Monday, September 21, 2009

Cubs’ Bradley criticism hypocritical

Milton Bradley was supposed to be a hard-hitting outfielder who would help the Chicago Cubs overcome their shortcomings of the past couple of seasons and actually win a National League championship.

Yet the Cubs have been far from “Fine in ’09,” in part because Bradley has not been the quality of ballplayer the ball club had hoped for. And now their fans are taking some pleasure in the fact that Bradley is suspended for the remaining two weeks of the season.

HE’S GONE. HE left St. Louis, where the Cubs were playing the Cardinals (the same ones whom White Sox “first fan” Barack Obama hinted Sunday would be playing the New York Yankees this year in the World Series). For all I know, he went to Wrigley Field on Sunday to clean out his locker before heading home for the winter.

This suspension was not imposed on Bradley by the National League. It was done by the Cubs, who think that Bradley’s behavior in a recent set of interviews with the newspaper beatwriters was less than respectful.

Reading the mini-transcript of the interview as published in the Chicago Tribune, it basically struck me as Bradley trying to say as little as he had to about his physical condition (which includes a sore shoulder).

And because he is a jock who has grown up all his life being told he is special because of his athletic ability, he was snotty and sarcastic and tried to pick phrases that implied he looked down upon the people who had the unmitigated gall (in his opinion) to ask him anything.

THE CUBS’ GENERAL manager made a statement in announcing the suspension for the rest of the season that implied the act was meant to be punishment for Bradley’s juvenile behavior.

Now don’t get me wrong. Bradley behaved like a juvenile. Then again, he’s playing a kid’s game. Who would expect him to behave any differently?

This suspension is about the fact that Bradley did not play up to the level that was expected. So the team “dirties” him up a bit, before allegedly trying to trade him to some other ball club during the off-season.

If he had been hitting and had the Cubs in the heat of a pennant race, we’d be hearing defenses of his behavior and all kinds of trash talk about how “the damned news media” was out to trick him with double-talk, or get him in some other way.

HECK, I REMEMBER the late 1970s when Dave Kingman was the big shot of Wrigleyville, with that one season (1979) when he challenged Roger Maris’ then-record for home runs in a single season.

Hitting home runs let him get away with dumping a bucket of water on a sportswriter. But years later when he was an aged slugger who didn’t hit so many home runs, it was juvenile to send a mouse to a sportswriter.

This is all about one of the oldest of baseball clichés, “You’re only as smart as your batting average.” Ballplayers who perform on the field can get away with stupid conduct. Those who don’t perform up to expectations cannot.

To say that this issue with Bradley is about anything other than him not hitting is absurd.

TRYING TO CLAIM that this is about anything else makes the Cubs organization look ridiculous. Bradley’s suspension reminds me of the end of the 2002 season when the Chicago White Sox released shortstop Royce Clayton with about a week to go.

He had developed a lackadaisical attitude and literally showed up in the late innings of one game wearing sneakers, rather than cleats.

White Sox management was openly critical of Clayton’s behavior, admitting they also didn’t like the way his hitting had declined so badly (I still remember attending the game when a sarcastic group of fans chanted “M-V-P” at Clayton when the .099-hitting shortstop managed to hit a bloop single that didn’t even make it out of the infield).

But just as Clayton turned up the next season with the Milwaukee Brewers and kept playing Major League Baseball for five more seasons, I fully expect some new team will be willing to welcome Bradley come 2010.

SO LONG AS he can hit, it won’t matter what kind of person he is. It’s those stats that matter, particularly to the breed of baseball “fan” who can’t appreciate the game played on the field, but wants to boil the whole thing down to a line of agate type consisting o percentages that no one other tham themselves understands.

After all, as the old baseball cliché goes, You’re only as smart as your batting average.”

In Bradley’s case, he was a baseball stupid .257 batting average, with only 12 home runs and a weak on-base percentage of .378.

Not exactly the numbers demanded of a $30 million man.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Who will take the outspoken outfielder for 2010, and how much of the ( $20 million remaining on Milton Bradley’s contract will the Chicago Cubs have to pay off themselves?

Most of us came to the realization that ’09 was NOT the White Sox’ year a couple of weeks ago ( and instead viewed Saturday night’s victory (with Jake Peavy pitching) against the Kansas City Royals as perhaps reason for hope in ’10.

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