04/01/2004 11:43 AM ET
Bradley leaves Indians camp
GM Shapiro to discuss situation Thursday afternoon
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
|The Indians have traded outfielder Milton Bradley to the Dodgers. (MLB.com photo illustration)
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Indians gambled that they could tame Milton Bradley's volatile personality. They lost.
After two-plus, often stormy seasons with Bradley, Shapiro said Thursday that he was shopping the talented outfielder. But Shapiro made it clear he wasn't going to give the 25-year-old Bradley away.
He might not have to.
"I've had open trade conversations with probably seven or eight teams right now," he said. "Four or five of which are somewhat legitimate."
He put no timeframe on when he might complete a deal for Bradley, who cleaned out his locker stall at Chain of Lakes Park early Thursday. But Bradley can probably begin to count his remaining time with the Indians in days.
He all but ordered up his own trade when he left the team Wednesday afternoon in Kissimmee, Fla., after manager Eric Wedge benched him.
In the bottom of the second inning, Bradley jogged to first after he'd hit a popup to short center field. The ball dropped, and Bradley had to settle for one base, not two. He could have easily reached second on the play if he had hustled.
Through a team spokesman, Bradley had said he had a "strained groin."
While letting Shapiro speak to the issue, Wedge seemed to dispute any notion that an injury had anything to do with Bradley's lack of hustle.
"It was a situation where I didn't like the way he ran on that popup," Wedge said. "He said he was tight, so I felt like it was best to get him out of there."
Standing outside the visitors' clubhouse in street clothes, Bradley had declined Wednesday to talk about what had happened in the ballgame. He waited for a cab, and once the cab arrived, he rode away from the ballpark as the Indians continued their game with the Astros.
That fact seemed to bother Wedge as much as Bradley's lack of hustle did. He said Bradley did not have permission to leave the team.
"It's an internal matter," Wedge said. "We're working through a process right now, and we have to see how it plays out. When it does, we'll let everybody in on it."
He did not say what Bradley's immediate future with the Indians would be. Neither he nor Shapiro said Bradley had been suspended, but Shapiro said the outfielder would not be with the club in the final days of Spring Training.
Bradley was acquired during the transition from John Hart to Shapiro as Indians GM in a trade deadline deal on July 31, 2001, in exchange for right-hander Zach Day. Shapiro, who was Hart's assistant GM at the time of the trade, took over for Hart as GM at the end of the season.
After a series of incidents over the past 2 1/2 seasons, the organization came to view Bradley as a distraction, culminated in Wednesday's actions, and Wedge said the team could not afford that distraction as it prepared to start the 2004 season.
Shapiro concurred, which is why he's listening to offers for Bradley, who had a breakout season in 2003. He led the Indians with a .321 average. He hit 10 homers and had 56 RBIs.
His numbers might well have been better if injuries hadn't limited him to 101 games and 377 at-bats.
Those injuries have been a concern as well, because the Indians needed a center-of-the-diamond talent like Bradley in the lineup every game.
"He's got some serious talent -- front-line talent," one Major League scout said today. "He's a great athlete with great instincts, and great athleticism and instincts are a rare talent."
But that front-line talent often fell victim to Bradley's brooding and me-first approach to the game. Bradley didn't necessarily fit the ideal profile the organization might want in a young player.
Speaking in broad terms, Shapiro outlined what the organization looked for in its young players.
"A level of professionalism, a level of passion, respect, those are the kinds of characteristics we're looking for in our players," he said.
Bradley, though, had passion. No one doubted that fact. What he lacked, a teammate said, was professionalism and respect for the game.
At some point, those character flaws led to Bradley's crossing the line, but Shapiro said what happened in Kissimmee wasn't the only thing that put the Indians and Bradley at loggerheads.
Shapiro declined to go into details. He did say he regretted that he couldn't get Bradley to fit into the organization seamlessly, because his talent, Shapiro said, could make the Indians a better team.
He said he had remained open to the view that Bradley was a different sort of personality. But not even his talents allowed the Indians to ignore those differences forever.
"There's a line in which people can express their individualism, and there's a line they can't cross," said Shapiro, who was bitterly disappointed that he was at this point. "At some point, you have to make sure that line's meaningful.
"You start to blur it too far, and it's questionable what you stand for as an organization."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.