[Pictured: a high maintenance, overrated, unreasonable impediment to the 2009 Cubs. And on the right, Milton Bradley.]
Has the ship sailed on “cash for clunkers” as a punchline? Bradley goes to the Mariners and the Cubs receive $9 mil in cash over two years plus P Carlos Silva. Bradley is owed around $21 mil (although reports now say 23) and Silva is owed slightly more over two years including a minimum $2 mil buyout in 2012 (or $12 mil if he plays, as reported on ESPN). As for Silva, the Cubs managed to keep Rich Harden up and running against all odds (albeit, odds set by sports writers) and the North Siders managed to rehabilitate Kerry Wood into a closer before trading him. The Cubs turned Ryan Dempster into a starter. For everything lacking in Hendryville, handling pitchers hasn’t been a problem, esp following Dusty Baker. Ok, ok, they can’t get Zambrano to eat all his bananas and get his Lasik surgery, but no one’s perfect. Worst case scenario, the Cubs just ate $12 mil. Best, Silva can rehab into a starter or mid-game reliever. That said, I hope Silva likes Iowa in July.
As for the Bradley autopsy, his 2009 stats “ .257 BA, 12 HRs, and 40 RBIs “ speak for themselves. He’s a player with a laundry list of embarrassing public outbursts, no perceivable filter in choosing when to stand one’s ground or blow up over slights/imagined insults. MB’s confrontational career, willingness to publicly make accusations of racism about fans, players, and dismiss the sporting press as Uncle Toms or with total silence “ all of that is well documented. As for his saying Wrigley was a negative environment in which to play, well, given his past, you could argue he thrives on that. So what happened? Bradley got hurt early-on and his average for the season never recovered. It’s certainly fair to point out how overpaid Bradley was in his $30 mil deal given his considerable history of bench surfing.
However, for the Bradley mess, I blame Jim Hendry. The day he signed MB, Chicago sports hacks and beat reporters attacked Bradley personally as, among other things, a “nutbag.” Most disturbing to me was the argument that given Wrigley’s history of racist fans taunting their own players, Bradley would not hold up under the pressure. The total acceptance of racism as an unquestioned Given at Wrigley, and that it was only Bradley’s problem to deal with, is sick. You’d think Jim Hendry woulda fired back “ defended his $30 million deal, denounced racist fans, or deny and defend the Cub fan base (well, if he seriously could do the last, which he can’t). Hendry did none of it. It set the tone for the season, of hanging the combative Mr. Bradley out to dry. Injuries, the 2-game suspension (which MLB reduced), and other gaffes and errors were left to a hateful press corps and disgruntled fans. I covered the Chi media racism angle here, here, and here. Sports on My Mind‘s MODI pretty much summed my complaints here, and added some points of his own worth reading.
For Milton Bradley, 2009 was a relatively calm year: did he charge fans, announcers, or call a Cub player racist, as he did the Dodgers’ Jeff Kent? Instead, Hendry stood by as Cub fans got labeled racists by the press and other ballplayers (one of whom, OF Mike Cameron, he hoped to sign as Bradley’s replacement ). But Bradley finally went Too Far for Hendry by snapping back at fans who grew to hate him, saying, “And you understand why they haven’t won in 100 years here, because it’s negative.” That comment and pulling himself from the line-up in the Cubs’ (by then) futile division bid brought about a temper tantrum from Hendry in the form of a 15-game suspension. The resulting message to MLB: Bradley is impossible. It damaged him as a trade option so much that Hendry sucked up the Silva deal yesterday. Nicely handled, Mr. H, it only cost the Cubs $12 mil to shut Milton Bradley up and scapegoat him for a mediocre season all-around. The press greeted Bradley’s signing by saying Wrigley fans were trash. Bradley got a 15-game suspension for finally coming to agree with that.
Hendry was named Cubs GM in 2002. There’s always been drama on his watch. This is the same Hendry era that treated Sammy Sosa like a dog on his way out, no matter how much he did to turn the Cubs around in the public’s mind as a team that could win. Spin it this way “ he treated Sammy like a dog no matter how much f’n money Sosa minted for the Cubs. Yeah Sosa was a pill toward the end, but he was LEAVING. Hendry’s tenure in the front office has been one long class-free high-maintenance soap opera: Sosa, Baker, Jones, Pierre, and Hawkins all left the Friendly Confines on bad terms (ok, Hawkins was awful). Even Greg Maddux left on bad terms on his second run with the Cubs. Of course Milton Bradley didn’t work out with Hendry. Who does?
Wait, you know who had a great time on Hendry’s Cubs? Kerry Wood. Hendry dumped years and 10s of millions into that guy, and for what? Wood picked up bonus money and options and sucked up to fans. He started a charity bowling event and took out big newspaper ads thanking fans when he left town. Wood slipped in hot tubs and missed spring training, sat on the bench for years, all while resisting a lower-paying closer job (and contributing nothing while he did it), and reminding us all what an amazing rookie year he had. Kerry Wood’s inability to heal any injury makes me wonder if he isn’t lost Russian royalty. Kerry Wood is Wrigley personified, all Aw Shucks charm and no results.
The question in my mind isn’t who will replace Bradley in CF, but who will replace him as Hendry’s next problem player. I’m guessing another mediocre year from Zambrano will mean Big Z v Hendry in 2010. Z fits the pattern right now: expensive, once great, an ego problem, and possible trade bait. He’s also not white, which is another unfortunate pattern here.