The city of Chicago has been so excited about Jay Cutler and the Bears, that baseball has sort of fallen by the wayside. I think this is the first time in my short life that I could care less what the Cubs do on a daily basis. They've screwed with my head enough over the last 6 months. It's time to stress out over something else.
But on Sunday, I came home from work to find a headline on ESPN.com that said the Cubs had suspended Milton Bradley for the rest of the 2009 season.
You'd think that would excite me a lot more than it actually did.
As I mentioned in the Case of the Mondays post, Milton was suspended for what amounts to "conduct detrimental to the team".
By the way, that's a very broad term. It could really mean anything. He really should have been suspended after April and May, because his crappy play was detrimental to the Cubs. I'm serious on that one.
Anyways, Milton made some comments to the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles. I think that if it were the first time he had said anything at all, than I wouldn't be writing this now. I think it was the straw that broke the camel's back though.
"You understand why they haven't won in 100 years here," said Bradley. He also said he needs a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. Well I'm sorry Milton. This is Chicago. Every other Cubs player has embraced playing here. You don't hear Kevin Gregg talking about how much he gets booed after giving up a home run. You don't hear Soriano complaining about hearing it from the fans after swinging at a slider that's still in the pitcher's hand. You brought this on yourself Milton.
Cubs' center fielder Reed Johnson said "I came from Toronto and come here and just like fall in love with the city and fall in love with the organization. It's just hard for me to believe that you can come to this city, come to this organization, and not enjoy your time here." That seems to be the common theme among Cubs players. Ryan Theriot agrees.
"This market, Chicago, is one like no other," he said. "Personally, I love it, and I think everybody that plays here embraces it and loves it. I think we all feel lucky to be able to play here. I got some advice from a former teammate … in St. Louis over the weekend."
That pretty much sums it up right there. By the way...are there any doubts that those comments came from one Mark DeRosa?
Before Milton Bradley, the Cubs were a 97 win team that didn't show up when October came. Lou Piniella desperately wanted to get "more left-handed", specifically for teams that have lots of right-handed pitching. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but really, the Cubs should have seen this all coming when they signed Milton.
After Milton Bradley, the Cubs sit at 77-72, 10 games out of the division and 7.5 out of the wild card. They're mathematically not eliminated, but realistically they've been out of it for a long time now. They've had to endure several of Milton's trademark controversies, the most recent coming when he reportedly refused to pinch hit over the weekend in St. Louis.
Why do you want a guy like that on your team? A guy who won't listen, doesn't want to play, and disrupt the chemistry in the clubhouse?
Speaking of chemistry in the clubhouse, multiple sources are reporting that it's much better in there now that they don't have to worry about Milton. I'll bet Derek Lee is the most relieved, seeing as his locker was right next to Milton's at Wrigley. Bruce Levine of ESPN.com mentioned the upbeat atmosphere in his blog from yesterday. I saw it too. When I would go in the clubhouse this year, even after a win, the mood would only be slightly different than if they had lost. The music would be on, and guys might be a bit more willing to talk.
It's not only the players that seem happier. Lou Piniella said he fully supports Jim Hendry's decision. I have to think he's ecstatic that he doesn't have to deal with Milton anymore. I liken Piniella's dealings with Bradley to a grandpa dealing with his brat grandchild (only because I was kind of a brat when I was little). Lou is 66 years old, and has probably only one more season left managing baseball. Do you think he really wants to deal with a little baby?
The downside of the suspension is clearly only financial. The Cubs signed Milton to a 3 year, $30 million contract. They paid him $8 million this year, which leaves $22 million to be paid over the next two years of his deal. In my opinion (I'm not about to move mountains here), Jim Hendry needs to do everything in his power to get someone to take Bradley off his hands.
If that means eating half his salary, so be it. Let him go to Kansas City, or Pittsburgh, or Washington (I think Cubs fans would prefer Pittsburgh so they could boo the hell out of him every time the Pirates come to town). Those are comfortable, pressure-free environments where he could vanish into anonymity. He could hit .350 and nobody would care.
It's a shame that Milton's stay has to end like this. As Carrie Muskat says in her blog, he's got a chance to be a really good ball player. But his disciplinary problems go back to the minors, and it looks like they're going to follow him wherever he goes.
Since the suspension, the Cubs are 2-0. We'll see if they can play well the rest of the year, and I hope they come back in 2010 with that same loose attitude they had last year.