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Milton Bradley’s Game of Life

May 10, 2011

If you haven’t read the sports headlines in the past 24 hours, I apologize for being the one to break some shocking and upsetting news to you. Take a seat.

Milton Bradley has been designated for assignment by the Mariners.

I know! You thought, as I did, that he was bomb-proof. You thought he’d be in the game forever, not because of his ample natural talent, but because he obviously had photos of every big-league owner and GM in a naked, drunken orgy in the visitors’ clubhouse at Wrigley Field. How else to explain his continued ability to get jobs and draw enormous paychecks despite a longer and more consistent rap sheet than any other player this side of Steve Howe?

Let’s review the Bradley highlight reel:

  • He earned his first 7-game suspension while still in Triple-A, for sparking a bench-clearing brawl after being hit by a pitch.
  • In 2004, the Indians unloaded Bradley after he spent three days in jail for blowing off a police officer, repeatedly loafed on the field and the basepaths, and had multiple confrontations with manager—guess who?—Eric Wedge, who until yesterday was also his manager in Seattle.
  • The LA Times reported in August 2005 that police had responded to three domestic-violence calls at the Bradley household within a 33-day period that summer. The Dodgers, in one of their most incredibly, offensively stupid decisions of the last decade (and there’s stiff competition for that honor), responded a week later by naming Milton Bradley their Man of the Year.
  • The Cubs, who are legendary for making imprudent personnel moves in general and for gambling on brilliant but criminally unstable head-cases in particular, signed Bradley in 2009—but even they found him intolerable, and he ended the season suspended after repeated conflicts with management and fans. (After this sensible move, they returned to their Cubby baseline by trading Bradley to Seattle for the only slightly more temperate Carlos Silva, who promptly delivered a mediocre season, started a dugout fight during spring training, and blasted his manager and pitching coach before being released.)
  • …..And much, much more: Bradley’s flipped off fans, thrown water bottles at them, walked out on games still in progress, allegedly skipped out on $44,000 in rent on his Chicago condo, and racked up a staggering number of ejections, suspensions, and fines while ricocheting among eight different clubs in the last ten years.

And yet he kept getting hired. Team after team felt certain that they could be the one to change him, that he’d love his new clubhouse enough to stop picking fights and start making plays, that this time would be different. Heck, even the New York Times brought him on board as a blogger, though his first post was also his last.

To be fair, there’s a not-insignificant piece of me that feels a deep sadness for Milton Bradley. He’s not just “colorful” or “volatile,” as the sportswriters sometimes like to euphemize; he’s disturbed and at times dangerous. For the bulk of his professional career, he’s been an addict, MLB has been an enabler, the umpires have been a willing trigger, and the media and the fans have lapped it all up with glee. It’s hard not to wonder how differently his baseball life and his personal life might have turned out if he’d gotten meaningful help—whatever that amounted to—when he was young, before his behavior and the reactions it ignited had turned into a predictably vicious circle.

But what’s past is prologue, and Milton Bradley’s out of a big-league job, this time perhaps for good. In the spirit of helpfulness, I’d like to suggest a handful of possible future career paths Bradley might be able to look forward to:

  • He could star in his own one-man traveling show, entitled “Milton Bradley Live: My Violent Torpedo of Misguided Testosterone”—though his schedulers will probably need to avoid those cities whose major-league fan bases he’s offended in the past, leaving Juneau and Albuquerque as his best bets for a sellout.
  • Jodie Foster could defend his honor and cast him in her upcoming film “The Cub,” about a misunderstood loser who only begins to earn influence and affection from those around him when he begins speaking through a customized bear puppet.
  • He could parlay his series of screw-ups into a guilty-pleasure VH1 reality show called “Breaking Bradley,” shifting his emphasis to celebrity boxing (possible opponents: Mike Winters, Lou Piniella, Tonya Harding) when and if the series is canceled.
  • The Dodgers could hire him as their TV analyst. In fact, they probably already have (cf. above regarding Dodger decision-making).

There’s no rush, of course, because Bradley will still get $13 million of the Cubs’ and Mariners’ money this year, no matter where he finds himself. God bless America!—and Godspeed, Milton.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2011 4:00 pm

    This is lovely! I’m happy to link up to your blog!

    (And hopefully discuss Nick Punto at some point….)

    • fearlessleader permalink*
      May 10, 2011 4:06 pm

      Aw….Punto! St. Louis has a soft spot for guys like him: Not super-talented, but scrappy and hardworking and quirky (although—Mountain Dew slushes? gross). Also, at the moment, he’s pretty much our only infielder who is 1) not on the disabled list and 2) not completely fielding-impaired, so we like that about him.

      Thanks for the visit! I look forward to keeping up with your blog in the days ahead!

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