Earlier this week, ESPN patted itself on the back for securing an interview with former Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley, and getting him to say all the things that they knew he would say.
Cubs fans are racist.
I’m going to rise above it all and dominate this year.
We’d heard it all before, and with growing antipathy for the whole Milton Bradley saga, most of us who write about the Cubs were content to let it go. It was actually great to watch – the interview was released late on Monday, and for more than 24 hours, there was not so much as a peep about it in the Chicago main stream media. Finally, we’d been released from the curse of Bradley.
But it turns out, they were all just waiting to get the Cubs’ reaction – and when it came yesterday from general manager Jim Hendry, they all blew their collective wad penning stories about “looking in the mirror,” and “Bradley stinking.”
And they completely missed the story.
When Hendry was prompted to respond to the allegations by Bradley – allegations we’ve all heard before – Hendry took the opportunity to do something he should have done long ago: he laid the wood to Bradley.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Hendry said of the claims. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think it’s time maybe Milton looks himself in the mirror.”
Boom. Yes. Well done, Jim. But… he didn’t stop there.
“It is what it is,” Hendry continued. “He just didn’t swing the bat and didn’t get the job done. His production, or lack of, was the only negative.”
Um, what? Milton Bradley’s lack of production was the only negative? Is Hendry suggesting – or is he just forgetful – that Bradley’s once-in-a-league bad attitude, and terrible relationship with teammates and manager and fans had nothing to do with the Cubs trading him?
That would, of course, be ridiculous. As we all know, and heard for weeks, the reason the Cubs had to dump Bradley was because he had burned the bridge. In September, Bradley made abominable comments about the fans, about his teammates, and about the reason the Cubs haven’t won for so long, and he was suspended for the rest of the season.
But again, Hendry explained that the reason for the move was Bradley’s performance:
“It’s really unfortunate you get to that situation where you deflect the lack of production in the year you’re here and try to use other things as excuses,” Hendry said.
There are no two ways about it: Jim Hendry is now saying that Milton Bradley was traded because of his lack of production in 2009.
So what is this all about? Dumping Bradley because he is a terrible teammate, a distraction, and a headcase are all fine reasons to have to move Bradley. Why didn’t Hendry just say that? Sure, he has to be diplomatic, but there are ways to say all of that without, you know, actually saying it. There is no need for Hendry to concoct performance as a reason for moving Bradley – he can just say, as he did a few months ago, that Bradley was a distraction who’d made it impossible to keep him on the team.
Why is Hendry now exclusively saying that Bradley was traded because of his “lack of production”?
Simple. It’s all about Jim Hendry’s legacy.
You see, when Hendry chose to sign Milton Bradley over Raul Ibanez, Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu – all of whom had successful 2009 seasons – he did so knowing full well that Bradley had been with five teams in six seasons, had a reputation of being a distraction and terrible teammate, and had an inherent risk of self-destruction. If Jim Hendry admits that the reason he had to dump Bradley for Carlos Silva is because Bradley was a distraction and a headcase, well then Jim Hendry is admitting that he made a mistake that anyone and everyone could have foreseen.
Instead, if Hendry claims that Bradley had to be moved because he didn’t perform, then Hendry is off the hook. After all, if there’s one thing Bradley has always done, it was perform. “How could I have foreseen that he would be so bad on the field?” Hendry can safely say. He can admit, as he has, that signing Bradley was a mistake – but it wasn’t such an obvious mistake that Hendry’s neck should be on the line. Hendry is revising history to save himself.
Even setting aside the fact that we all know the real reason Bradley was dumped, the performance-based excuse doesn’t hold water. Is Jim Hendry truly expecting us to believe that, when he signs a guy for 3 years and big money, if that guy misses his career OPS by just 46 points (and actually bests his career OBP), he absolutely has to be dumped, cost be damned? I have to tell you, Jim, that position doesn’t reflect too well on you either.
Not only is it unbelievable on its face, it runs counter to Hendry’s prior history with the Cubs. In 2002, the Cubs were looking for a big bat to take a spot in the outfield with Sammy Sosa, and provide Sosa with protection in the lineup. The free agent to have that year was Moises Alou, and the Cubs signed him for three years and big money. Jim Hendry took over as the Cubs’ general manager that year, and watched as Alou struggled through the worst season of his career. He was a tremendous disappointment, and didn’t even come within 100 points of his career OPS.
But Jim’s hands were tied, no? The Cubs had brought Alou in to produce, and even though he was on a three-year, big money contract, Alou had failed to produce. He would have to be dumped at all costs. Right?
Wrong. Alou, of course, stayed, and put up very solid seasons for the Cubs the next two years.
So why the difference between Hendry’s treatment of Alou and of Bradley, two guys who were brought in under identical circumstances? Do I really have to ask? Alou wasn’t an insufferable douche! We all know this. And Jim Hendry is trying to convince you otherwise.
And it makes me very angry. Jim Hendry is trying to preserve his legacy and his job at the expense of our intelligence. It feels very … political. If there is a second mirror to be looked in, it’s Jim Hendry’s. You, Jim, decided to take the risk on Milton Bradley despite all the evidence in the world that what ultimately happened would happen. You, Jim, need to not play us for fools, and try to convince us after the fact that you dumped Bradley for a worthless pitcher because Bradley didn’t hit. As a matter of fact, I think you, Jim, said it best:
“I think we’re all brought up in life to accept responsibilities when we fail and also to judge people by how they act and how they carry themselves when things don’t go well. We’re seeing a direct example of that in this case.”