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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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Chicago Cubs 5th Starter Competition A Disaster

Posted by sportsmaven on March 10, 2007

The hot competition for the Chicago Cubs 5th starter job has officially hit the level of disaster. LHP Neal Cotts was the leader for that spot, going into this afternoon, but Cotts got pounded again today against the Texas Rangers, giving up 4 unearned runs and 7 hits in 2 innings of work. That is a completely abysmal line, to the point that there is no longer a front runner for the 5th starter role. Mark Prior is scheduled to pitch in a relief role tomorrow and Wade Miller pitched 3 innings yesterday, giving up 6 hits and 1 earned run. Miller may have moved back into being the favorite for the 5th starter job, his fastball topping out at 88 mph, which is a bit scary to me.

Neal Cotts Pitches Against the Texas Rangers in Spring Training
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Wade Miller Competes For Cubs Fifth Starter Job In Spring Training
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

On a more positive note, although Kerry Wood gave up 4 runs on a grand slam to Padres OF Terrmel Sledge, he struck out 3 in his one inning of work, feeling no pain at all in his right shoulder. The Cubs have a few positions open for competition this spring, and none more highly visible than the 5th starter in the rotation. I believe that 1-4 should be solid, with Rich Hill turning in another solid outing today against the San Diego Padres. It will be safe to say that one of the three of Prior, Cotts, and Miller will be the 5th starter. Right now, my money is on Wade Miller, with Cotts going to the pen and Prior not being ready to go when the season opens. Overall, through the first 3 weeks of spring training, I have been impressed with the Cubs pitching to date, minus the 5th starter competition. Guys who have no chance of making the big league roster are pitching well, guys like Jeff Samardzjia, Sean Gallagher, Angel Guzman, and even minor league veteran Les Walrond. Surprises so far on the pitching staff: Jason Marquis, 5 IP, 6 SO, 1.80 ERA, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly giving up no earned runs so far this spring (Carlos Zambrano has also not given up an earned run this spring) and no pitchers injured or on the DL. Now, if we can only get the 5th starter resolved…….who wants it?

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Sports Maven’s Top 5 Needs for White Sox in 2007

Posted by sportsmaven on January 29, 2007

This weekend was the 15th Annual SoxFest Fan Convention at the Palmer House Hyatt in downtown Chicago. The timing was mixed for Chicago White Sox fans, as it just so happens that the convention fell on the weekend prior to Super Bowl XLI, and the Chicago Bears just happen to be playing in that Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years. Chicago Cubs fans know how that goes with the last two seasons of Bears playoff home games coinciding with the Cubs Convention, but fortunately, the week is slow for Super Bowl news.

The big news out of SoxFest was GM Kenny Williams inadvertent torching of P Mark Buehrle’s chances of being with the White Sox past the ’07 season. The White Sox made plenty of news this off-season by trading P Freddie Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Gavin Floyd and P Gio Gonzalez, a move I liked, by the way. I felt the more sketchy move was trading P Brandon McCarthy to the Texas Rangers for P John Danks and P Nick Masset. I felt McCarthy was the young pitcher that Williams was using to build his strategy of post-title rebuilding to stave off the hyper inflation of pitcher salaries. This is a HUGE roll of the dice with the payoff being very marginal, at best.

Regardless, if the White Sox are to have a chance to get back to the post-season and compete for a World Series title, I predict 5 key needs/things will have to happen. They are:

1. Bullpen needs to be way more solid. Last year’s bullpen was a bit of a mess, especially in left handed relief. The White Sox had a hard time bridging the gap to closer Bobby Jenks. LHP Matt Thornton was a terrific surprise for the White Sox, but P Neal Cotts (since traded to the Chicago Cubs) was a disaster. The White Sox bullpen is now filled with power arms from both sides with the addition of RHP David Aardsma (from the Cubs trade), LHP Andrew Sisco, and late season pick up RHP Mike MacDougal. Add LHP Boone Logan into that mix and there are a lot of power arms that can really bring it. If this group can somehow find the consistency that was non-existent last season, this will put the White Sox worlds ahead of where they were last season.

2. Fill the hole in CF — CF Brian Anderson was a major disappointment last season. He will be the first to admit that. That being said, there is no way the White Sox can go into the 2007 season with that same kind of hole in their lineup. Anderson actually caused two holes, as his hitting in the 8/9 spot was virtually an automatic out in a strong White Sox lineup and caused power hitting 2B Tadahito Iguchi to have to hit in the #2 spot, which he is able, but would be much better suited to hit lower in the order. I’m very encouraged by the signing of OF Darrin Erstad and the developement of OF’s Jerry Owens and Josh Fields. Brian Anderson has a fight on his hands this season. He could very well end up from the starting CF in Chicago to starting CF in Charlotte.

3. Buehrle needs to come back in form, need strong seasons from the #4/#5 starters — P Mark Buehrle needs to rebound from a career worst 12-13 4.99 ERA season to be the typical Mark Buehrle we are used to seeing. P Javier Vasquez finished the season on a strong note, but was essentially a 5 inning pitcher for most of the season. The since departed P Freddy Garcia had an up and down season, but finished very strong. (although his fastball lost some life this past season) The struggles of the starting rotation only highlighted the difficulties in the bullpen, as they were forced to pitch more in bad/ineffective/short outings by starters Buehrle/Garcia/Vasquez. The bottom of the rotation is now new, with Vasquez holding down the #4 spot in the rotation, and the #5 that could be Gavin Floyd or Charlie Haeger. Either way, the bottom of the order plus Buehrle need to step it up bigtime for the White Sox to compete.

4. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko need to keep up with the big bats — otherwise, the White Sox have no chance. Any significant drop in one or two of the Big 3 will spell doom for the White Sox. The White Sox have an almost perfect balanced lineup, power hitters and avg./contact hitters, hitters with speed, and fairly good lefty/righty balance. The Big 3 keeps producing, the White Sox are in the race. If not, will be a long, grinder season that won’t be pretty.

5. Develop a replacement for LF Scott Podsednik — I am not a big Scott Podsednik fan. I thought in 2005, he did what he needed to to ignite the White Sox and in the playoffs he was huge, but 2006 really showed that he and Anderson were the weak links in an otherwise formidible White Sox lineup. Now, Scottie Pods starts out 2007 behind the 8-ball with groin surgery. The White Sox need an effective leadoff hitter badly and Scottie Pods is not the answer…..another season like ’06 and the White Sox find more trouble.

The White Sox lived off of the 2005 World Series last season, but things change quickly. The intoxication of the first World Series victory in 88 years is nearly worn off and the construction on the Dan Ryan expressway is a year over schedule, so the White Sox have some work to do to get even close to last year’s attendance record. Do all 5 above, the White Sox are in the playoffs. Anything less, the AL Central is too strong and the White Sox will find themselves on the outside looking in.

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