“Milton Bradley is baseball™s Old Faithful,” writes the New York Times’ Alan Schwartz, “a natural wonder people watch just to see him blow.” While Schwarz offers no apologies for lifting a passage from the Goffney Brothers’ biography, he does manage to catch up with Bradley at the Rangers’ spring training camp in Surprise, AZ.
œ ˜Say Hello to the Bad Guy,™ said Bradley, now with the Texas Rangers. œThat™s going to be my song ” Jay-Z, on the ˜American Gangster™ soundtrack. I™m the angry guy. I™m the bad guy. I™m through fighting it.
For this self-styled fighter, even weary capitulation is fraught with vengeance. Bradley stabbed another vegetable from his lunch plate last Wednesday and looked up, his eyes burning like lasers.
œI like it hard, he said.
Among his peers, Bradley is known as a bright, fiercely loyal teammate who can one minute talk United States foreign policy but the next be befuddlingly aloof. Teammates since the minors have cringed at how he can walk right past a morning œhowyadoin™ with nary a syllable in return. (In this regard he resembles the former slugger Albert Belle, whose intelligence was overshadowed by his tempestuousness.) Bradley rarely consents to interviews because he detests being judged by strangers, but he can be acutely candid when he chooses to.
On how his many injuries (only once has he played more than 101 games in a season) and reputation obscure his true value. œYou take my last five years, and put those numbers and put them over a 162-game season, I™m pretty damn good. Let™s be honest ” I™m a five-tool guy here. There is no risk. You pay me $5 million as a five-tool guy, I™m underpaid. What other five-tool guys are there? Jimmy Rollins? Carlos BeltrÃ¡n? Look what they™re making. Look what I™m making. So I™m a steal, I™m a bargain, in my words.”
On his temper off the field: œMy everyday life? I™ve never had a fight in my life. Because I can take them down with words just as easy, and that™s how I™ve always fought my battles. But people don™t fight no more. They shoot.
As for the coming season, Bradley said he would let his play do his talking. (Except for the Jay-Z song, that is.) He plans to inscribe œJ K on his hat to honor his former Oakland teammate Joe Kennedy, who died suddenly this off-season. œI don™t care if M.L.B. fines me, he said. œThat™s how much I care about my guys in the trenches.