The Cubs need to get rid of Milton Bradley, the sooner the better. I was half-expecting this would happen before the Sept. 1 waiver deadline, though that's increasingly unlikely. Will he be traded during the off-season? Bradley has been playing very well lately, but it's becoming clear he uses his own unhappiness and the hatred he claims to feel from others as fuel.
He has said he faces racial hatred daily at Wrigley Field, which is a sad accusation that must be taken seriously--though as Steve Rosenbloom noted recently, it's hard to address the problem when Bradley pulls it into the spotlight, but doesn't take it seriously himself.
Does it actually happen the way Bradley said? Undoubtedly, there are a few idiots out there whose criticism of poor play becomes racially-tinged, and who might tell a joke with a racist punch line in front of dozens of other people around them in the stands. Some of us might vocally object, but most of us silently protest and maybe we should start speaking up. It probably happens in all ballparks, not to mention everwhere in America--something that having an African-American President doesn't automatically cure, even though we would like that to be the case. Wherever and whenever it happens, it's unforgivable behavior, and the Cubs should do more to investigate than simply tell Bradley not to listen.
However, it's also true that the vast majority of fans don't take part in such behavior. Bradley decided to label all of us racists, which is unfair and makes it harder to enjoy this already hard-to-enjoy season. Being a fan is a two-way relationship. You appreciate the players, applauding a great effort and booing a poor, under-achieving, and you want to have a sense that they appeciate your appreciation and know that your criticism will pass as their own effort improves.
As a participant in many fantasy baseball leagues, I have liked Bradley as a hitter for many years. He has always had a real knack for getting on base and driving in runs and even stealing a base or two. That's what the Cubs saw, too, when they signed him at a time that other teams probably were afraid to sign him because of his past confrontations with umpires, other players and the media. Some people might argue to cut Bradley now or trade him because he hasn't played up to par, but the fact is that he is now playing up to his potential. Is it enough to bring the Cubs all the way back and win the division or capture the wild card? Those ships probably have sailed too far toward the horizon to catch now, but you've got to applaud Bradley's effort either way, and if he wasn't earning his salary before, he is earning it now.
Yet, it makes me sad that while I watched him--and applauded him on--the other night when he went 4-4, he wasn't feeling my appreciation at all, and in fact felt the opposite. I guess we are both unhappy, and if he will be happier somewhere else, the Cubs should make that move possible ASAP regardless of how well he continues to hit.
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