January 08, 2009
Milton Bradley finally did his gripping and grinning with the Cubs' brass and Chicago media today. The three-year, $30 million deal is official and, for better or worse, he'll be wearing blue in Wrigley Field on Opening Day. The surprising thing is that no reporters were hurt during Bradley's arrival, even though most Chicago locals have spent the past week breathlessly detailing the danger of the outfielder like a three-year-old describes a tiger at the zoo.
Neil Hayes, Sun-Times: "... his every move will be scrutinized. He should expect to become a target for drunken, sun-drenched hecklers, especially if he struggles. That’s where things could get interesting. He can and often does use real and perceived criticism to fuel his fire, which can result in him putting up the kind of numbers that attracted the Cubs in the first place.
"Approach at your own risk when those emotions boil over. It’s only a matter of time before he blows, in which case the Cubs can only hope to limit the collateral damage."
Greg Couch, Sun-Times: "But get used to the ticking, Cubs fans. Because Bradley is a time bomb. He's going to get hurt. He's going to explode with temper by attacking fans or announcers or something."
Melissa Isaacson, Chicago Tribune: "But if Bradley stays healthy — and that's a bigger 'if' than if he maintains his sanity — how will Cubs' fans and Bradley's teammates feel if he becomes the major distraction that he has in the past; the kind of distraction that doesn't just shake up team chemistry but keeps him out of the lineup?"
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My take: Should the Cubs be worried about Bradley blowing up? Yes. Does he have a history of bad behavior? Of course. Could they have found a better use for $10 million a year? Sure.
But none of that stops me from believing that these alarmist siren-blarings will eventually turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bradley hadn't even stepped foot into town before everyone happily pulled the pin on his grenade and told everyone to watch out. Remember that Bradley was coasting along just fine in Texas last year until he got to Kansas City and some bozo with a microphone asked why he couldn't be more like the former heroin addict.
That sort of unfair comparison would bother me, too.
What everyone here in the Windy City should be more focused on when it comes to doubts is Bradley's spotty injury history. He's only played more than 100 games in three of nine seasons and he won't have the luxury of being a DH. He played only 165 innings in the outfield with the Rangers. Maybe folks should stop asking about Bradley's sanity and inquire about Jim Hendry's.
Look, here's what's going to happen: If Bradley stays healthy and puts up last year's numbers? Everything's going to be blue-colored gravy. Cubs fans will be busting out their old #21 Sosa jerseys and modifying them with magic maker and masking tape to say "Bradley."
But if he breaks down and is unable to produce like in previous stops? Well, it's all going to fall apart and a lot of the criticism Bradley was greeted with will play a big role.
As I've said before, I met and talked with Bradley at last year's All-Star Game and came away impressed. Dave Brown felt the same when he interviewed him for Answer Man. I understand that he's said to be a charming guy when he wants to be, but that he has just a few issues with mood swings. I completely understand that.
But at the same time, I don't know. Maybe it's a character flaw, but I believe in giving someone the benefit of the doubt and it's what I'm going to do here with Milton Bradley.