It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you.
-- Milton Bradley in the Daily Herald
With the above words - and the comment that, "You understand why they haven't won in 100 years here" - Milton Bradley has apparently punched his ticket out of the Chicago Cubs for the season. What's more interesting is the question of what happens next year, as he had only just started a contract to play at Wrigley through 2011, worth $30 million. Despite a fondness for opening his mouth and putting his foot in it, well-known before he signed the contract this may be the last straw. It's hard to see how he can return to the Cubs clubhouse, and be anything but trouble.
However, would he possibly be a better piece in Arizona? After the jump, let's take a look at the pros and cons.Bradley still has the potential to be a highly-productive player. His career OPS+ is 116 and, while clearly miserable in Chicago, still posted an OPS+ of 100 - not good enough for the Cubby faithful, who still booed him relentlessly. Last season, he was an All-Star, with a line of .321/.436/.563, which gave him the best OPS in the entire American League, getting some votes for MVP as a result. He's only 31, so it's not like he should fall off a production cliff as a result. I don't think there'll be any shortage of suitors for his services, should he be cut loose by Chicago.
Certainly, I think he'd be a lot happier in the low-pressure environment of Arizona. Here, there are currently very low expectations for the team, and the coverage is... Well, press-wise, you pretty much have Nick Piecoro these days, who is far too smart to pose a threat to anyone. All he has to do is befriend Gambo or Wolf, and Bradley would be set. He can ask Randy Johnson for a reference: I think it's absolutely no coincidence that the only year where the Big Unit had an ERA+ below 100 was his second year in New York: much as with Bradley, his time there was a media disaster, almost from the get-go [his tussle with a photographer on the way to his medical].
On his return to the desert, Johnson returned to his old form, giving us an ERA+ of 119 over his two seasons here. We've also seen Felipe Lopez rebound from his poor situation with the Nationals - though, admittedly, it seems more like Washington was the problem, than Arizona the solution. However, there's no doubt that Bradley would be happier if he was no longer be in the frying-pan which is Chicago. The idea which springs to mind immediately, is swapping outfielder contracts with the Cubs: we take Bradley off them, they take Eric Byrnes from us. That would certainly be an improvement, from their side, over eating the entire contract.
Our guy is certainly a lot more media-savvy, despite the cancellation of the Eric Byrnes show [dancing in the streets scheduled for 11pm], and is the kind of character that would seem to fit well in Chicago, with his hustle. There is a difference, in that he's only signed for next season, rather than the two that Bradley has under his belt, so we might need to get the Cubs to kick in some cash. However, getting a switch-hitting outfielder with a three-season OPS of over .900 would certainly be a help to an offense which has not lived up to expectations this season.
If anything got done, where would Bradley play? Since 2006, he's been near-exclusively a right-fielder, a position in which Upton is firmly locked. I'm kinda reluctant to jack J-Up around any further, given he was originally drafted as a short-stop; I also doubt Bradley still has the wheels to play CF. The best bet might be to try and use him in left, leave Upton in right, and with Chris Young in center (if he reverts to previous form, otherwise Gerardo Parra). The question of Conor Jackson still needs to be resolved, if a) he fully recovers, and b) Brandon Allen is capable of being our full-time 1B. There's some doubt over both questions at this point. We also must address the undisputed point that Bradley is a freakin' headcase, and has been for several seasons. Here are some of his greatest hits:
2003: got into a spat with Paul LoDuca, saying "Don't insult me and I won't insult you. Because you don't know what I will or won't do. Let's end it with that."
2004: traded from Cleveland to LA after a spring-training argument with his manager. Had a couple of monumental fits in his 2004 time with the Dodgers, including emptying an entire bucket of balls onto the field, and slamming a plastic bottle into the stands later that season, after which he described an LA Times reporter as an "Uncle Tom."
2005: clubhouse argument with team-mate Jeff Kent, Bradley sayubf that Kent showed a lack of leadership and didn't "know how to deal with African-American people."
2007: ended the season by injuring himself while being restrained by his manager in an argument. with an umpire
2008: went hunting for the visiting TV announcer, feeling remarks made by the Royals' Ryan Lefebvre were derogatory.
2009: Well, pick your poison. What about when he accused Cubs fans of racial abuse?
Ok. Maybe not such a good fit in Arizona. Talent is one thing, but the amount of baggage which he brings with him could well outweigh his skills. The long history of issues in a variety of different environments makes it very clear that, whatever he may say, it's Milton Bradley that is the problem.