The Cubs need Milton Bradley to stay on the field and out of trouble
MESA, Ariz. --
Right off the bat he questioned my first question about whether he's ready to go back to playing the outfield full time. He didn't do it in a harsh way, but Bradley, who played only 20 games in the outfield last year in Texas as he was recovering from knee surgery, still isn't a guy who gives ground. "That's a funny question,'' he said earlier this week. "That question is weird to me.''
Soon though, Bradley was providing thoughtful answers to all my questions, both good and bad. And by next month he will begin to answer the biggest question: Can he stay in the outfield long enough to make the Cubs' gamble work? Perhaps it wasn't wise to start off with a question about his ability to remain healthy, but the facts are that he hasn't played 100 games in the outfield since 2004 and has only played 100 games at any spot in three of his nine big-league seasons.
Bradley, who went 1-for-3 in his return to the lineup on Wednesday, brings many questions to mind, and he has quick answers for many of them, such as the other big one, about whether he'll be able to keep his cool this year.
"I never had a fight in my life,'' he said at one point. "I just get [ticked] off.''
Does he ever. While Bradley may never have exchanged blows (and I can't dispute him there), he certainly seems to have gotten to the cusp of fisticuffs quite a few times. Good for him that he doesn't dispute that.
He said he changed, though, after suffering a torn ACL while being thrown to the ground by his Padres manager
"When I hurt my knee, that was the lowest point of my life,'' said Bradley, who turns 31 next month. "That's when I knew something had to change.''
After watching the Padres miss the playoff by one game following his serious knee injury, Bradley rebuilt his career and some of his rep in Texas last year. He behaved nearly impeccably with the Rangers all season, hitting .321 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs and most impressively leading the American League with a .436 on-base percentage and a .999 OPS. The only near-incident came when he tried to confront a Royals broadcaster after hearing that he had criticized Bradley's character; again, there were no blows (Rangers GM
Bradley explained why he goes wild sometimes, saying, "I can't hold a picket sign, and march and picket like
He attributes some past blowups to being "young and dumb.'' He said, "I was never violent.'' Rather, he said, the rep came from a string of childish temper tantrums.
"If anyone was hurt by it, it was me,'' he said..
Physically, he's had a few hurts, too. Few have suffered as wide a variety of injuries as Bradley, and it can't be comforting to see him laid up by two separate, albeit slight, infirmities this early. Cubs GM
The Cubs are the class of the National League, but absences by Bradley could hurt the team as well as Bradley himself (his $20 million, two-year contract only becomes a $30 million, three-year deal if he plays at least 75 games in 2009, according to the contract filing). However many games he plays, Bradley is the most interesting addition to a clubhouse that already contains some notably temperamental talents, such as star pitcher
The Cubs have long loved Bradley's talent, and felt that with the offensively-oriented
Bradley said he loved the Cubs because he wants to win ("my focus is on winning, and I'm looking to make a difference,'' he said), and also because many of his other opportunities involved being a DH in the American League. He did that last year. "Texas served a purpose,'' is the way Bradley put it. He is anxious to show that he can be a complete player.
"I don't understand why I'd be better-suited to do something else,'' Bradley said. "When I was an outfielder, I was always too valuable to DH. After hurting my knee, I came back pretty much instantly and became an All-Star. And now people are saying I'm better suited to DH. That's why I didn't consider American League teams. They all wanted me to DH.''
Hendry was eyeing Bradley from a distance for quite a while, and Bradley was impressed by the GM's forthrightness. Hendry told him right away that he was their guy, but that he had to clear up a couple questions related to the ownership change before making an offer. Just like Hendry said, once those questions were cleared up, he called Bradley.
"Jim Hendry's an honest, fair guy," Bradley said. "You don't meet too many like that in this business. He told me it would take some time with the ownership situation but that we'd get it done. I believed him.''
And thus maybe the most interesting marriage in baseball was made.
Rodriguez's latest issue, the labral tear in his right hip and accompanying cyst, is definitely unrelated to steroid use, doctors told Epstein. The tear caused the cyst, and the tear is caused by stress inflicted in the day-to-day pounding that a professional athlete takes.
If A-Rod has to miss a significant portion of the 2009 season because of the hip issue and likely surgery (Rodriguez and the Yankees have decided for the moment to try to get through it with rest and rehab, and hope that the draining of the "giant'' accompanying cyst alleviates the tightness he was feeling), the Yankees could do worse than Dodgers youngster
DeWitt proved to be a solid player with L.A., and he's now squeezed out of a starting spot with the bargain signing of
However, the chances to expand the $200 million payroll significantly for a player who may only be a few-week fill-in seem remote. So
Here are three key factors to the biggest deal of 2009 spring training (and maybe any spring training) ...
• The Diamondbacks aren't worried in the least about
• The Cubs are wisely taking it slow with talented. but fragile. right-hander
• You've got to love resident baseball scholar
• Hardly anyone has looked worse so far this spring than
• I'll believe
• Fired Nats exec
• Interim man
• The Nats have a long way to go. One competing GM said that if you were to combine the 20 best prospects of the Nats and Rangers (Texas, along with the Rays, is considered to have the most blue-chip prospects in baseball), about 19 of them would be Rangers.
• While it may not be Dodgertown, the new Dodgers facility at Camelback Ranch is extremely nice, and like Dodgertown, very open to the fans. It's the best place to interact with the players. You've got to hand it to the Dodgers: They do think of their fans.