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Posts Tagged ‘Milton Bradley’

Chicago Cubs Begin Their Struggling Season

Posted by sportsmaven on May 1, 2009

In comparison to 2008, the 2009 season has been brutally unkind to the Chicago Cubs.  From top to bottom of the organization, from the ballpark workers to the fans, the fuzzy lovefest that was 2008 has been replaced by a season that has all the markings of struggle written all over the brown, yet to grow ivy outfield walls.

(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

The Cubs struggles seem to be set in motion during a devastating post season playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to close out what was then developing into a magical season of 2008.  As dominant as the Cubs were in winning 97 games in 2008, they were equally as feeble once the playoffs began.  The Dodgers sucked the life out of the Cubs, exposing every weakness and shutting down the most powerful NL lineup and battering around the league’s #3 pitching staff in a NLDS sweep.

In the off season, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, tried in earnest to make his team more flexible for manager Lou Piniella.  What he did was inadvertently neutered his two-time division championship team, cutting them off at the knees.  Like a mad scientist, Hendry first moved to clear his entire bullpen, short of his All-Star setup man, RHP Carlos Marmol.  Included in that purge was All-Star closer RHP Kerry Wood, who finally found a successful niche as a power closer.  Not that he didn’t need to purge most of that bullpen, but it’s unclear to me as I watch the Cubs struggle, why Wood, the heart and soul of the Cubs team and the most tenured of all Cubs players, leader on and off the field, was allowed to depart. Essentially, Hendry traded Wood for former Florida Marlins closer, RHP Kevin Gregg, a one-sided trade then, and even more magnified in view of this horrible start.

The other perplexing move was trading 2B Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians, replacing him with free-agent RF Milton Bradley.  All Bradley has done since signing a 3-year, $30M contract is injure his hamstring, get kicked out of his first game at Wrigley Field, bump an umpire while arguing, earning himself a 2-game suspension, which he appeals, all while needing to sit out at least 16 games due to that injury, incidentially, while not being added to the disabled list.

This is the type of flexibility that Hendry and Piniella wanted?  A further highlight about how “flexible” the 2009 Cubs roster is, C Geovanny Soto injures his throwing shoulder and has to sit out a few games to re-evaluate the injury.  While Soto is out, reserve C Koyie Hill filled in very capably, but because the Cubs don’t put Soto on the 15-day DL, they are forced to list 2B Aaron Miles and others as the backup catcher.

3B Aramis Ramirez has missed the last 11 games due to a calf injury, but the Cubs choose not to add him to the 15-day disabled list, instead forcing an out of position 2B Mike Fontenot to play third.  In last night’s game, when Piniella needed to pinch-hit for the left-handed hitting Fontenot, he needed to employ Hill to finish out the game at 3rd base!  Recently, 1B Derrek Lee missed time with a strained neck.  1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir covered Lee at 1B, pushing RHP Carlos Zambrano into the lefty pinch hitting role.  Some flexibility.  This is the flexibility that results in 14 errors and many other misplays from players playing out of position.

Not to mention the current mess the pitching staff is in right now, started by the shoddy bullpen performance out of the gate and now spreading to the once very promising performance of the starting rotation.  The Cubs bullpen mess begins with the release of  RHP Chad Gaudin a trade-off engineered to essentially keep Rule 5 RHP David Patton and  RHP Angel Guzman, a player who is out of minor league options.  Patton’s been regulary pounded, the highlight, giving up a grand slam to St. Louis Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols in a recent 8-2 loss to the Cardinals last Saturday.  LHP Neal Cotts not only hasn’t been able to get anybody out, he has been a bases on balls machine, walking 6 batters in 5 innings.  The bullpen picture became even more muddled when Hendry was forced to release RHP Luis Vizcaino and his $3M contract (Vizcaino was picked up in a off-season trade with the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jason Marquis) to bring up power RHP Jeff Samardzjia, who probably should have been in the bullpen in the first place.  With both Marmol and Gregg struggling, RHP Aaron Heilman has been exposed and has been used too frequently, resulting in a bullpen that can’t be trusted to get anyone out at this point, much less protect any sort of a lead.

So after 21 games, what do we make of this Cubs team?  Apparently, the early showing is that the Cubs are a team that still appear to suffer from the hangover of last season’s crushing playoff sweep.  They also can’t stay healthy.  They are also a team that can’t hit, field, or pitch.  This is a team built to struggle, and struggle they will, and I predict, for the entire season.  This Cubs team might not have to worry about a 3rd straight playoff disappointment.

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Top 4 Things To Know About Chicago Cubs Milton Bradley

Posted by sportsmaven on January 13, 2009

Now that the ink is finally dry on the Milton Bradley contract, the Chicago Cubs are pondering the effect of Bradley’s presence in a lineup that badly needed his left handed bat. They’ll also get his right handed bat, as Bradley is a switch hitter, providing yet more flexibility for Manager Lou Piniella, who likes to mix and tweak his lineups up like a mad scientist. But what do we really want to know about Milton Bradley? Well here are the top 4 things we all want to know:

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, left, introduces outfielder Milton Bradley as the newest member of the baseball team at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 8, 2008 in Chicago. Bradley, formally with the Texas Rangers, signed a three-year contract with the Cubs. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, left, introduces outfielder Milton Bradley as the newest member of the baseball team at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 8, 2008 in Chicago. Bradley, formally with the Texas Rangers, signed a three-year contract with the Cubs. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

1. How will Milton Bradley’s fiery, sometimes volatile temperment fit into the laid back Cub locker room?  Bradley is definitely an emotional player.  He plays with a fire that is certainly recognized and appreciated by his teammates, managers, coaches and front office management.  Bradley gave fans a glimpse of his persona in a New York Times blog on his first All-Star appearance in 2008.  He is also known for wildly volatile incidents, such as:

  • Spitting gum at an umpire while with the Montreal Expos
  • Dugout altercation with Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge
  • Throwing a bag of baseballs onto the field at Dodger Stadium after an ejection
  • Throwing  a water bottle in the direction of a fan
  • Three incidents of domestic violence complaints in 2005 (no arrests were made)
  • Altercation with Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Jeff Kent
  • Public altercations with Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane
  • Attempt to confront Kansas City Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre, whom Bradley felt had made derogatory remarks about him during a broadcast.

Whichever way the wind blows could blow the fine line between fiery and volatile for Milton Bradley.  Either way, it makes for a most interesting upcoming 2009 season for the Cubs, manager Lou Piniella, fans, and media.

2. Bradley is an OBP machine. He knows how to get on base. His OBP for his career is .370. His last 6 seasons OBP: .436, .402, .370, .350, .362, .421. For those non-Sabremetricians, these numbers are completely off the charts. By comparison, in 2008, no Cub regular had a higher OPS and no Cub has a career OBP higher than Bradley.  Furthermore,  Bradley’s  80 walks would be second only to RF Kosuke Fukudome, who happened to play 24 more games than Bradley.

3. Bradley’s 3-year, $30M contract with the Cubs is the first multi-year contract he’s  signed in his career.  The Cubs are the 7th team in 10 seasons for Bradley.  While the Cubs are the first team to offer a multi-year contract, Bradley picked the right season to blossom.  There is concern that Bradley played only 20 games in the field last season, serving the Texas Rangers primarily as a DH, so Bradley will have to polish his fielding skills to prevent becoming a defensive liability in an otherwise strong Cub outfield.

4. To most who know and have played with Milton Bradley, he is seen as a positive influence in the locker room and on the field.  Despite his altercations and volatility, most everyone that has been associated with Bradley had nothing but kind words for him.

In a recent Chicgo Sun-Times article discussing the Bradley signing by the Cubs, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington stated:

”He’s a class act,” Washington said Friday by phone. ”A winner. The Chicago Cubs really made a very good move in bringing him in. He will make their team better.”

The article continues with another glowing comment by a former manager, San Diego Padres Bud Black:

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black coached Bradley for only 42 games in 2007, and wish he’d had him the entire season.

”I love him,” Black said by phone. ”He was great for us. After we acquired him from Oakland [in June] he was an integral part of our club during the second half of the season. He was well received by the guys and the coaching staff.”

Lou Piniella might be the perfect manager for Milton Bradley to play for.  Piniella is a veteran, highly respected manager who certainly can appreciate a fiery side of a player, especially one of Milton Bradley’s reputation and pedigree.  Piniella will know exactly how to give Bradley slack and when to reign him in.  This could be the season that Bradley puts it all together with yet another huge breakout season.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry has taken a huge and potentially risky step in signing Bradley to a lucrative deal.  Remember, Hendry had to clear payroll by trading Cubs fan favorite and quite possibly, the 2008 Cubs team MVP Mark DeRosa as well as let closer Kerry Wood walk to the Indians in order to make the Bradley deal fit into the financial structure of the team.  All this will be a distant memory if Bradley is able to have a monster full season of successful baseball, with an added new maturity level with no volatile incidents, bring a more balanced lineup for the Cubs, and be a player on what hopes to be a World Series title.

Then again, Milton Bradley could be the undoing of all that is good in Cubdom — whichever way the winds of fate blows,  2009 will be an interesting, eagerly anticipated baseball season on the North Side.

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