Bradley, Ethier linked by notable trade
Cubs, Dodgers outfielders now going in different directions
On the very day the Chicago Cubs decided they had seen enough of Milton Bradley and sent him home, the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans just couldn't get enough of Andre Ethier.
And just what does Bradley have to do with Ethier? Plenty. They are connected by a trade nearly four years ago that resulted in Ethier becoming a member of the Dodgers and a driving force in the team's bid for postseason success.
On Sunday at Dodger Stadium, Ethier hit his team-leading 31st home run and ran his RBI total to 101. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, where the Cubs were preparing to play the Cardinals, Chicago GM Jim Hendry met with Bradley to tell the outfielder he was suspended for the final two weeks of the season.
"There have been a lot of issues that we've lived with during the year but the last few days became too much for me to tolerate, to be honest with you," Hendry told MLB.com. "I'm not going to allow disrespect to other people in that locker room and uniformed personnel."
The story of the Bradley-Ethier trade is one that goes even deeper than what appears to be a lopsided deal.
It's a story of old-school scouting going up against a team that gained attention in "Moneyball," a book that featured the inner-working of the Oakland A's with an emphasis on finding value where others supposedly failed to look.
In a way, it's the story of a veteran scout who sits quietly in a Minor League ballpark and matching wits and expertise against all of the computers you can assemble in the front office of a Major League team.
The baseball deal we reference was made on Dec. 13, 2005, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics.
The deal sent Bradley and infielder Antonio Perez from the Dodgers to the A's for Ethier, a Minor League player at the time.
The transaction came a week after the baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas when the Dodgers made it clear to other teams they felt Bradley needed a change of scenery.
At the time of the trade, there was no question of Bradley's talent. He had shown his skills with both Montreal and Cleveland but there also were traces of an attitude that left field managers and front offices to wonder if Bradley could be a part of a winning team.
The Dodgers acquired Bradley from Cleveland at the start of the 2004 season and but after two years he had worn out his welcome in his hometown of Los Angeles.
"I had to find a place for Milton where he could get a fresh start," said Dodger GM Ned Colletti in recalling the events of the Winter Meetings of 2005. "And people knew we had to do it. So we were kind of in a tough situation."
One general manager who was daring enough to step up and explore the possibility of a trade for Bradley was Oakland's Billy Beane, saluted in the book "Moneyball."
Beane and Colletti couldn't come to an agreement on a trade at the Winter Meetings in Dallas but about a week later the Oakland GM called to say he would do a deal of Ethier for Bradley if the Dodgers would add the infielder Perez to the package.
The first call Colletti made was to his veteran scout, Al LaMacchia, who had encouraged the trade for Ethier at the time of the meetings.
"Ned told me that Beane wanted us to toss in another player in the deal and I told him to do it," LaMacchia recalled Monday. "The player Beane was asking about was a utility-type guy and I told Ned we could fill that spot.
"I told Ned that Ethier could be special and he had the chance to hit 30-plus home runs and drive in 100 runs. Furthermore, I had seen him play in Double-A ball in Midland, Texas, and his work ethic and makeup were off the charts. He had a stroke that reminded me of Shawn Green, who was a heck of a player."
LaMacchia is 88 years old and has been scouting for more than 50 years. He doesn't hide the fact that he believes the best decisions on players are made by the scouts who sit behind home plate and watch every movement during a game.
"I don't use a computer, but when the discussion of Ethier came up during the Winter Meetings that year, I told Ned to look up my report if he's got it on the computer, because I know the report I sent in -- Ethier can play and be productive for many years."
LaMacchia said one of the areas he values highly is the makeup and work ethic of a player. He recalled that prior to the Winter Meetings of 2005 he attended the Dodgers' organizational meetings and heard discussions as to how the team planned to form a support group to help Bradley with some of the behavioral issues that had developed.
"I stood up and asked a very basic question with all of the scouts and executives in attendance," recalled LaMacchia. "I said, 'What makes you think this player is going to change when he has shown a history of running into various problems.' You could have heard a pin drop."
In this case, you can chalk one up for the old scout. A man who has devoted most of his life to the game he loves.
Al LaMacchia stills scouts for the Dodgers in the Texas area, catching as many Minor League games as his schedule allows.
He finds satisfaction in simply doing his job, trying to spot players where he sees value. Never touching a computer, but using his eyes, his mind and his memory.
There are rewards. On Monday, he got a phone call from a Major League player just before that player headed East on the team's flight to begin a road trip.
Andre Ethier just wanted to check in and say hello. Oh yes, he also wanted to say thanks.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.