Cubs' Piniella: Bradley engages hecklers with 'Muppet conversation'

Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley(notes) probably hears as much heckling from fans as any major leaguer this side of Manny Ramirez(notes) or that side of Alex Rodriguez(notes).

Sometimes, Bradley lets the heckles work to his advantage. Like earlier this week at San Diego, where Bradley hit a home run and made some hand gestures to a fan he thought had mocked him.

Manager Lou Piniella referred to Bradley's gestures as part of a "Muppet conversation."

Oh, I just can hear Statler and Waldorf in the peanut gallery now.

Statler: "You know, the guy playing right field isn't half-bad."

Waldorf: "No, he's all bad!"

Both: "Ha-ha-ha-ha!"

Statler: "Hey, did he just flip us the bird?"

Waldorf: "Yeah, the Big Bird!"

Both: "Ha-ha-ha-ha!"

(Also, doesn't the guy wearing the cap in the front row above look like Champ Kind?)

Anyway, Piniella says Bradley wasn't making any kind of improper gestures, which some fans in Wrigley's bleachers accused him of doing earlier this season.

"The [fan], he got on him a little bit, and [Bradley] was having fun more than anything else," Piniella said as reported in the Chicago Tribune. "Yeah, you would prefer that they would [ignore them]. You can have a little fun with it once in a while, but you would prefer they concentrate on the game at hand."

A Milton Bradley whose personality is closer to that of Elmo rather than Oscar the Grouch (above, left) seems more productive. Earlier this season, Bradley credited hecklers in Milwaukee for providing a "spark" for a home run against the Brewers.

"You need life," Bradley said then. "I can't play all dull and stuff. When you come on the road, you expect to be razzed."

The Cubs would be cool with Bradley co-habitating with a life-sized wooly mammoth named Snuffleupagus who's invisible to everyone else, if he would just hit like a guy earning $10 million a year. So far, Bradley has endured the worst season of his career. Cubs fans have endured him in return.