Ah – the $10 million dollar question – should Ryan Dempster plunk Milton Bradley tonight in his 1st at-bat given everything t hat has transpired since the Cubs acquired Bradley in free agency during the 2009 off-season? GM Jim Hendry made one of the worst moves of his career when he signed the troubled Bradley to a 3-year contract worth $30 million before the start of the 2009 MLB schedule. Bradley was coming off of a career-year with the Texas Rangers(.321 batting average; .436 on-base percentage; 22 HR’s; 77 RBI’s), so the stats looked enticing. But given the fact that he was 31 years old and given his past “issues”, it would only be a matter of time before Bradley started causing problems in the Cubs locker room and before his on-field production would start to decline because of his age.
Bradley had a horrendous season for the Cubs — .257 batting average; .378 on-base percentage; 12 HR’s; 44 RBI’s. Some part-time players (Jake Fox) had better offensive numbers than Bradley did. What made it worse, however, was the toll his presence took on Bradley’s teammates. The Cubs haven’t had a player who teammates didn’t like this much since Sammy Sosa spent his days blasting his music in the Cubs locker room before each and every game. Bradley didn’t seem to try very hard. He never took any responsibility for his poor play. He blamed the city for being racist and he blamed the fans for saying obscene things to him from the right field bleachers. He never endeared himself to the city and he finally forced Cubs management to suspend him during September 2009 after he made comments that were detrimental to the team. Later that off-season, the Cubs moved Bradley in exchange for Carlos Silva who himself had underperformed in Seattle and was under an expensive contract that no team wanted.
But back to my initial question. While I would love for the Cubs to take it to Bradley (with a pitch right at his chest or back), it doesn’t seem to me that that would even really do anything. If anything, it would actually help to give some life to the “lies” that Bradley has stated about the Cubs organization and the city of Chicago in general. Bradley – at this point in another rough season for the Cubs – is an after-thought. The Cubs have more important things to consider than what Bradley is doing during his stint with his 9th team in 11 years. It would be better for Dempster to go out and strike Bradley out 3 or 4 times, than give him the ability to charge the mound after getting plunked by a Dempster heater. I’d love to see Bradley swing for the fences, and then shrug his shoulders or break his bat over his thigh after he pulled off the golden sombrero of striking out for the 3rd or 4th time in the game.
Now Waddle and Silvy discussed this to the point of overkill on ESPN Radio 1000 this morning. “Meathead” Silvy wants Dempster to plunk Bradley. Waddle, on the other hand, was firmly against it. So it looks like Waddle is 100% in my corner. The Cubs need to focus on putting together a winning streak against a bad Mariners team before they return home to take on the White Sox in round 2 of the crosstown classic over the weekend on the south side. The Cubs need to use the “Bradley factor” as a motivating force for bringing the team together in order to get back into the NL Central race – a race that is far from over as the Cards and Reds continue to plod through the dog days of summer. Maybe this will be the 2007 Carlos Zambrano-Michael Barrett moment for this 2010 squad that will bring a team together as they make an improbable run to an NL Central title. After Big Z popped Barrett a few times in the locker room during a game that sent the catcher to the ER (and eventually out of town in a trade a few weeks later), the Cubs bonded and played amazing team baseball for the duration of the season. Keeping Bradley in check and getting Aramis Ramirez back on Wednesday night could be just what the cubs ordered in order to get them back on track in 2010. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out…