Despite five months full of disappointing offensive production from his brand new free agent outfielder, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry waited until the second-to-last weekend of the year to cut bait on Milton Bradley. The stormy slugger has been suspended for the rest of the regular season.
The straw that broke the camel's back was the interview Bradley gave to the Daily Herald in which his only crime was to say exactly what every Chicago fan has been thinking their entire lives:
"It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You got out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity.
"And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is."
Asked whether he was talking about the fans, the media or even the Cubs organization, he replied: "It's everything. It's everybody."
Burn! So to Milton, the reason his slugging percentage was a miasmic .397 this season, over a 150 point drop from 2008 to 2009, was the poor working environment? Sorry, fella, but there's only so far you can disperse the blame in a situation like this. I don't doubt that the Cubs organization, lacking a vocal figurehead in ownership, operate like a rudderless ship, dispensing contracts and statements and punishments with little to no thought. But that's no excuse for not hitting tater tots.
Sluggers have been playing in poor environments for years and still bashing homers despite organizational discord, dysfunctional clubhouses, and even massive regional racism. Just ask Reggie Jackson. But the faceless corporation that is the Chicago Cubs cannot absorb an emo player like Bradley and keep him happy, productive, and out of the media spotlight. SOMEONE has to take responsibility for the signing.
Therefore, Jim Hendry deserves the biggest slice of the blame pie in this situation. Despite all evidence that pointed to a player with a history of physical and mental distress, Hendry signed Bradley to a 3-year $30 million albatross of a contract to play in one of the two most intense media markets in front of the single most desperate and insane fanbases. Three years and thirty million to play in San Fran would have been smart. Three years and thirty million to play in Florida would have been solid. But three years and thirty million to work in a town with more than enough beat writers to create news from crazy comments? Bad move. Even when Milton gets misquoted.