The Chicago Cubs knew exactly what they were getting into when they signed OF Milton Bradley to a three-year deal: The arguments with umpires, countless injuries, and absolute quotable gems that Bradley gives out like food stamps to the media.
For the Cubs, Bradley's performance on the field was enough to cause them to overlook these less-than-favorable characteristics, but the time is coming (if it hasn't already) when Bradley will inevitably cross the line.
Thus far, Bradley has had two injury stints, an ejection, and has rapidly developed an extremely negative relationship with the Chicago media. Recently, there have been reports that Bradley is a negative influence in the clubhouse (shocker). In other news, he is also batting .042 with one RBI and .281 OBP.
As a Cubs fan, I was gung-ho about signing Bradley and truly wanted to believe that the old Bradley was gone and that he had changed. Even after his ejection, I was quick to praise Bradley for his competitive fire and genuine desire to win.
What changed my mind was not Bradley's lack of production on the field, not his poor relationship with the media, or his selfish attitude. For me, it was one routine ground ball to short.
During what would become the beginning of a Cubs offensive drought, the Cubs were behind in the seventh inning against the Reds with runners on base and none other than Milton Bradley at the plate. Bradley grounded to Cincy Shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who proceeded to misjudge and bobble the grounder.
Immediately, my heart leaped. He's going to beat it out!
No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than the camera panned to Bradley, who was literally walking to first. Had Bradley exhibited a fraction of the fire at which he yelled at that umpire, he would have undoubtedly reached base safely and knocked in his second run of the year.
Bradley had crossed the line. All of his attitude and off-field issues can be tolerated to a point, but as soon as Bradley's antics put his team's success in jeopardy, I lost all respect for him. Here was a guy that wasn't even batting .100 and thought he was good enough that he didn't have to hustle to beat out grounders.
If not for his own image, Bradley should have at least put his team first and tried to spark a rally.
The Cubs expect Bradley back in the lineup on Tuesday, but if I were Lou Piniella, I'd have him on a short leash. With Kosuke Fukudome's first-half success and Reed Johnson's consistency combined with Bradley's Prior-esque tendency for fluke injuries, Piniella should not hesitate to temporarily bench Bradley if his performance (and attitude) doesn't improve.
After all, this is just another one of the many instances that not only Cubs fans, but all of baseball, has witnessed with Milton Bradley.
Sometimes you just can't seem to teach an old dog new tricks.