mongrels and the beer-swilling casual fans" S-I-G-H-H-H

Maybe you are hopeless. But I hope not.

Sep 21, 2009 11:45 AM
rating: -20
 
amazin_mess
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At time Joe, I get the feeling you are contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian.

Bradley is an idiot that behaves like a 10-year-old. Professionals do not conduct themselves that way. Hendry made the right call.

Sep 21, 2009 11:50 AM
rating: -10
 
drmboat
(754)

You're trying to separate everybody into layers of idiocy...I prefer to just label them all idiots and keep it at that.
Hendry shouldn't sign a rude, breakable, volatile player if he doesn't want rude, breakable, volatile players who might potentially have down years.
Bradley should keep his mouth shut and worry about his own production. After all, he's the first one publicly blaming his failures on somebody else in this story.
Piniella would have probably won the game in 9 had he kept his original closer philosophy, just because Marmol would have been available for Pujols, Holliday, and Ludwick and Gregg could have pitched to the back-end in the 9th.

Sep 21, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: 5
 
antoine6

Does what Bradley say deserve a suspension? Not to me (or to Joe), but that's sort of a private matter between a team and it's employees. If this was really wrong, the Union can file a grievance over it.

Is the perception of Bradley being a "bad guy" purely media-driven? I don't know. The guy was in a physical confrontation with Eric Wedge in Cleveland, and tried to attack a KC broadcaster while in Texas last year.

I empathize with Bradley because he clearly has temper problems, and I think he has gotten somewhat of a bad rap. But he's also behaved badly, and when you behave badly and play badly, you open yourself up to be both criticized and disciplined. While I agree Chicago shouldn't have signed Bradley, I think it's for BOTH performance and chemistry reasons.

I don't pretend to be able to morally classify who is a "bad guy" and who isn't, and I wouldn't want to a a person generally. But were I a baseball GM? I probably wouldn't sign Milton Bradely.

Sep 21, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 6
 
Ira

Here's the really sad thing. Down here in Texas, there has been a call out from the fans that we really miss Milton Bradley and his production. His patience at the plate was a real asset and his rep in the clubhouse was considered a pleasant surprise given his rep. Maybe it was the existence of guys like Michael Young and others to keep the media away from Mr Board Game that kept his quotes to a minimum. Even the incident with the KC broadcasters was slightly overblown. The only reason that he didn't stay with the Rangers is that Hendry decided he was worth $20 million a year (or whatever it was he signed for). I've heard mention of a Millwod for Bradley trade this offseason and for once it sounds like a decent deal, especially if the Cubs pay a majority of Bradley's salary.

I guess alot of this is the series of guys who the Rangers have brought in over the last few years who were considered either done, or "never weres" who blossomed in Texas, only to get big contracts elsewhere. (David Delucci in '05, Gary Matthews Jr, Rod Barajas and Mark DeRosa in '06, Bradley and Ramon Vazquez in '08)

Sep 21, 2009 13:31 PM
rating: 7
 
Glasscock

Moderator disregard flagging - I muffed it.

Sep 21, 2009 15:36 PM
rating: 0
 
oira61

Thank you, Joe. The Cubs remind me of the Bush administration, defending our "freedoms" unless somebody tries to exercise one.

What I hate most about the reactionary mainstream sports media is the way they force everyone to talk like Crash Davis advised in "Bull Durham." If we reacted positively when somebody told the truth, people would tell the truth more often.

Sep 21, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: -1
 
Vince Galloro

I love that there was a real player named Crash Davis, but the first time that I saw the link, I hoped that Clay Davenport had mocked up a DT card for the fictional Crash Davis based on the bus scene in which he describes his time in "the Show" -- "21 straight days once" -- after brawling with Nuke.

Sep 21, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 4
 
boards

If he was suspended for what I just read at the link provided, everything he said is proven accurate.

Sep 21, 2009 12:13 PM
rating: 3
 
doncoffin
(422)

Amen. And if the MLBPA doesn't file a grievance about this, then anyone who thinks the union has too much influence should think again.

Sep 21, 2009 15:20 PM
rating: 3
 
baserip4

If he would ilke to return to the AL to DH, Baltimore has an opening. And roughly three media members who cover the team.

Sep 21, 2009 12:27 PM
rating: 7
 
Bob

...and a very supportive fan base. When Albert Belle came to Baltimore, he had a reputation similar to that of Bradley. Upon Belle's first at-bat in Baltimore, he got a standing ovation from the crowd, as if to say, "you're on our team now; you have a clean slate; and we're glad you're here." As an Orioles' fan, I'd take Bradley (but only at low cost at this point).

Sep 21, 2009 13:56 PM
rating: 4
 
Drungo

There are still fans who think that the Albert Belle signing was the worst in Baltimore history, and that it was a black mark on the franchise. Maybe even some kind of negative karma that has been punished with the current string of losing seasons.

Of course that's a little silly, but most of the city of Cal Ripken wouldn't be in any way happy about signing Milton Bradley.

Sep 22, 2009 06:34 AM
rating: -1
 
sroney

One of the more comparable suspensions would be the Angels suspending Jose Guillen, though that was for on-field antics, rather than talking to the press. There wasn't two weeks of season yet, but the Angels hadn't clinched yet, and the suspension essentially extended into the post-season.

Sep 21, 2009 12:29 PM
rating: 1
 
jdseal

I don't know, maybe it is mission critical that you treat your fans right, in some sense of the word. Isn't that how all businesses work, you have to take care of your paying customers, above all else? Is there a higher mission for a business?

Sep 21, 2009 12:31 PM
rating: 5
 
doncoffin
(422)

And just what did Bradley say that was not treating the fans right? I read his comments as being mostly about the media and about the Cubs' organization. Only a little about the fans (who have been brutal to him, frankly).

Sep 21, 2009 15:22 PM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Sure, but this isn't the way teams act *at all*. The Cubs self-scalped their own tickets. The league threatened to eliminate two teams. Some teams don't try to win for years on end. All of them price food and drink inside the park with usurious markups.

You may be right in the abstract, but no, "treating the fans right" is nowhere near the top of teams' priorities.

Sep 21, 2009 17:31 PM
 
ncimon

Thanks for punching my ticket on this. I was feeling as if I was the only one who thought the entire episode was wildly overblown. The cynical use of the (incestuous) relationship most clubs have with the media needs to be exposed to the light of day. Bradley may be one fiery dude, but he's not the monster he's made out to be, and not the reason for the Cubs failures.

Sep 21, 2009 12:54 PM
rating: 2
 
eighteen

I agree with Joe on most points, but there's one consideration he doesn't mention: Bradley simply cannot be allowed on the field after shooting off his mouth like that. The fans would verbally brutalize him until he (predictably) blew up and caused an even bigger mess.


Sep 21, 2009 12:56 PM
rating: 4
 
Ameer

I would venture to guess that most fans didn't even know about the interview prior to the suspension.

Sep 21, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 4
 
Ameer

Yeah, I have to agree that the punishment does not fit the crime here. I read the interview and it wasn't a big deal. Every single person has days when they say, "I don't really enjoy working in this environment." Hendry needed a scapegoat and, let's be honest, Bradley is a pretty easy target. I'm sure I'm not the only one within the Cubs fanbase that is more frustrated with Jim Hendry than with Milton Bradley.

Sep 21, 2009 12:58 PM
rating: 2
 
ddrezner

Joe, you write, "Let's be very clear that this suspension would not be happening if the Cubs had continued their late charge to the fringe of the race, or if they had any kind of chance of making the postseason." Undoubtedly true -- but isn't it also true that had the Cubs been in contention, Bradley would likely not have said what he said?

Sep 21, 2009 12:59 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess
BLOCKED
This comment has been blocked due to inappropriate content. Click here to view anyway.

Lbh thlf znxr zr ynhtu. Gur thl vf na nffubyr naq ur trgf qrsraqrq yvxr ur'f Znex Tenpr.

Sep 21, 2009 13:10 PM
 
John Collins
(110)

Ironic remark, given what I've heard about Mark Grace.

Sep 21, 2009 13:14 PM
rating: 6
 
sockeye

I dunno, he sounds like a saint to me!

http://www.markgrace.com/bio_childhood.html

Sep 21, 2009 13:46 PM
rating: 0
 
anderson721

Ah, I see you belong to the "Of course he's guilty-why else would the cops have arrested him" school of jurisprudence.

Sep 21, 2009 15:31 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Was his comment really block-worthy? I'd seen worse...

Sep 22, 2009 14:30 PM
rating: -1
 
elm
(41)

I don't know, but now I'm forever going to call Marc Grace Znex Tenpr.

Sep 22, 2009 14:34 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Klaatu verata nikto.

Sep 22, 2009 14:36 PM
rating: 0
 
havens


Your depiction of Bradley's season [production] is far too positive. No, he shouldn't have been expected to produce at last year's clip. But to try and defend his performance this season as being valuable to the Cubs is off base.

Sep 21, 2009 13:13 PM
rating: 5
 
judgejhnsn
(191)

Good point -- Bradley's adjusted OPS is 100, which is mediocre for RF -- 7th of the 10 players qualifying for the batting title in the NL at that position. Not horrible, but not much value at the price. The fact that he's performed better than some of the other slop on the roster says more about the roster than Bradley.

This doesn't justify Hendry's move; given the innumerable socially accepted ways to misplace players for a while (strained oblique, flu-like symptoms, leaving the team to attend to a personal matter) Hendry's decision to squirt kerosene on the fire with just two weeks left in the season is puzzling at best, and perhaps is nothing more than a particularly violent manifestation of his nonbuyer's remorse over Abreu.

Sep 21, 2009 19:30 PM
rating: 1
 
John Collins
(110)

I'll bet that it will eventually emerge that there is more to Bradley's misconduct than the interview. Agreed that the punishment seems excessive, but I think we should expect more behind-the-scenes insubordination will turn out to be involved. It's certainly been building. (But who knows?) Also, I assume this is a PAID suspension. They don't want him around anymore, but surely they can't justify taking a million dollars of salary away for that interview. Can the union file a grievance over a PAID suspension (assuming there were no incentive clauses for playing time)?

Sep 21, 2009 13:14 PM
rating: 3
 
doncoffin
(422)

This is from the piece on ESPN.com:

"However, the Cubs have yet to issue a formal notice of the suspension to either Bradley, his agents or the union...Bradley hasn't yet been informed whether the suspension is with or without pay. He also hasn't been told what the specific basis for the suspension was."
(http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4492909)

So the Cubs have not formally communicated what the suspension is for, whether it's paid or unpaid. Doesn't that say a lot about the organization?

Sep 21, 2009 15:29 PM
rating: 6
 
WholeLottaGame

Does Bradley get a bad rap? Probably. But is a GM ever obligated to play a player? No. If you sit Albert Pujols, you're an idiot and your fans will be after your hide. And ultimately, it's all about what the fans want, because the fans drive the money. Clearly, Hendry has made the decision that he can do more good by attempting to salvage fan goodwill this season than the marginal increase in winning percentage he'd get by playing Bradley.

Sep 21, 2009 13:39 PM
rating: 3
 
deckholm

Have to agree with most of this. I think, if Hendry didn't want to make a big deal about this, he could have just told Lou not to play him and things could have been handled internally. The fact that he got suspended for the final two weeks and the Chicago media is talking about it clearly suggests something else is going on.

I'm not a Milton Bradley supporter by any stretch, but unless your blaming him for all the off-the field comments AND his failure to meet the expectations attached to a $10 million dollar a season contract - this suspension doesn't make any sense. Even then, there are better ways of handling it.

Sep 21, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

On that note, Bradley really hadn't been playing much the last few weeks. Supposedly it was his sore knee... assume it was a legit injury and he might be sitting out the season anyway, he could've just stayed quiet.

Or maybe the injury was his version of Derek Bell's Operation Shutdown

Sep 21, 2009 17:18 PM
rating: 0
 
onegameref

He did contribute to the offense but certainly not to the level they could have hoped. He has been miscast as an RBI man when he should be cast as an OBP man. Bat him 1 or 2 and be done with it. To think he can't get along in Chicago, one of the most friendly towns in the majors and adoring of their successful players, makes it seem like he did not want it to work once the first boo was heard. Banks, Williams, Lee, Jenkins all have had great support in the city and from the fans through good and bad. MB truly needed to look in the mirror to see why he is unhappy as a Cub. I don't think he should have been suspended either.

Sep 21, 2009 13:48 PM
rating: -1
 
ChuckR

Assuming this is a paid suspension, where is the punishment? He gets to sit out the denouement of a another disappointing Cubs season. He has all but guaranteed his ticket out of Wrigley, something he apparently already wants. There was no need for the suspension either. With expanded September rosters, the team could have just had him sit on the bench for the last two weeks, not getting an AB.

...and in the meantime the Hendry era continues apace, with the impending need to eat much of the $20 million or so owed Bradley, which is only one of a number of horrific Hendry contracts that will encumber the team into mediocrity in the coming years.

Sep 21, 2009 13:50 PM
rating: 3
 
kcboomer

Bradley hasn't produced as expected but the Cubs got one heck of a lot more our of him than they got out of Soriano and for less money.

Hendry is the guy that screwed the pooch here. To think the volatile Bradley was going to produce at last year's level while playing everyday was just insane. The guy's age and injury history had to be major red flags.

I rarely side with the MLBPA, but I can't believe that if they file a grievous this suspension will voided in a hurry. They won't have to play him but they will have to pay him.

BTW, if you want to unload Bradley ship him to the Royals for Jose Guillen. We will even throw in Kyle Fransworth.

Sep 21, 2009 13:58 PM
rating: 3
 
R.A.Wagman

I'd like to start a rumour of Bradley being shipped to Toronto (minor media presence, smaller fan presence) for Vernon Wells in an exchange of bad contracts. If necessary, the Jays would also take on Aaron Miles and his bad contract as a replacement for the soon-to-be-departed John McDonald.

Sep 21, 2009 14:20 PM
rating: 1
 
Robert Flaxman

When Hendry says "the only negativity is his own production," I don't think, unless there's more specific context I'm missing, that he's referring to Bradley's baseball "production." I think he's just suggesting that Bradley has helped to produce the negativity he thinks he's getting, by being surly with the fans and media from day one. I'm assuming Milton isn't familiar with the expression "garbage in, garbage out" or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - it is exceedingly rich to hear this guy whine about not having a "stable, healthy environment" when he's one of the most negative, combustible, standoffish players in the game. There's a reason he's been traded four times and hasn't stayed anywhere more than two seasons. Sure, none of this should come as a surprise, but nevertheless to hear Bradley scatter the blame over everyone in the city *but* himself is just a joke.

Whether the "punishment" fits the "crime" is debatable, I guess. But who needs it? Bradley torpedoed every bridge he may have had in that clubhouse, and he's not going to help them make the playoffs at this point. I say good riddance.

Sep 21, 2009 14:41 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

While I didn't read the quote that way, I agree that this is a possible interpretation of it, where "production" is used instead of "fault" or a similar word.

I want to make two points here about Bradley's on-field performance. One, I'll reiterate that it hasn't been that bad; he has a .378 OBP that was as high as .400 a couple of weeks ago, and it's really hard to be a "bad" player while getting on base 38% of the time. He hasn't hit for average or power, hasn't repeated his peak season. Stunning for a mid-30s free agent, truly.

The second is that you can't suspend players for underperforming your expectations. What Bradley has hit this season is irrelevant to the case for suspending him, and that Hendry and the Cubs are eager to elide this issue, to allow Bradley's batting average to serve as de facto justification for this decision, is squirrely at best. You can't use that as a factor at all.

So if Milton Bradley is being suspended for the reasons outlined by Hendry, it's wrong. It's wrong to suspend players for what they say to the press, especially while at the same time mandating that they do so. If he's being suspended in any part at all, even .0001%, for his performance, that is also wrong, because you cannot do that.

If there's more to this story, then, let's hear it. Otherwise, this suspension is a farce, and Hendry and the Cubs out of line. Just because they're taking their frustrations out on someone unpopular doesn't make it right.

Sep 21, 2009 17:39 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Joe,

It's in the best interests of the Cubs to _play_ Bradley. They would want to either to get as much value as they can for his contract, or to increase his trade value.

Maybe Bradley has been legitimately hurt the last few weeks and wasn't coming back anyway. Maybe Bradley shut himself down. Either way, I doubt the suspension was anything other than a last resort.

Hendry wasn't the first GM who couldn't figure Bradley out. Nor is Hendry the
type to call out his own players through the media. Whatever went on was seerious, and we might not be getting the whole story.

Sep 21, 2009 17:50 PM
rating: 1
 
DLegler21

Did you miss the Sammy Sosa fiasco? Sammy played his part but Hendry is EXACTLY the type to call out his players in the press and torpedo their trade value in the process. As a Cub fan, I'd much rather see Hendry gone than Bradley.

Sep 23, 2009 17:32 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

What trade value? There was the poor performance after the HBP and the bad toe, then the corked bat, but the whole "boombox destruction" and the shots of him leaving the park early didn't happen until well past the trading deadline during the last year of his contract...

Sep 24, 2009 08:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Robert Flaxman

I don't think for a second he's being suspended for his production. While underwhelming when compared to expectations, I spent much of the season defending Bradley's production; he led the team in OBP for a while, as you note, and he was even moved to the #2 hole for a time in an attempt to capitalize on that fact. Again, I think that Hendry's use of "production" was an unfortunate coincidence, and he was just saying that Bradley's own behavior produced the negativity he apparently perceived. (Frankly, if you read it as baseball production, the quote is a grammatical nightmare, while it makes significantly more sense in my context, not that people always speak in perfect grammar.)

I'm also not sure there needs to be more to the story. Bradley basically says in that article that he hates playing for the Cubs. So the Cubs said, all right, so long, then. While this may be fairly unusual, I think it's also fairly unusual for a player to come right out and say he hates playing for the team he plays for, and usually if that does happen the player is traded shortly thereafter. If I grouched around my office every day and told my boss that I didn't like anyone I had to work with and hated the company's environment, what are the odds I *wouldn't* be given my walking papers?

Sep 21, 2009 20:15 PM
rating: 1
 
harderj

e.g., Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith

Sep 22, 2009 08:47 AM
rating: 0
 
Brecken

I feel like this is similar to Padilla - a guy who was irritating a lot of his teammates. As he complained all year, there was very little that ever came up where it seemed like he had teammates supporting him. And the quotes that have come out since seem to echo the "The negativity was all you man and glad to see you gone" tone.

Remember when he left Texas even with the great stats, the buzz was they couldn't wait for him to be out of the clubhouse too.

I think they took an opportune moment to get rid of a guy that they didn't want in the clubhouse.

I know what you're saying about production, but similarly to Belle and Bonds, I think for a team to put up with you, you need to produce at a high level. Otherwise teams can't afford to keep you around. He came across as a very selfish player, finding a way to play in a lot of those games when he really wasn't healthy enough to. But he needed to play for the contract to vest. And the Cubs walked on eggshells and let him pinch hit randomly when he was crippling the club in April. Most clubs could have DL'd him then. But they knew he would go ballistic and claim they were tryuing to cheat him on the contract.

In today's environment of trying to be more team oriented and youth oriented, I wonder if the Cubs will even be able to give him away. He's run through a lot of clubs and I don't think any of them are excited to give him a second shot. Though I guess for $50K he'd be easy to cut in April if he wasn't overproducing.

Honestly he needs to play in the minor leagues where the lack of attention may allow to be in his own little world.

Sep 22, 2009 07:52 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Players are paid to entertain. Part of entertaining is winning games, but in lieu of that, do you want to pay a player who might be turning potential fans away from the game?

I do agree with Joe that Hendry made a mistake with signing Bradley, but I also think the suspension is legitimate.

This isn't Milton's first time ripping the fans or the Cubs either. Throughout his career, he's blamed the umpires, blamed race, blamed everything else for his lot in life. He still hasn't learned that he has to be accountable for some things.

Maybe the punishment was a bit too harsh, but I also can't think of any people who treated their teammates, their manager, the umpires fan base this way this frequently. Even Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Carl Everett, weren't this bad.

So, I'm not sure if the punishment necessarily fits the crime, but in a lost season, I think it's better to sit him than to risk some kind of public physical incident.

Sep 21, 2009 15:08 PM
rating: 0
 
doncoffin
(422)

The Cubs signed that contract. Hell, they offered it voluntarily, without really having to bid against any one for Bradley's services. Unless they have a legitimate reason for suspending him (with or without pay), they are stuck with it. They could easily have said that he would not play for the rest of the season, but couching it as a suspension makes it a contractual issue...and I suspect any reasonable arbitrator is likely to find for Bradley.

Sep 21, 2009 19:22 PM
rating: 0
 
doncoffin
(422)

I posted this as a reply, but it's probably worth being a stand-alone comment:

This is from the piece on ESPN.com:

"However, the Cubs have yet to issue a formal notice of the suspension to either Bradley, his agents or the union...Bradley hasn't yet been informed whether the suspension is with or without pay. He also hasn't been told what the specific basis for the suspension was."
(http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4492909)

So the Cubs have not formally communicated what the suspension is for, whether it's paid or unpaid. Doesn't that say a lot about the organization?

Sep 21, 2009 15:32 PM
rating: 0
 
BuzzingThalami

That last line just sums it up. Hendry acted without thinking things through - in keeping with his standard M.O. for assembing a baseball team.

This is going to be interesting. If they un-suspend him, I'm assuming he won't ever take the field. The fans have more or less been given the "moral" go-ahead from their GM to throw dangerous objects at him.

Sep 21, 2009 17:51 PM
rating: 1
 
mreed7777

I think the the real point is how teams use the media and in turn allow them to influence decision making making. It was true in Boston before Dan Duquette distanced himself from the Boston media and prepped Theo and and boys for 2004 and Pat Gillick did the same in Philadelphia for 2008. This was especially so by getting Dallas Green to shut up about pushing the best players away (i.e. Scott Rolen).

Sep 21, 2009 15:54 PM
rating: -1
 
cubswoo

pretty much every player on the team supported hendry's decision. it seems his poor attitude goes far deeper than just one interview.

Sep 21, 2009 17:10 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Remember also that Lee Elia was let go for his classic tirade against Cubs fans.

As far as scapegoats go, Bradley wasn't the worst player on the Cubs but outperforming most of that weak lineup is akin to damning with faint praise. Besides, if a manager can be scapegoated (Cecil Cooper), surely a player can be. It might be wrong in a moral sense but it's also a business. Bleacher bums get called a lot of things but I don't think they will be as eager to pay money for a right field ticket if they get lumped into the racist category.

Sep 21, 2009 17:12 PM
rating: 0
 
adman71

"I'd like to ask one question: Who the hell has ever been suspended for two weeks for what they said to the media? "

John Rocker.

Sep 21, 2009 17:14 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Yup, that's the other one.

I disagreed with that one, too, but it is another example.

Sep 21, 2009 17:28 PM
 
amazin_mess
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This is garbage. Joe just took on the opposite side of the story the mainstream media ran with. Makes for good reading - but it's bullshit.

Sep 21, 2009 17:35 PM
rating: -15
 
BuzzingThalami

@adman71 - good historical footnote there, but I hope that wasn't meant to be a justifying precedent. The most hateful thing Bradley said about anyone here was that "it's a negative environment".

This was a cowardly, pandering act by a perennially inept and disingenuous GM. He needed a whipping boy to distract from his general Sabeanesque lack of plan, and the tempermental Milton showed up right on time. The sad thing is the insipid mainstream sports media will no doubt applaud Hendry for "running a tight ship", "putting the fans first", or some other emptyheaded cliche here. Codependent indeed.

I hope the union sues Hendry's rear off.

Sep 21, 2009 17:41 PM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

This smells of Buttered Snibberish...

Anyway, many teams would've enjoyed getting to the playoffs in the last decade as often as the Cubs have, including Sabean's giants. Give Hendry a little credit. He's also taken the blame for past failings too.

Sep 21, 2009 17:56 PM
rating: -2
 
BuzzingThalami

Yes, and still more teams would enjoy having such a massive media market that would enable them to stumble punch-drunk into the playoffs once in awhile, without so much as a clue what they were doing.

Sep 22, 2009 19:52 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Over the last decade-ish, the Cubs track record has been better than the Orioles, Mets and maybe even the Dodgers

Sep 24, 2009 08:17 AM
rating: 0
 
thenamestsam

Just another point that people have been poking at but deserves more emphasis I think. After this move Bradley clearly has to be traded, and Hendry by reacting to it this way to the interview both made that a neccesity and torpedoed his value all in one. Not only did he reenforce Bradley's reputation as a bad egg, hurting his value, but he let everyone in the league know that Bradley will be moved this Winter, hurting it even further. So regardless of whether there are other things going on behind the scenes or how seriously Hendry was offended by this interview he made a horrible baseball decision for a purely PR move, and if I'm a cubs fan that's the last thing I want.

Sep 21, 2009 19:10 PM
rating: 4
 
sbnirish77

BP along with most of the media has consistently misrepresented Bradley's contract as 3 years in length when in fact the third year was an option year which the team could forego under cetrain circumstances.

Those circumstances themselves have been reported differently at various times through the year but currently COT's contract site has

2011 may become $12M club option with $2M buyout if:

Bradley has more than 75 days on DL in 2009, or

Bradley is on DL at end of 2009 season with specific injury and not on active roster by 4/15/2010

The term 'specific injury' isn't defined but there is an angle to this story that IT MAY HAVE BEEN IN THE CUB'S INTEREST TO DL BRADLEY INSTEAD OF SUSPEND HIM.

Coverage of that angle might have been more informative that blowharding about the press again.



Sep 21, 2009 19:33 PM
rating: -3
 
YX

Um... so you are suggesting the team to DL a player with no sign of any injury to avoid an option from vesting?

Somehow I don't think the MLB and the Union would like that very much.

Sep 22, 2009 07:17 AM
rating: 2
 
Mowstangs

thank you, mr sheehan. Great article. People really need to take a step back and look at things for what they are rather than by the landscape created by people that need to make a buck in a dying industry. Bradley's a turd, by and large, but how in the world can Hendry act tough now after saying after having dinner with Bradley in the offseason he knew instantly that he was the Cubs' guy? Hendry knows his job is at stake here, and i just hope that Mr. Ricketts is smart enough to see through his crap. Bradley can't come back, and that's almost unfortunate. He would have been much more productive in his second and third years of that contract.

Sep 21, 2009 19:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Mowstangs

also, this whole notion of "salvage fan goodwill" is what has enabled Cubs' fans. They got Sosa run out of town. They ran Baker out (though i can't complain about that), they could be blamed at least in part for Corey Patterson, they ran a productive Jacque Jones out of town... the list could go on forever. But as long as Hendry lives to salvage fan goodwill the Cubs will continue to be a laughing stock. Sometimes, in fact more often than not, the customer is not right. Sometimes the customer doesn't understand what's best for him. The customer is ultimately concerned with championships, and so long as Hendry is more concerned with PR than WS, well, you end up with 100 years of ineptitude.

Sep 21, 2009 19:44 PM
rating: -2
 
Robert Flaxman

Those are your examples? Really? Corey Patterson's career OBP is .290 and in Jones' second season with the Cubs he hit five home runs and had an OPS+ of 87, as part of his rapid transformation into a corpse. Cubs fans want players who will help this team win championships; Patterson and Jones were not those players. Bradley's the best of the three for on-field production, but it sounds like he rapidly developed a hatred for the entire organization. That's a relationship that probably can't be salvaged regardless of fan opinion.

Sep 21, 2009 20:20 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Mowstangs, interesting how you say the Cubs fans can be blamed for unjustly running Patterson and Jones out of town, yet justly running Baker out of town, when Baker was the one who kept jiggling Patterson up and down in the order and to the minors and kept playing Jones.

Sep 21, 2009 21:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Mowstangs

Remember Corey Patterson before he got hurt? Funny how you pick out only one of Jones' season in Chicago. You know he was much more productive than Cubs fans wanted to credit. LaTroy Hawkins could have been another example. You are right, it can't be solved, but as long as the front office condones the blood suckers in the Chicago media, it will continually happen.

Sep 22, 2009 17:58 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess
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YES...long live the great Milton Bradley.

Sep 21, 2009 20:23 PM
rating: -7
 
Squirrelmetrix
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I think that both sides got what they deserved. A 97 win team goes out and gets this cancer and this guy takes a multi-million dollar deal and predictably wears out his welcome. Milton Bradley is getting paid but he is never happy. It was so obvious that he would have folded in the spotlight of the Chicago media. Instead of Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn or Rauuuul Ibanez, they get this clown. Yeah, what Milton said was right. I say it all the time but I am not collecting 30 million dollars from those losers. One thing that I think is right about the move is that Hendry decided that he should be the one to take charge of the team. Everytime Lou stands up to Milton he backs down. Lou also hasn't done his job in supervising Carlos Zambrano and his rehab. Hendry stepped in to do what no one else has done. Too little, too late and the losing continues.

Sep 21, 2009 21:05 PM
rating: -4
 
achase

yep, agree with Joshua. obviously a bad signing and the one thing that is really questionable about this is if Hendry hurt his ability to ship Bradley out. I imagine at this point they just want a taker for the contract, so won't worry much about anything else.

on the Bradley side, while unusual to be suspended for statements to the media (Sheehan says he similarly defended Rocker, too, for his media comments -- at some point being a contrarian defender of guys with bad reps as an attention-getting device becomes just silly, and not nearly as cool, radical, above-it-all as Sheehan seems to strut around thinking), clearly he was:

-one, not a good value on his contract, no matter what silliness Sheehan says about his supposed production (I think this is the first time I've read here that power is unimportant for a RFer -- maybe if you're Ichiro and you bring a lot else to the table).

-two, a bad teammate and the fact that he is never mourned by his mates no matter what club he leaves is indicative. No 'teamwork' doesn't win games, but guys do have to live together for months, and a plague on a club needs to produce if he doesn't become more of a bother and distraction than he's worth.

-three, teams are in the business of selling a product, not protecting players -- this is the Chicago Cubs we're talking about and the 'Friendly Confines' is their #1 product. Of course it's fictional etc, but in a rational world everyone stays home and gets a better view of the game on the HD tv, while drinking better beer and eating better food, all while saving money. Baseball is selling a product that there's a special connection between team and fans, and making Bradley a sacrificial lamb to reaffirm that commitment was probably a savvy business decision in the real, irrational, world. Not that seats would be empty next year at Wrigley, but fan goodwill needs to be curried, as in any business (of course, a good product helps, too, and winning would be even better than dumping Bradley, but....).

Sep 22, 2009 07:53 AM
rating: -3
 
ofMontreal

Hey now, for those still interested in this thread. Someone on Neyer's blog said that Bradley refused to pinch hit on Sunday and fought (verbally surely) with Von Joshua. That IS reason for suspension. Why is no one talking about it if it's true? That's another issue in a sense, but we're looking for reasons here.

Let's try to get some confirmation. I'm not interested in rumor mongering but a lot of character issues would seem to be at stake. I also am a longtime Bradley apologist, because I think he's a smart guy who hates the media bs and the type of thinking/reactions it engenders.

Sep 22, 2009 07:33 AM
rating: 1
 
achase

true or not, it's obvious that the suspension isn't just about the comments in the media.

Sep 22, 2009 07:55 AM
rating: 3
 
oira61

I heard Saddam Hussein's got nucular weapons!

If that's why Milton Bradley was suspended, we needed to hear it from Jim Hendry, not a comment on Rob Neyer's blog.

Sep 22, 2009 08:50 AM
rating: 3
 
victor19nyc

True. Plus if you read the comments from the players, while they find the move surprising, they are all supporting Hendry.

At the end of the day I have difficulty supporting Bradley because he obviously didn't want to be around anymore. Being suspended for two weeks to end the season really isn't much of a punishment regardless of the reason. I think Hendry's citing of poor performance is really just a cover for wanting to get Bradley out of the dugout and clubhouse where there was no single horrific incident that merited his removal.

Sep 22, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: 0
 
ZeusIsLoose

I don't think anything Milton Bradley said in that interview was suspendable. But it was probably just a tipping point. It's entirely possible that Milton was told to stop talking about the fans the other ten times he was quoted similarly all year, and blatantly disregarded that, again. It's entirely possible that his relationship with the manager is beyond salvage, and Hendry is taking the bullet for his manager. Milton Bradley is not the entire reason this team will score 160+ runs less than last year, but he is part of the reason. Along with Soriano, who also got booed alot but never cried to the media about it. Along with Geovany Soto. And a sinkhole at 2b, until baker was picked up. And Ramirez' injury. The suspension is an obvious overreaction by a team that has a history of it (at least it's a player and not the announcers this time). As a cub fan, it's exhausting to watch this kind of scapegoating, know it's inevitable, and realize that eating milton bradley's contract doesn't make them a better team. Now eating Aaron miles' contract, THAT would be progress.

Sep 22, 2009 07:43 AM
rating: -1
 
GBSimons

I don't know exactly where this fits in the discussion, but on Fox's broadcast of last Saturday's Cubs-Cardinals game, Mark Grace and the play-by-play man (I don't recall his name) were talking about how disappointing Bradley has been this season.

One of them mentioned that he led the AL in OPS last year at .999 and that the Cubs would have been happy if he'd given them a .777 number this year. Too bad they didn't do their homework before making that comment, because Bradley's 2009 OPS is .775.

Sep 22, 2009 08:19 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

The Chicago press was down on Bradley from the day he signed. Talk radio was riduculing him long before any games were played. His past problems were prominently mentioned but they did not even acknowledge his 1.000 OPS last year.

Bradley was right about one thing - there was a mike in his face everyday - as they press fought over each other to get THE BLOWUP.

Kudos to the Daily Herald for getting the story even if it did take the one writer who Bradley trusted to betray him.

Did Bradley play like %$&@ for the first 2 months? Certainly.

Did Bradley made some dumb comments and do stupid things? Yes.

But please don't defend the press on this one. They were out to play a game of GOTCHA from the word go and the prize was Bradley's scalp while the collateral winnings were numerous print stories and endless radio hours.

Game over.

Sep 22, 2009 09:30 AM
rating: 5
 
hansonkz

Thanks for addressing this, Joe. At the risk of Cub overdose, I would look forward to seeing a parallel piece on the damage done to the fortunes of the 2009 Cubs as a result of the horrible play and huge contract by Soriano. Soriano probably played with more indifference this season than even Bradley, and he was allowed to check himself out on the season early because of injury. Let's not put the blame on Bradley for this one. I give him credit for being passionate. I can't fault him for being disappointed and speaking out about his experience as a Cub. Sadly, Cub fans, stirred up by the local press, were all over Bradley only two weeks into the season after he got off to a slow start. This was not a perfect match for the Cubs, but Hendry has now made it an even worse situation by using Bradley as his scapegoat. Forget about billy goats Cubs fans. This is the real curse of the Cubs.
It's amazing what Hendry has done to destroy the near future of the Cubs, without any payoff. It’s time for the new owners to look for a new GM.

Sep 22, 2009 12:41 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

LOL - you guys blocked that? See what I mean about the moderation? Ridiculous.

Sep 23, 2009 17:15 PM
rating: -2
 
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