2009 Recap: Milton Bradley
I don't think you really need me to say that Milton Bradley was a disappointment in 2009. There is a person of my acquaintance who is afflicted with profound cerebal palsy. Not a mild case, mind you. He can breathe on his own, thank God, but that's where the good news ends for him. He has a complete lack of control over all of his muscles and limbs, including his neck. He cannot speak, and everything in his life must be done for him. He has never lived a normal life - in fact, I am hard pressed to imagine a life that could be consider more abnormal than what this guy has. Even HE knows Milton Bradley sucked in 2009.
In 2008, Bradley lead all American League human beings in OPS. When Lou Piniella demanded we find some left-handed pop for right field, after the abortive 2008 playoffs, and a league leader in OPS was just sitting there, for the taking, the cautious observer will notice this is too good to be true. I assume Hendry did think that, actually, but Bradley said all the right things, swore that all he needed in his life was some financial stability that a three year contract would provide.
I have been out here the past six years talking about inertia; that there may not be a supernatural curse against us, but there is absolutely a psychological hump that 102 years of failure has built. 29 other teams looked at Milton Bradley and saw trouble. But our GM saw opportunity, because after all, here is a switch-hitting league leader in OPS that has played right field, and since we haven't won a World Series in over a century, we have to take chances that other teams don't. This is what the hump looks like. It brings an air of desperation that causes otherwise sane people to sign 30 year olds coming off of career years to interminably long contracts for stratospheric amounts of money. Then do it again. And again. And again.
Yes, Messrs. Soriano, Zambrano, Fukudome, and Bradley. I'm talking about you.
So, was Milton Bradley the reason why we did not win the Central last year?
On the field, safe to say that he did not lead the NL in OPS. He didn't even lead the Cubs in OPS. However, he was in the top 4, which is sad and pathetic in itself.
But even those stats are hollow. His average with RISP was miserable. For as many at-bats as he had in the middle of the lineup, 40 RBI was terminal to our chances. The "good ones", in important situations always seem to concentrate more, and perform as the situation calls for it. Bradley has, for his entire career, been the antithesis of a situational player. There has never been a stretch in his entire career where he "carried a team", the way DLee has, or Soriano, Aramis, or even Geo Soto did in 2008. He has never been an "impact" player.
The league leading OPS in 2008 was a result of his plate discipline, which except for a couple of specific incidents last year, Bradley still maintained. He was third on the team in OBP, he has always known how to take a walk. But in the same vein that I accused DLee in 2007&2008, when he would take walks in the 3-hole when big hits were more called for, Bradley came up a number of times last year with the game on the line, and in my humble opinion, pussed out.
If you are 'the man', late in a close game, and there are two outs, open bases and runners in scoring position, and the hitters behind you in the lineup might consist of the 2009 Mike Fontenot, the 2009 Geo Soto, or the Andres Blanco or Koyie Hill of any year, if you are truly 'the man', then the situation calls for you to DRIVE IN RUNS. So the pitcher throws you four balls. You take your walk, you trot down to first, wipe the sweat off of your brow and exhale in relief that you didn't screw things up.
Now, the bases are loaded, and the 2009 Mike Fontenot or the 2009 Geo Soto either hits a pop fly, grounder, or strikes out. Because that's what they do. Because they suck. They are not "the man". You, Milton Bradley, are supposed to be "the man", but you took the easy way out, and left the heavy lifting to the people behind you in the lineup who are way less capable than you.
That's not winning baseball, folks. That's not playing to win, that's playing not to lose. That's stats padding, so at the end of the game, you can mollify yourself with a 1-2 with two walks, although the team lost 5-4.
What's worse, as the season goes along, and you've used up what little goodwill you had in the game with your constant whining and bitching, the umpires quit giving you the close ball, choosing instead to ring your dumb ass up on a 3-2 pitch two inches outside of the strike zone. Then you throw your helmet, make an ass of yourself, and just give the umps all the more reason to do it again to you tomorrow.
Throw in the fact that he is a miserable human being who blames everyone else within reach for his own problems, and this is why Milton Bradley is not a winner, never has been, never will be, and why all he was worth in a trade was for an expensive, enormous tub of gooey fat that will never throw a meaningful pitch for this franchise.
Should Hendry have known all this? I mean, Bradley certainly had problems before, but I don't recall his having a hand in a complete collapse of a team in the past. In the end, Hendry should have realized that Milton Bradley did not have the mental capacity to play ball in a place with as much pressure as the north side of Chicago. When they write the article upon Hendry's departure, the lead sentence will include not only the Soriano signing, but the Bradley debacle.