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:
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.