Bradley Taking The Fall

If all you knew about Milton Bradley‘s 2009 season was the opening lines from this article, you would think he’s single-handedly destroyed the Cubs season.

Cub fans and Milton Bradley have one thing in common: they both can’t wait for him to go home. The Milton Bradley experience has been the biggest disaster in a season of disasters for Cubs general manager Jim Hendry in 2009.

I know he’s not media friendly, he’s run himself out of nearly every organization he’s ever played for, and he says some stuff that angers people, but can we get a little reality injected into this analysis? Bradley is getting destroyed as a massive disappointment while posting a .387 on base percentage. Sure, the power hasn’t translated to Chicago, and the Cubs had to be hoping for more than a .350 wOBA from the guy, but he’s been an above average hitter and a decent enough fielder for them this year.

In just over 400 plate appearances, he’s been worth +1.2 wins to the Cubs, which translates to $5.4 million in salary. Factor in his expected September production, and he’ll probably end the year with a performance worth around $7 million – less than what the Cubs are paying him, but not anything close to the biggest disaster on the team.

Alfonso Soriano has performed below replacement this year. He earned – sorry, was paid – $16 million this year, and there’s $90 million left on the final five years of his contract. His performance suggests he owes the Cubs $3.3 million for taking 0.7 wins off their total for 2009, so Soriano has cost the Cubs almost $20 million this year. Bradley could cuss out every fan in Wrigley and still not match Soriano for disastrous results this year.

Things have gone wrong in Chicago this year, and Bradley makes an easy target for criticism, much of it earned. But regardless of whether he likes the fans or media, Bradley hasn’t been the thing that caused the club to collapse. It’s hard to win a bunch of baseball games when your “superstar” left fielder plays like he belongs in the minors.

Just because Bradley makes himself an easy target doesn’t mean he’s the right one.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


83 Responses to “Bradley Taking The Fall”

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  1. Jeff says:

    Great post Dave. Jim Hendry should have been fired on the spot for giving a 32 year old who can’t play defense an 8 year, 135+ million contract. Bradley will take the blame, but Hendry is the clown that offered him 30 million when a better player ( Bobby Abreu) received 1 year, 8 million contract. Hendry reminds me a lot of Bill Bavasi with the Mariners from 04-08.

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  2. kevinM says:

    The sad/scary part is Bradley’s contract runs out before Soriano’s.

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  3. MU789 says:

    Bradley started out bad and never got on the right side of the fans. At the end of April he was hitting 118 and an ops of 627. And when your big hitting off season FA has 5 home runs at the end of June paying him 30 million looks like a bad deal.

    But Soriano is also a target of the fan’s wrath, he just hasn’t accused the fans of racism. Without any evidence.

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  4. Joe R says:

    Haven’t SABR-inclined people called Soriano’s contract stupid from Day 1?

    Apparently the Cubs haven’t learned much from their years of using Andre Dawson as the franchise player, let’s pay his modern clone a whole lot of $$

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  5. Ed Nelson says:

    Bradley’s line since June 29th

    .283 .427 .441

    For those that count such things that’s an .868 OPS. He’s had an OPS over .900 at home although the papers would have you believe that he’s having trouble in Wrigley. All said and done he’s really only been completely terrible against the Astros and Dogers (his combined OPS in 72 ABs is a hair over .500).

    For this, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune advocates actually swallowing his entire salary and cutting him? If he can put up his post All Star break numbers through the entire year next year, he could become the best #1 or #2 hitter in the NL, which would easily be worth the 10 million per year they are paying him.

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    • Joe R says:

      The same Phil Rogers that also championed eating Zambrano’s salary because he had a bad game vs. the White Sox and got mad.

      $50 says Rogers is a huge racist and wouldn’t say any of that if, say, Geovany Soto or Jake Fox had a shit fit.

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  6. Ed Nelson says:

    Oh and I have heard personally what fans are screaming at Bradley, and I can tell you it’s not fit for conversation, but it’s not racist.

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    • MB21 says:

      You’ve heard what all fans are screaming at Bradley? He never said all the fans are racist, Ed. He said he’s been called racist names by some. I’m going to assume you can’t hear all fans because I’ve never been able to in the games I’ve attended even at low minor league games where attendance is so little

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  7. Alireza says:

    Abreu is actually only going to get $6 million. $5 million base and he will hit each of 4 $250,000 PA bonuses. I doubt he wins any of the award bonuses, though he may well deserve some support for AL MVP (don’t flame. Mauer’s numbers are better, but Abreu’s team influence is really obvious).

    He isn’t as good a defender as Bradley, but at least he shows up.

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    • Garrett says:

      Bradley has a .821 OPS. Abreu is .826 with much worse defense. At what point do you officially start showing up? .823?

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  8. DavidA says:

    Good post. Great post. To me, Milton Bradley has sortof become the Terrell Owens of MLB. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing for team chemistry and such, I’m not really one to say. What can’t be denied though is that the guy is still a serious offensive threat. The current ZIPs projection is for a .360 wOBA by year end, which is pretty dadgum good for what is obviously going to bee a “down” year for him.

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  9. BX says:

    All of this is just proof in the grand scheme that Jim Hendry should not have a job.

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  10. Bot says:

    The negativity surrounding Bradley here in Chicago isn’t *just* about his production. It started out that way, yes, but snowballed because of the run-in where Lou called him a “piece of shit” and then topped off this week with his comments…and this isn’t even taking into account his lack of effort in being a team player. Last one to arrive, first one to leave, doesn’t talk to anyone on the team, everyone else to blame but him, etc, etc.

    If you want to talk production only, he’s been fine, but he doesn’t fit in here (or anywhere?) and he’ll be moved this offseason no matter how much the Cubs have to eat in salary thanks to this last past week.

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    • melissa says:

      You mention a lack of effort in being a team player, last to arrive, first to leave, etc. Do you have any actual quotes from team members saying these things? How do you know this? Are you a White Sox clubhouse attendant?

      I would also like to know what comment specifically Bradley has made that has somehow caused fans to boo and spew vitriol at him all season long? He’s actually hit over .300 at Wrigley this year so it’s strange that he has been reviled to this extent. Before you bring up the incident where he threw the ball into the bleachers with 2 outs he was actually booed beyond belief earlier in that game when he lost a ball in the sun. He wasn’t the first guy to lose a ball in the sun in right at Wrigley and won’t be the last. I believe it happened to Hank Aaron 2 or 3 times in one game.

      Media and a lot of fans in Chicago made up their minds that they weren’t going to like Bradley before he ever put on a Cubs’ uniform. They’ve gone on to create an atmosphere that makes him feel that he’s neither needed nor wanted in Chicago. I hope for his sake Hendry is able to move him in the off-season. It’s just unfortunate the guy isn’t going to be given a chance to live up to a contract that’s very reasonable for a player of his abilities.

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      • Joe R says:

        Like how the Cub fans turned quick on Fukudome even though he looks pretty okay now. $13 mil a year was probably not too brilliant, but he can provide a slightly above average bat and good CF defense.

        It really is amazing to me how much the media can turn people into fall guys. Ever think for a second that maybe the reason Bradley is acting like an a-hole is because the fans and media did it first? I’m not going to say Bradley is an angel here, but he gets way too much shit.

        Like in 2008 when he went to confront the Royals PbP guy, convienantly the media left out how he was upset and in tears over the whole thing. He’s never been a violent guy. Sometimes I wish people would just leave him alone.

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      • Paulie L. says:

        “Do you have any actual quotes from team members saying these things?”

        I take it you haven’t been following the situation over the last several months.

        How about quotes from Piniella, regarding the situation between him and Bradley? This quote was in the Chicago SunTimes.

        “I just told him to take his uniform off and go home,” Piniella said after the game. ”And followed him up into the clubhouse and we exchanged some words. I don’t like those things to happen. But I’m just tired of watching all that.
        ”This has been a common occurrence and I’ve looked the other way a lot, and I’m done with it.””

        Here is what Soriano had to say about Bradley, brought to you by Carrie Muskat, who covers the Cubs for MLB.com.

        “Alfonso Soriano said he’d never seen a player and manager fight the way Piniella and Bradley did.
        “I hope he comes back and he can help the team to win,” Soriano said of Bradley. “If he’s not that way, we don’t need him. We have 25 players, we have to be on the same page. If he’s not 100 percent to help the team to win, we don’t need him.””

        “Media and a lot of fans in Chicago made up their minds that they weren’t going to like Bradley before he ever put on a Cubs’ uniform.”

        That is a completely inaccurate statement. The truth is Bradley has created a toxic environment within the Cubs clubhouse and with the media and fans.

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  11. Doug Melvin says:

    /pours one out

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  12. Ed Nelson says:

    I go to, and have been to, a lot of games at Wrigley. After a game this year I decided that I wasn’t going to bring my 9 year old back for awhile. I have sat in the RF seats where Bradley says people have been riding himm and the language that was used, and the merciless nature of the attack wasn’t something I want my son to see anymore. It wasn’t racist, and if you said anything blatantly racist you would be removed immediately anyways, but it was uncalled for and cruel. We’re supposed to be fans and encourage our players, and I can see booing a bad play, but at a certain point it becomes something way more personal.

    If Bradley wants to play somewhere else I don’t blame him.

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    • MB21 says:

      Ed, I don’t doubt what you are saying here. I’m just saying it’s impossible for you to hear what everyone is saying. It’s next to impossible hear what someone 10 seats over. The area in which you can hear clearly what is being said is very small. I’m glad you stopped taking your child to Wrigley. i stopped going there several years ago and won’t go back.

      I can’t say for sure if these things were said to Bradley, but there’s enough of a pattern for me to think it’s very likely. Dusty Baker, Corey Patterson, LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones have all experienced problems with racism at Wrigley Field. Frankly, it would be shocking if such a group that so easily throws these slurs around would not have done so with Bradley. I imagine it has happened regularly throughout the year. Some Cubs fans have proven they are awful people who have no problem attacking someone because of the color of their skin. And worse than that, in my opinion, is how quickly people dismiss it. I’m not saying that’s you, but the media quickly ignores it. People say things like, “I’m not a racist and I’ve never heard it.” That doesn’t mean anything.

      I’ve gone to 2 Royals games this season and the attendance was less 20,000 each time. The overall noise wasn’t comparable to Wrigley Field, but I couldn’t even begin to have a discussion with my sister-in-law who sat 4 seats over because there was no way I could hear her. The person 3 seats over from her could have been talking to his friend calling players racist names and I never would have heard it. The person 20 seats over could have been yelling it at certain times and there’s no way I would hear it.

      Just because you didn’t hear it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The fact that what was said was so awful that you won’t repeat pretty much confirms to me that it has been said. If it’s gotten that nasty (nasty enough for you to not take your child with you), some dumbass or two is going to make it about race. Consider how nasty it has been and the recent history and I fully expected Bradley to speak up about it in mid-april. I’d bet he started being called racist names around that time, if not sooner.

      The hatred at that ballpark is disgusting. There are racists in attendance. They aren’t the majority by any means, but they are there. They are at every sporting event. When hatred like we’ve heard over the last few months occurs around one of these racists, it becomes about race to them.

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  13. Ed Nelson says:

    I think it’s pretty obvious racism isn’t to be tolerated on any level, and obviously I can’t hear everything everyone says in the ballpark. That’s pretty simple stuff. I don’t really think it’s a stream of racial epitaphs that has Bradley so upset because I don’t think that’s what people are screaming at him from the stands. Keep in mind that if you want Bradley to hear you on the field you are yelling pretty loud and the ushers in that part of the ballpark are right on top of you. But if anything was said to him like that it is obviously wrong.

    What I think has Bradley really upset is the general, and very personal hatred that comes from the stands. It really doesn’t have to do with race because he hasn’t gotten 1/10th of what Todd Huntley suffered through. What I’m talking about is the supposed “right” people feel they have to just unload all their personal frustration and anger on a complete stranger because they didn’t hit the ball the way you wanted them to. It’s not right, and I don’t understand it. I will agree that the hatred is certainly viral, and it’s an ugly thing to see, and I could see how someone who views the world through those distorted glasses could let everyone else see how ugly they really are when the ball gets rolling.

    It’s too bad because I love baseball, I love the Cubs, and I love Wrigley. Some Cubs fans though…

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    • MB21 says:

      I haven’t been to Wrigley because I just don’t want to be around the toxic environment that it is. Everybody feels they have the right to boo, scream, yell and do whatever, but they ignore my right to enjoy the game without that. Basically, I think Cubs fans (baseball fans, sports fans in general) are very selfish. They have a right to do something because they paid money, but they don’t realize that they are doing it at my expense. I also paid money for my ticket so to speak. They also don’t care that they are doing it at the players’ expense.

      I guess I just feel that the way human beings are that it’s unlikely that an environment like Wrigley Field wouldn’t turn to race considering the player that is despised. I say that knowing that few are actually racist, but also knowing that it’s happened several times in the recent past.

      You’ve mentioned hatred several times. Bradley did too. I can only assume that what you’re talking about is just nasty. Could it be that Bradley mistakenly thought that level of hatred was because of his race or that some of the comments were said in a way that he could mistake them that way?

      I really don’t think Bradley is going to lie about this. Soriano has been there for a few years now and has gotten some brutal treatment. Likely whatever has happened in RF this year has happened in LF in year’s past. Bradly isn’t a dumbass and would know this. I don’t think he’s going to lie about it knowing that his teammates would know he’s doing so. That’s just speculation.

      I really hope you’re right, but I still don’t think it makes it any better. Whatever is happening is ugly and many Cubs fans and most of the media is simply ignoring it. I have serious problems with that.

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  14. Drew says:

    Just a quick clarification – Bradley is actually only paid a little over $6M this year – $5M base and a $4M bonus split over three seasons. The coverage on his “racist” comments are a bit exaggerated as well. Bradley does make some bad decisions in what he says but this was a classic set up for a headline sound clip by a reporter. “Do you think that any Cubs fans are racist?”, “Yes I think some are” suddenly becomes Milton Bradley proclaiming the entire city of Chicago is full of racists. I’m sure he has had some racial slurs directed at him which was the point he was making. It was simply a question constructed to get an easy headline response by a smart (but unethical in my opinion) reporter.

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  15. jpd says:

    MB21, why does it have to be racist? I mean, there probably were some racist comments, but really, its like you want the city to be full of racists. also, if you want to sit down shut up and watch the ame, you should probably stay home amd watch tv, because a stadium is a tough place to watch a game and know what is going on. and, it is so much fun to yell and scream and boo people. people go to games to yell and scream and stand up and cheer and do the wave, not to understand a game.

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    • MB21 says:

      jpd, it doesn’t have to be racist, but as you even said yourself, “there were probably some racist comments.” Nobody has ever said 40,000 fans were racist. The recent past at Wrigley suggests to me that this stuff occurs fairly regularly and nobody does anything about it.

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    • MPC says:

      Wrigley sucks. Tool central. Chicago is the place to move for recent college grads that want to act like they’re still in the frat house. Bleh.

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  16. Matt says:

    Bradley has, for whatever reasons, been a huge pain in the ass for every team he’s ever played far. Ever.

    RE the Media thing: This isn’t a case of a guy getting an unfair rap. FWIW, the MSM likes narrative. One of those narratives is redemption, yet Bradley can’t get that story on any of his teams?

    Come on.

    And this: 106 games played, a .255 BA, .351 wOBA and 1.2 WAR take a clear picture for both stat inclined fans and regular old beer swilling bleacher dwellers: Bradley has been his typical 4 games a week player — and not a very good one either. At least for his career he’s been a good part timer.

    Factor in the Cubs horribly dissapointing season and it’s to be expected.

    Given all this, I have some sympathy for Bradley, but not much.

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      • wobatus says:

        BTW, I actually like Bradley. One of my favorite moments from last all-star game weekend was him going over and giving Hamilton’s old coach from North Carolina, who was tossing him the meatballs during the home-run contest, a rub down for his sore arm as hamilton just kept hitting them out and wouldn’t “strike out.” It was getting ridiculous and Bradley had this big grin on his face. I never read that angle played up anywhere and I just thought it was great, this old southern white guy and Bradley having a laugh while his teammate (who has had his own demons and has gotten the redemption storyline) thrilled the crowd at an allstar game event. I felt happy for Bradley. He had issues with Kent and i guess some others but I have heard some guys claim he was a good teammate as well. But he can be his own worst enemy at times it seems. I still like him.

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  17. daniel says:

    Speaking as a Cubs fan, Soriano has gotten his share of boos too. But the one thing about Soriano is that he has a good attitude. He never complains or has run-ins with his teammates or upsets his manager. He’s a horrible defender and he can’t steal a base for his life these days, but that’s not his fault. It’s Hendry’s fault that we gave him so much freakin’ money.

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    • David Coonce says:

      Yeah, Soriano never complains or anything, except for that time he refused to play left field for the Nationals, even sitting out two games. A team guy, all the way.

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  18. Roger M says:

    Dave, when you say that Bradley’s “performance is worth $ 5.4 million” based on his 1.2 WAR that is predicated on the fictional valuation system that you use which doesn’t bear much resemblance to the reality of what team’s overall budgets are. Instead of the “free agency salary it takes to get 1 WAR’, which is a grossly inflated # due to supply/demand dynamics of free agents, if we use the more realistic # of 1 WAR = $ 2.5 million, Bradley’s performance is a major disappointment relative to his salary… He is nowhere close to his last yr’s total of 4.5 – 5 WAR, which would indeed justify his salary. However, the Cubs should have known that last year was an aberration for Bradley and that was the real problem…

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    • MB21 says:

      The Cubs did know 2008 was a fluke. If they thought it wasn’t he would have gotten a $100 million deal somewhere.

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    • PhD Brian says:

      I am a college professor of finance and i think Bradley is a steal at $5.4 million. I hope my teams trades for him.

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      • bobo says:

        College professors and ivory towers…nice. Does your model realize his salary next year isn’t 5.4mm, but 9mm and 12mm the year after that?

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  19. steve-o says:

    How many teams are going to replace their starting RF with Bradley? What is his “expected September production”? Is that anything near his EXPECTED BEGINNING OF THE SEASON PRODUCTION which (minus OBP) is lower than career average? I agree that he is not the sole reason for the Cubs season, key injuries, zero production from catcher, 2b, LF, a pitching staff that walks too many and gives up a ton of home runs are all factors, and what beat writers should be writing about.

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  20. nick says:

    Bradley has actually been pretty solid this year, cubs fans just have some of the most knee jerk reactions to player performance around the nation. Trust me I live near wrigleyville and half way through last year you couldn’t walk one block without seeing a fukudome shirt now you rarely see one. You want to blame some people for the cubs struggles first look at jim hendry (trading DeRosa for basically nothing, kevin gregg, etc), then soriano, then geovany soto (talk about a major collapse), and then carlos marmol/kevin gregg. Bradley is performing right in line with what most baseball people thought he would, it’s not his fault the cubs decided to pay him 10M a year

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  21. Christo P. Ney says:

    Wait a minute. You’re saying Bradley has gotten the bulk of blame for the collapse of the Cubs this year because Potash and the Sun-Times says so? Telander writes for that dying paper. Mariotti used to.

    Soriano has been getting pasted by the media in Chicago for about two years now. He’s brutal and it was a brutal contract enhanced by the other brutal contracts the Cubs signed after the Soriano deal. Every sentient being outside of the weird collection of mouth breathers in Chicago knows and says Soriano deserves more of the blame.

    Anybody who has been following the Cub narrative this year understands this. Beat writers, columnists, sports radio, etc. have been talking about every aspect of the Cubs’ failure. Bradley has been part of that narrative but only a part of the larger story.

    The coverage has more to do with Bradley declining to give specifics about the racism and his voluminous and ongoing weird comments this year. His production pertaining to this last incident has been ancillary at best. It’s been the fact that he’s kind of a strange guy that might need some help.

    So you’re asking for reality? From the Sun-Times?

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  22. Melkman says:

    Here come the OBP sheep ripping Soriano and defending Bradley. Bradley is a jerk, (opinion shared by many, not mine), and Soriano is a nice guy. Not to mention Bradley admitted he refuses to play through minor ailments, and Soriano has been playing hurt all season. In fact he’s finally going for an MRI in the next few days.

    Baseball goes beyond numbers sometimes, I wouldn’t want my young players emulating Bradley even if it means they’ll post a 380 OBP.

    Soriano is the only player to not be tied to any PED’s to go 40-40. When healthy he’s one of the most exciting players in all of baseball, the kind you stop to watch his AB as you pass through a room. Bradley isn’t and never will be that kind of player. He will never be a fan favorite either. Look at the number of all-star votes Soriano got in a huge down season for him.

    Defending Bradley? What’s the point, in the same situation he wouldn’t defend you.

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    • nick says:

      This isn’t about who you like better or who’s nicer, it’s baseball. Who’s producing and who’s not is the question. And this year Bradley has done his job and Soriano hasn’t

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    • Pete says:

      Bradley has outperformed Soriano in every measurable way. I don’t give a flying-you-know-what about how nice one or the other is, just how well they play baseball. Neither has lived up to expectations, Soriano even more so than Bradley, but one way or the other Bradley is getting nailed a lot harder than he deserves because he happens to be a jerk. He’s been a scapegoat…Every non-SABR baseball fan I know says the Cubs stink because they basically swapped DeRosa for Bradley…when in reality they stink because of a variety of old players and underperformance. Blame Bradley for what he deserves to be blamed for, that’s all.

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    • JT says:

      Melkman —
      Are you serious? Are we picking lab partners, or trying to build a baseball team? This guy’s a “jerk”; he’s a “nice guy.” Come on!!

      As for Milton’s comment that he “refused to play through minor ailments,” I believe you are referring to Bradley’s comment from last season (when he was in the final year of his contract) that he wouldn’t play through an injury because he didn’t have any security (i.e., a contract) going into the 2009 season. Why you consider this unreasonable is beyond me. (1) Any team that asks a player to play injured is a horseshit organization. (2) Why should a player who has no commitment from a team past the current season place all of his future earning power at risk? Because he’s a gamer? Because that’s what winning players do? These guys get a chance to capitalize on their other-wordly ability, maybe, two to three times (max) during their careers, and you are suggesting that Milton should have tossed his future concerns, his families concerns, etc., aside and played through an injury for the Rangers when playing through could have cost him his career. If you woke up one morning and felt dizzy and couldn’t drive, would you “power through” and risk a rush-hour commute to work just to prove what a gamer you are? If not, then don’t question Milton’s “refusal” to play through “minor ailments.” With the way injuries can cascade and end players’ careers (what ever happened to Eric Gagne after he tried to pitch through his knee problem that one season?), no injury is too minor to sit out a few games.

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  23. Christo P. Ney says:

    Done his job?

    He’s hitting .208 on the road. Slugging .298 away from Wrigley (read that one again). Driven in 35 runs (only 10 on the road) from mostly the middle of the order. Playing below average defense in right. He’s hitting .230 with RISP. Hitting .189 Late & Close.

    You’d hope his lack of the long ball would translate at least into doubles. Nope. 15. All from a position and lineup placement that needs to have much more production.

    He’s not ‘the one’ to blame, something that is stupid in the first place because there’s never ‘one’ to blame for anything. Not in life. Not in baseball. It’s bad baseball thinking.

    But let’s not fool ourselves. Bradley’s been kinda bad.

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    • Alex JN says:

      wOBA exists, but I guess let’s mention slugging and batting average on the road and total number of doubles. Seriously? This is fangraphs, not the splits page at espn.com. He’s posted a hardly-poor .357 wOBA combining road and home, which is a more important picture than you cherry-picking his worse numbers. You can cite his lack of production, but at least do so in stats that accurately reflect his value. Handily, fangraphs even compares his positives (+7.5 batting runs) with his negatives (-6.7 runs in defensive and positional adjustments), leaving his value at right around average for the season. If paying 10 million dollars for league-average performance was what sunk a ship, there would be no teams left – I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a team without a worse return for investment somewhere in there, and many would have quite a few. I agree that this reporting is especially egregious given Soriano’s season and contract.

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      • Christo P. Ney says:

        Yes. Seriously.

        Road average? RISP? Late & Close? Those are cherry-picking his worse stats? Pretty important stats actually and mentioned all the time on this site. Mentioning slugging was done to point out just how abysmal it is. Neifi Perez territory.

        Now, would you please read the original article and make an effort to read it carefully. It’s NOT TALKING ABOUT BRADLEY’S PRODUCTION! Cripes! (beats head into the table)

        Everyone in Chicago has known since day one how mind-blowingly stupid the Soriano contract was. And everyone knows how big of an albatross it is. He’s been destroyed in the media on a daily basis in Chicago.

        So you’re arguing against some fictional person/argument here.

        You’re taking all the reportage on Bradley’s entirely strange off-the-field stuff and saying that translates to the media placing the blame on Bradley for the fall of the Cubs this year. And that’s absolutely not true. Only on ESPN and in the USAToday is that happening, places where writers routinely fail to capture the real crux of the argument.

        So…to sum up. Never said ‘sunk the ship’. Never said ‘the one to blame’. Nobody did, actually. Just said Bradley’s been kinda bad. Not bad for all eternity. Kinda bad this year, especially compared to last year and that he’s playing below his contract. The post was in reference to someone saying that Bradley’s done his job. In Chicago, in order of blame, Bradley’s production probably sits 8th. Maybe lower.

        Up until two weeks ago, Bradley essentially was a slap hitter who walked a ton. Would you give 3/$30M to that? Would you put a cause in his contract that guaranteed the third year if he played 75 games this year with his injury history?

        Maybe some would. I wouldn’t.

        And spare me the lectures about using fangraphs. I love it. But situational stats are entirely relevant in my world and fangraphs doesn’t offer every situational stat I find useful in evaluating a player’s performance.

        What was Bradley’s wOBA for the first half? Good for him. He turned it on during a time when the games don’t matter, distorting his final value on the year. Can’t wait for the off-season post about how Bradley nearly played to his contract after he adds $5 million to his value while the Cubs play out the string.

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        Personally, I think horoscopes are entirely relevant. And fangraphs doesn’t provide them!

        Damn you, fangraphs!

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      • Christo P. Ney says:

        I know. First half wOBA is the same thing as a horoscope.

        See, humor should be funny.

        But that’s just me.

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      • Alex JN says:

        Of course road average is important. Without any other information, we prefer a .300 road hitter to a .250 one, of course. But given wOBA and his seasonal batting runs (which are park-adjusted in the WAR calculations iirc), road batting average tells us nothing. If it’s awful, that just means he hit proportionately better at home. Basically, if we have his total value, selecting out and listing the below-average components of his value is completely useless. For a basic example, consider a team that we know is .600 – telling us they’re .400 on the road doesn’t mean we update our estimate of their record, it just means they performed better at home. To apply this to, say, you citing his doubles stats: if he’s provided 7.5 runs of hitting value above average to the Cubs, saying he has a below-average amount of doubles merely means he’s better at singles, triples, walks, hrs, and sbs combined – we don’t consider him a less valuable player overall, he’s just a +7.5 hitter who doesn’t hit many doubles. You call him a “slap hitter who walks a ton” in the your response, another pejorative description that obscures the actual value he’s provided. If a slap hitter who walks a ton is worth 30 million in production, I’d pay it to him. If he’s worth more, I’d pay more. If less, I’d pay less.

        And if you’re taking 90 pas (late and close, RISP, whatever) or whatever out of a whole season’s worth of pas without any evidence that the selected ones are more predictive or representative, that is cherry-picking numbers. If you use batting average, of all things, to demonstrate the value he’s had in these 90 cherry-picked pas, that’s flagrant misuse of statistics. For example: Bradley may be hitting .230 with RISP, but he’s obping .420, hardly an embarrassing number. If you want context, at least use decent contextual statistics like situational wOBA or WPA or something. I mean, giving his RBI? Sure, it represents real runs that affected real games, but the variance involved (here, not only just in his numbers but his teammates’, and in the way they synchronize) mean we learn little about how good Bradley the player has been and a whole lot more about his luck in high leverage situations (apparently bad on the year). This is seriously pre-FJM-level analysis on a post-FJM sabermetric site. Fangraphs might cite these sorts of junk stats, but it contextualizes them within a player’s total value or perhaps use them to explain other numbers, maybe in a post like “this is why Chicagoans who watch baseball but don’t understand it think Bradley’s been bad.” That post is where road RBIs and batting average with runners in scoring position go. If these sort of situational stats are important in your world, your world has very little to do with the fairly empirical task of teasing out a player’s actual contributions from the noise and variance. Your original words were that Bradley’s been “kinda bad” – again, if by kinda bad you mean very slightly above average in the time he’s played, then, yes, he’s been kinda bad.

        If we can all agree the Soriano contract is stupid, then that’s a start – I certainly don’t disagree there. In terms of off-the-field issues, I think Bradley’s are probably overblown and I think they’re overblown in general, but I certainly don’t know specifics. But if you’re going to use statistics to try to show that Bradley hasn’t done his job ON the field, at least use decent ones, and explain them well. Saying that Bradley “turned it on when the games don’t matter” and that “distorts his final value” is particularly inane: do you think Milton Bradley has a magic switch that he turns on when his team’s out of the playoff race where he turns into a great player? Ironically, he’d be praised as a second-half hero turning it on late if only his teammates had had the courtesy to keep the Cubs in the race. This analysis, of course, only works if you don’t actually think Milton Bradley a) has full control of when he plays well and b) uses said full control to specifically only play well when his team’s out of the playoff race, which I hope we can all agree as a baseline probably isn’t true.

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      • Christo P. Ney says:

        Alex,

        Maybe I poorly worded the post. I’d agree with that to a point. Road slugging (.298, BTW) itself isn’t representative. It was simply odd to see how low it was in half the games the Cubs played. I’ll agree with that.

        But the flow of this discussion has been about blame, prefaced from a Sun-Times article that didn’t talk about Bradley’s production. You say you don’t know specifics. Well, the specifics are the issue here. It’s been about the crap-storm that Bradley has created himself almost entirely separate from production.

        FJM was sabermetrically-inclined. They went to that first and rightfully so. But they made the point over and over again that there were some traditional stats that did tell some of the story. Same for me on this one. It’s an eyeball test that belies some of the numbers. I’ve watched the games, known the situations and seen Bradley simply not produce at too many critical times. And I’m not even a Cubs fan.

        I never said Bradley chose when to turn it on. Never. The point was in reference to Bradley’s production sitting at $4 million through the first 2/3 of the season and the possibility that he ends up with something like an $8 million value. The end product won’t accurately portray what Bradley’s value was in games and stretches that proved to matter. I don’t have the numbers but with the timing of this article and where he sits now, Bradley has increased his value about $1.5 million in just a few days. All at a time when the Cubs are out of it. That’s not saying he’s chosen to play well now. It’s simply stating a fact.

        Bradley has been a middle-of-the-order hitter this year. That’s not saying he should be a middle-of-the-order guy, just that he has been by virtue of the place Pinella has put him. That placement has produced 36 plated runs this year. That’s not good. Not really Bradley’s fault since he’s not that type of guy, but something he’s being paid to do and something he asked for in the off-season. That’s not predictive or representative. That’s what has happened. It’s Hendry’s fault in his dippy quest to be more left-handed for assuming that Bradley was that type of guy but his lack of actually plating runs has been stark. 243 runners have been on base for him. He’s plated 29 of them. By contrast, Eckstein, with 262 guys on, has plated 43 of them. That’s relevant in my world. It’s a bit stark when taking everything into account. Cub fault? Sure. But that doesn’t absolve Bradley completely.

        4.5 WAR last year. 1.6 this year and in a easier league. In fact, this year’s WAR is the worst in Bradley’s career. So yeah, kinda bad. Even putting all expectations aside w/r/t Bradley’s real value and place on a team, that’s kinda bad empirically when taking Bradley in the context of Bradley.

        I always thought it was too bad that Bradley brings on so much of his own pain because he’s been a valuable baseball player doing fine baseball things in his career. He’s been valuable. This year, he’s been less valuable. And that’s to an extent where I would say ‘kinda bad’. That’s all.

        The sad thing in all this is that Bradley’s production became an issue here over an assumption that the Chicago media has put the blame on Bradley first for the Cubs collapse. And that’s couldn’t be more false. In order, it’s been Soriano, Hendry, the bullpen, Zambrano, Soto, the bullpen (aren’t I clever?), injuries, the play of guys like Fontenot that were expected to play better, Dempster and then probably Bradley. I agree with all of that and in that order.

        A minor issue has become way too big of a major one. And I don’t have any idea why I care.

        We all agree that Soriano’s contract and production this year has been the biggest culprit. Yes?

        Can we also agree that Bradley, while valuable is so many other ways but given this year and taking into context his entire career, that he isn’t a middle-of-the-order guy?

        Could we have two points to agree on?

        How about finding out what a guy’s value was up until his team was some random number of games back where their playoff percentage is say 5% or below?

        I’d find that valuable. You?

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      • Alex JN says:

        Fundamentally, I suppose I disagree with what you want your stats to do. I like my stats to isolate a player’s contribution, taking into account what he can control. Since players haven’t been shown to have significantly different performance levels compared to their true talent in situations such as late and close and with runners in scoring position, the fact that Milton Bradley only has 35 RBI I chalk up primarily to variance (unless there was significant evidence to suggest Bradley was worse in RBI situations or something – but this would go into a discussion of his overall value), and I don’t believe in blaming a player for something he has little control over. Similarly to playoff odds: Bradley’s the same player before and after the Cubs fell out of the race, and playoff races haven’t been shown to affect performance, so that’s another factor that seems irrelevant to seeing how Bradley himself actually performed over the season. If Bradley can’t control his hot or cold streaks, why punish him for where they happen to fall? If you want stats that tell the story rather than try to determine how much Bradley contributed to what was within his control, all these contextual stats will do it: indeed, they’re built to match the eyeball tests. It’s just, when put to the test, the little predictive power these stats have imply that they say far more about random chance than Milton Bradley’s performance.

        Also, when, again, did FJM make the point that traditional stats told the story? I’ve read the back archives a few times (although admittedly not recently) and most of their stories were examining how writers used traditional stats improperly (tons of stories criticized writers for using RBIs, BA, clutch stats, etc etc etc instead of better measures of full offensive value such as OPS, VORP, and WARP (FJM-era versions of all of these being inferior to modern WAR)). They consistently defended a-rod against writers who would cite such stats as evidence he wasn’t valuable. You say you’ve watched the games – well, that makes you subject to a host of issues (confirmation bias for one) that are the reason the stats the FJM writers looked at painted a better picture than MSM analysts who watched the games, constructed storylines, and selected statistics that fit the storylines.

        We agree on the major culprits for the Cubs’ season, I’m sure, I just don’t agree with your statistical justifications for your assessment of Bradley’s performance. This is unrelated to any off-the-field issues, those are a different topic (I’m not really replying to the article.)

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  24. big baby says:

    i love milton bradley.

    castillo for milton!

    mmmmmmm

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  25. stp says:

    Being in Chicago, I can tell you Bradley is not being blamed for the team’s poor season. In order: GM 1st and 2nd (trading DeRosa to make room for Bradley, a move no one here ever liked), Soriano, Lou, Gregg/Helmian/Marmol, Soto, 2B (Fontenont/Miles); Bradley is tied with Z. That’s how bad the season has gone where he is well down the list.

    But what is not lost on Cub fans is this guy is just not right. We all have had to deal with that same type of miserable prick in our jobs, and we don’t want to see it when we try to enjoy our team. He just has a way of making people not like him. Even his own teammates steer clear of him. Guys like that have to outperform their contract just to be tolerated.

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  26. Jonah Keri says:

    Thank you Dave!

    Bradley gets so much grief, it’s ridiculous. He’s a thorny character, yes. But that doesn’t make his allegations of racism untrue.

    Bottom line, the guy’s been busting his ass since he was a Vermont Expo and he’s become an on-base fiend in his later years. Adjust expectations a little lower and he can be a valuable contributor.

    If Bradley looked like David Eckstein and/or people understood the value of walks (6 years after Moneyball, 40 after Weaver’s heyday…but hey, there’s still hope), he’d be heralded as a scrappy success.

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  27. Christo P. Ney says:

    (sigh)

    Read the original article. Production is BARELY mentioned. Every week, it’s something different. There is a real sense here in Chicago – and talk of this came very early – that Bradley didn’t like the lay of the land almost immediately, trying desperately to find a way out. And couching such things in terms like ‘thorny’ and ‘not media-friendly’ vastly undersells the situation and makes it difficult to have a real discussion on it.

    But if he was David Eckstein, he’d be slugging 58 points higher on the road.

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  28. Paulie L. says:

    Reading this piece and some of the responses, it appears people are unaware of the situation here in Chicago.

    Not only has Bradley been a liability in the field, he did nothing with the bat until July. However, he maintained a combative relationship with the media since spring training. Right or wrong, Cubs fans were expecting a little more than a solid OBP. When you consider the contract the Cubs gave to Bradley when Ibanez, Dunn and Abreu were also available.

    Is there a stat for clubhouse cancers? It has been reported several times this season that Bradley has created a tense, unhealthy atmosphere in the Cubs clubhouse. Just in the past week, Bradley threw his teammates under the bus by basically saying he tells the truth and his teammates give the politically correct/vanilla answers. Lou P. was seen calling Bradley a piece of $%^#, and telling him that he wasn’t a baseball player earlier in the season. Bradley has also made vague racist claims against Cubs fans, but refuses to give details or clarify the accusations. And to top it off he says he prays for only 9 innings so he can go home. How is all of this calculated into VORP?

    Sure Soriano is a bigger bust than Bradley and he gets plenty of criticism. But Bradley, despite a solid OBP now, is still not living up to the expectations set forth by Jim Hendry and he is destroying the team off the field.

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    • Melkman says:

      Soriano has been playing through bad knee pain the whole season. Jason Bay player through bad knee pain 3 years ago and it destroyed his season, after which he immediately bounced back and produced over the next 2 years.

      Bradley is a guy who ADMITTED he will not play through minor ailments.

      Bradley: “When you have days where you’re not feeling like you can contribute, you’re not going to go out there, because you’re not going to want your numbers to suck.”

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/03/milton-bradley.html

      Soriano is a guy who has played through something serious all season. You tell me which player you’d rather have on your team.

      Bradley will never in his LIFE approach the numbers Soriano puts up when both are healthy. He will also never be liked by fans because he is a natural a–hole. Didn’t the Cubs see enough of a track record with this guy’s behavior? Easily one of the worst contracts of last off-season. Especially considering what Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu are being paid.

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      • Melkman says:

        Jason Bay played*

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      • Perkins says:

        Well, since Bradley has been worth 1.6 WAR this season, while Soriano is at -0.5 WAR, maybe Bradley’s approach of not playing through certain injuries has its merits. Major props to Soriano for not wanting to let his team down, but he has been below replacement level this year. By playing through his injury, he has hurt his team.

        Let me be clear, I love Soriano as a player, but he’s way past the point of diminishing returns where he would still be helping his team.

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    • Doug Melvin says:

      “However, he maintained a combative relationship with the media since spring training.”

      OH NOES

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    • ineedanap says:

      Yep.

      Soriano has been getting troused by the media for the last few years. You can only write about one guy for so long.

      When you swap two fan favorites, DeRosa and Wood, for Miles and Gregg to make payroll room for a guy who performs below what is expected of him there will be backlash. Pile on top of that Bradley’s complaining and mouthing off to the fans you get a situation like you have in Chicago.

      Actually, I could see Bradley staying around for the length of his contract. He has been hitting better as of late (although most media considers this “performing once the pressure is off”), and he is beginning to have somewhat of a love/hate rapport with fans now: He caught a routine fly ball the other day and fans gave him a standing ovation to which he replied with a bow.

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  29. Christo P. Ney says:

    Yep. Chicago sportswriters are boobs. Agreed.

    But how did Bradley call them out again?

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    • Perkins says:

      “When the perception is out there about what kind of guy you’re alleged to be, nobody gets to see when you’re in here with 25 guys,” he said. “Nobody wants to go talk with guys I played with and get the real story, so a bunch of people come in here for a couple of hours a day and want to ask you controversial questions, knowing you’re going to give them a legit answer, and twist everything around and make it a story.”

      That’s from a recent interview, basically saying they don’t do their job, but rather try to pass judgment and conform to a narrative. Paul Sullivan actually admitted during Spring Training that he gives favorable or unfavorable coverage to players based on how they interact with him. And he’s (nominally) a journalist. According to his job’s professional standards, namely objectivity, he should have been fired on the spot for putting that in print.

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    • james says:

      if he had called some of those boobs out… I’d be more in his corner. Only people he’s calling out are his teammates and the fans who pay lots and lots of money to watch him play… and suck until just recently.

      Isn’t fangraphs the awesome baseball site that admonishes us for looking solely at small sample sizes when evaluating players… and then doing it now themselves in defense of a guy who really doesn’t deserve a defense? If you want to defend somebody with a small sample size argument, how about Jake Fox? He can’t do magic with the glove, but the guy can rake and has with every opportunity the Cubs have given him.

      Last two weeks he’s putting up some numbers in the place in the lineup he should have hit all along… but those two scenarios haven’t been the norm, and there’s no reason to believe there won’t be a correction.

      If he proves he can sustain these numbers AND will stop being a major, constant distraction to the team, I’ll stop a campaign to have him shipped out, even if it meant swallowing some of the money.

      I’ve never said he was the reason the Cubs have lost their grip on a playoff race, but he hasn’t helped a whole heck of a lot either.

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      • Perkins says:

        See above. Bradley has called out the media types. They continue to bait him because he won’t throw out meaningless platitudes and cliches like their favorites Theriot and the departed Mark DeRosa.

        Since May 24th, Bradley has put up a .299/.436/.458 line. He hasn’t even been bad for as long as people would like us to believe. 7 weeks is a long slump, but it happens. If you can demonstrate how he has been a constant distraction (all I can really think of is that one incident with Lou…the rest has basically been stupid media and stupider fans trying to psychoanalyze and understand things about which they have very little information), then I’ll listen.

        Jake Fox certainly has power, but there’s a reason he’s a 27 year old rookie. He is not, and will likely never be a player in the same league of talent as Milton Bradley.

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  30. PhD Brian says:

    I could not agree more!!!!

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  31. Christo P. Ney says:

    Perkins,

    I agree with much of what you’re saying, especially on Fox vs. Bradley.

    But I don’t understand how the Chicago media can be both incompetent and diabolical geniuses that force Bradley to say things.

    Personally, I fall into the incompetent camp with generous sprinkles of gutlessness.

    Bradley’s a 31 year-old guy and quite smart. He’s a grown man and should be held to such a standard. To not see the ramifications of his constant comments (calling out teammates three separate times, crying racism w/o giving specifics, talking about what waiters say about him, hoping the game only goes nine innings, talking about how he has no friends in the clubhouse, constantly saying he likes what he sees in the mirror when nobody asked and so on and so on) means something is missing in his synapses to me. I don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to make that judgment. It’s strange. It takes about two seconds being in Chicago to understand you’re surrounded by a bunch of thin-skinned morons w/r/t the media. Might want to take that into account, Milton.

    Mostly, though, I grew up disliking the Cubs and I still get some level of pleasure watching them lose. Bradley’s been a kill-joy. I’ve lost my pleasure.

    It’s just been weird and ugly.

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    • Perkins says:

      When has Bradley called out teammates this year? I don’t remember anything like that.

      And I’d hardly call the Chicago media diabolical geniuses. They’re twats (Bruce Miles excepted), and nothing more. They have a story, and then cherry pick anecdotes to support that, or shift the goalposts to support their argument. It’s the same thing they’ve been doing to Carlos Zambrano since 2004. Zambrano has been around it long enough that he can outsmart them and hang clown shoes on them in interviews. Chicago sportswriters are basically petulant children who happen to have media credentials.

      They don’t force Bradley to say anything; he speaks his mind, and they make it look worse than it is because Bradley isn’t a cliche-machine. He’s a flawed human being, no doubt, but everybody deserves a chance for redemption, and Bradley hasn’t gotten that since the day he signed with the Cubs.

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  32. Rodney King says:

    Agree with everything Perkins has said in this thread. No clue how some of the people in here managed to find this site, when they are spouting arguments pulled entirely from the Chicago media’s narrative, and claiming that “if you were around, you’d know Milton wasn’t getting the most blame”. Well I see it differently, I think he has taken the most blame. Not that others haven’t taken heat as well, but look at Soriano’s comments in response to the Piniella/Bradley fight to see a guy who is the essence of “clubhouse problem”- Soriano called out Bradley vaguely, at a time when Soriano had about a .700 OPS (oh wait that was basically all year!).

    Piniella is a complete idiot, and Hendry does some good things but signing free agents is most definitely not one of them. The fact that the front office is so influenced by the idiotic media spew in Chicago shows that they have very little confidence in their ability to get the job done. Hopefully Ricketts brings in a more sensible management team, you know, one that would actually be capable of running any other multi-million dollar business.

    Also hope Bradley sticks around- I love the guy, and of course his “Rodney King beatdown” comments just made me love him more…

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  33. kehrsam says:

    I think its time to stop talking around the real issue that people hate Milton Bradly. It’s Candyland. There, I said it. It has insanely stupid rules and looks to have been designed by a five-year old. Every time my nieces come over I have to play that sh*t and lose. $10 large a year for that?

    The game of LIFE was pretty ok, though.

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  34. JB says:

    Dave, Hate to throw beer on your parade here, but you are obviously not tuned in to the frequency used by Cubs fans.

    Cubs fans have HATED Alfonso Soriano from Day One – even when he was launching bombs out of Wrigley on one of those insane batting tears he formerly would experience from time to time. And this year is no different. Bradley has drawn fire in the last few weeks for stating that racist Cubs fans do exist (which they do – did you know that a large number of them wanted to replace Derrek Lee with Micah Hoffpauir earlier this season and actually believed it would make the Cubs a better team? No lie.) But he is really just fresh meat and a convenient scapegoat. Soriano has been vilified since 2007, when a large number of “fans” were demanding that Piniella replace Soriano with Matt Murton. (Again, no lie.)

    So, while your statistical analysis is dead on, your conclusion is specious, simply because you haven’t been paying enough attention to Cubs fans for the past three years.

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  35. Timmi says:

    Soriano reminds me of Andruw Jones, a ton of talent but no heart.

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  36. Very good article I like your website keep up the great articles

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