I'm sure there are a large and very vocal majority of Cubs fans that are trying to figure out how exactly the Cubs gave $30 million bucks to Milton Bradley. Didn't they know that Bradley was a nut job? Or how about his injury history? Did Hendry really believe that Milton Bradley could fit in with the Cubs?
Well, after some archive digging, I think whatever rationale the Cubs had at the time, no matter how illogical or stupid it looks now, will come to light.
So much has been made that the Cubs signed Bradley because he led the AL in OPS in 2008 and the Cubs needed help from the left side of the dish. All of that is true. A healthy and productive Bradley would have made the Cubs 2009 lineup one of the best in baseball on paper.
But what so many people are forgetting about Bradley is that the Cubs really thought that Bradley was a changed man and would fit in very well in Chicago. Take a look at some of these quotes:
cubs.com: (January 8, 2009):"As we left the restaurant and stood on the curb waiting for the driver ... [Bradley] said, 'I know it's going to take some time and you have some work to do, but I want to be a Chicago Cub if you want me,'" Hendry said.
"I knew when I left that restaurant that night that he was our guy."
cubs.com: (January 8, 2009): "The opinion that he wouldn't be a good teammate or he would be a disruption in the clubhouse couldn't be further from the truth," Hendry said.
MLB.com (January 9, 2009): "He's at a point in his life now where I think he's got it together real good," Hendry said.
Chicago Sun Times: (April 15, 2009): ''I think the fans are going to love him, too,'' Hendry said. ''I don't know why race would ever come into it. He's no different than the rest of us. We've all made a few mistakes in our day and certainly when we were younger. But so many people he played with and played for the last couple years [spoke well of him]. I've felt very comfortable with him coming in here all along.''
WIFR (January 16, 2009): Piniella brushed off any concerns about Bradley's past, and Bradley says he thinks he and Piniella will "click well."
Hell, even Bradley himself was optimistic about finally having some long term security and playing in Chicago.
MLB.com: (February 15, 2009):"It's the Cubs -- who wouldn't want to play for the Cubs?" Bradley said. "They already have a great team in place. I'm coming in, trying to add something to that. They haven't won in 100 years. You come in and you know you have that, I guess you call it 'pressure'—that's the media word, 'pressure'—it's not really like that.
"I just want to be on a team that's going to win. That's all I want to do. Playing at home [stinks] if you're not winning. The Cubs, there's a good team here and we're going to win. I want to be a part of that."
Chicago Sun Times: (April 15, 2009):''I can be like that guy that you watch all the time for whatever reason,'' he said, referring to his track record of angry outbursts and run-ins. ''But I really think I've outgrown it, a lot of the stuff that I did when I was younger.''
Chicago Tribune (January 18, 2009): "I have every intention of being here a long time. This is where I wanted to be a long time. I've had it on my radar, so I have no intention of going anywhere."
Chicago Tribune (February 16, 2009): "As much as we courted him, I've never seen a player court us like he did," Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney told fans at the Cubs Convention. "He was scouting us in the third game of the division series, sitting in Los Angeles trying to figure out where he would play in our lineup, and he left himself, basically, with no escape clause.
"He was negotiating with us and really didn't have a safety net. This is a guy who chose Chicago and the pressure and the limelight. I don't think he expects to fail. He wants to be a Cub."
And for those Cubs fans that think the Bradley signing was some crazy idea that GM Jim Hendry just suddenly acted on, think again.
ESPN.com (January 6, 2009): General manager Jim Hendry talked to former GMs, managers and players who've associated with Bradley over the years.
"What I found out was the perception of him not being a positive in the clubhouse couldn't have been farther from the truth," Hendry said.
SI.com (March 6, 2009): Hendry was eyeing Bradley from a distance for quite a while, and Bradley was impressed by the GM's forthrightness. Hendry told him right away that he was their guy, but that he had to clear up a couple questions related to the ownership change before making an offer. Just like Hendry said, once those questions were cleared up, he called Bradley.
"Jim Hendry's an honest, fair guy," Bradley said. "You don't meet too many like that in this business. He told me it would take some time with the ownership situation but that we'd get it done. I believed him.''
Daily Herald (January 17 2009): "Speaking of assuming," Hendry began, "I think you've assumed in that question that he's not good in the clubhouse. We knew we needed a left-handed hitter by the first week of October, and if you noticed, we didn't sign Milton until the first week of January. So there was a heck of a lot of work done, a lot of information gathering, a lot of medical testing, a lot of discussion with a lot of his ex-teammates from every club, managers, general managers."
So it seems as though the Cubs tried to do everything they could to ensure that the Milton Bradley experiment would not fail. GM Jim Hendry took his time with the process in order to get as many different opinions as possible. What's amazing to me is that everyone in the Cubs organization thought that this would work—or simply just talked themselves into saying that.
Either way, the Milton Bradley experiment in Chicago has been a huge fail.
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