Hendry right not to put up with Bradley
Cubs GM took big step in dismissing disgruntled outfielder
Hats off to Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. He finally had enough of Milton Bradley's behavior and showed him the door on Sunday.
That Hendry took such a bold move by suspending Bradley for the remainder of the season tells me a lot about the GM.
Hendry and manager Lou Piniella -- not to mention the players -- have swallowed hard and tolerated Bradley most of this disappointing season, but when the outfielder began openly criticizing the Cubs, their fans and the media, he had to go.
Hendry admitted there have been "issues we've all lived with during the year."
Bradley has had publicized battles with umpires, blasted Cubs fans and been downright nasty to the media. Last month he talked about the daily "hatred" he encounters that he suggested is racially motivated (Bradley is African-American). He added that he prays "the game goes just nine innings so I can go out there [on the field] for the least amount of time possible."
Club officials have a history of often turning their backs on difficult player decisions like this. It's not uncommon to play down unacceptable behavior from players. They're always leery of a grievance from the powerful Players Association, are concerned about their financial investment and other repercussions.
Bradley's reputation has followed him through his tumultuous career. No one will ever doubt his talent, but he's never been able to control his anger even though he's undergone treatment for the latter.
A Saturday interview with the Arlington Heights, Ill., Daily Herald, was the last straw for Hendry.
During the interview, Bradley was asked if he enjoyed his first season in Chicago.
"Not really," he said. "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. Everyone is just bashing you. You go out there and play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity."
When Hendry responded with "the only real negativity here is his own production," he couldn't have said it better.
There are no better fans in Major League Baseball than the often frustrated, but loyal Cub followers at Wrigley Field. Sure, the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908, but their fans remain devoted.
This season has been a nightmare. The Cubs were picked by many to win the National League Central, but in the past six weeks have watched the superior St. Louis Cardinals all but wrap up the title.
Clubhouse chemistry has been mentioned as one of the underlying reasons for their demise. I feel certain Bradley has been a key part of that problem.
Piniella said, "I don't know how many times I heard from the media last year we had the best clubhouse in the league. Things don't change that rapidly in a year."
Unless Bradley is in that clubhouse.
"At the end of the day, he was provided with a great opportunity to be part of a really great organization with a lot of really good guys," teammate Ryan Dempster told the Chicago Tribute. "It just didn't seem to make him happy -- anything. Hopefully, this is a little bit of a wake-up call for him, and he'll realize how good of a gig you have here.
"It probably became one of those things where you start saying things that you're putting the blame on everybody else. Sometimes you've got to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself."
I don't believe Bradley has ever been able to do that.
The other day, Bradley took himself out of the lineup because of what he said was soreness in his knee. The day before Piniella lifted him in a double switch. The day he said he couldn't start, he refused to pinch-hit late in the game.
Piniella has gone out of his way to work with Bradley, even after player and manager had a heated confrontation in June.
Piniella is a demanding, but fair, manager. His track record speaks for itself.
"I've tried to make it as comfortable as I possibly could," said Piniella. "I learned giving him space was the best approach."
Signing Bradley to a three-year, $30-million contract during the offseason was a mistake by Hendry. The GM was enticed by Bradley's .321 average, 22 homers and 77 RBIs with Texas last season. He led the American League in on-base percentage (.436) in 2008.
"We had a couple of good years and we were 0-6 in the postseason and felt like we had to mix and match to get a little more left-handed," Hendry told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. "Obviously, in this situation the numbers didn't match up with what his production had been."
Bradley, a switch-hitter, was batting just .231 from the left side and .257 overall with 12 homers and 40 RBIs.
"The last few days became too much for me to tolerate," said Hendry. "I'm certainly not going to let our great fans become an excuse. I'm not going to tolerate not being able to answer questions from the media respectfully. Whether you feel like talking or not it's all part of our jobs. ... And I'm certainly not going to let a player talk about negativity of the organization."
Bradley insists reporters and others are out to get him, but Dempster said if "reporters are always looking for you to stick a microphone in your face, if you notice they're always looking for you, maybe you're looking for them."
What happens to Bradley next is uncertain. His days with the Cubs are obviously finished.
They still owe him about $20 million and undoubtedly will have to pay it if they cannot find another team to take him. Despite his ability, another Major League team would be taking an enormous risk to add Bradley.
But for Hendry and the Cubs even though $20 million is an enormous amount of money, ridding the clubhouse from this despicable player would be well worth the investment.
Hendry, to his credit, made the first move. With new Cubs ownership, it will be interesting to follow this saga during the offseason.
Years and years ago my dad told me, 'Sometimes, you're better off to add by subtracting.'
That's what Hendry did Sunday.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.