Friday, December 18, 2009

Cubs' Best Gift May Already Be Under The Tree

Wrote this colm on spec today with a take on the Cubs/Milton Bradley situation that I hadn't heard anyone else express...and three hours later, the Cubs traded the embattled right fielder for scrap-heap pitcher Carlos Silva...thereby rendering this piece OLD NEWS. I'm sure Bradley will have a monster year for the Mariners. It's what Cubs fans come to expect....

So far this holiday season, the Milton Bradley situation has the Cubs looking like a shopper trying to return an unwanted gift without a receipt.

It’s the season of giving. Not the season of giving away. Let’s open our hearts and minds and, more importantly, carefully consider flushing $20 million dollars down the toilet and letting a good right fielder go to another team and help them win in the process.

If you listen to sports radio, you get the impression that Chicago fans yearn for teams of crew-cutted, grindy, soulless zombies. who play hard and keep their mouths shut. Sorry, folks, it ain’t 1957 anymore.

As much as angry callers vent and complain about the antics of
Milton or Manny or T.O. or Ochocinco, TV ratings and internet statistics
show that sports is as much about entertainment as it is about competition.
Admit it. You peek at once in awhile. You tune in to the highlights
each night hoping to see another Milton meltdown It spices things up a bit.
Many people around baseball, and Milton’s own mother, claim that the outfielder lives, eats, and sleeps baseball…that he loves the game.

The fact that he doesn’t run around heart-tapping and blowing kisses to right field fans, or diving for balls that are catchable standing up doesn’t mean that Milton doesn’t care. The image of the “grinder” perpetuated by the White Sox’ ad campaign a couple years back doesn’t exist in the real world of baseball. How many times has Aramis Ramirez taken a rap for not running out a ground ball hard enough? Are fans clamoring for his blood? No.

Remember that sports is entertainment, people. Just like Kanye West’s awards show meltdowns mean nothing (they’re AWARDS SHOWS), Milton’s expression of last season’s frustrations to the Daily Herald (“It’s easy to see why they haven’t won in 100 years here”) should be taken at face value. Frustrated words from a frustrated superstar.

The Cubs didn’t sign Bradley to be the VP of Public Relations. They signed him to smack baseballs around the outfield and drive in runs. Even Lou Pinella was so frustrated by season’s end that his post-game press conferences were reduced to hand-wringing and groaning (“I’m doing the best I can. That’s all I can do”)

HE MUST GO! HE CAN’T STAY! bellow fans online and on-air.

But why? What has Milton Bradley done that is so wrong, so completely unforgivable?
He hasn’t murdered anyone, hasn’t maimed any innocent puppies, hasn’t been arrested or
accused of anything immoral. He hasn’t tested positive for any performance enhancing
drugs. Why are so many fans and talking heads ready to run him out of town?

Consider for a moment that, just maybe, Milton has already done the time for
last season. Suspended by Hendry for the final 2 weeks of the season, he disappeared from the radar. The only noise coming from Camp Bradley was in the form of a brief interview given by his mother, who said that Milton hoped for a second chance from the Cubs, and that he was distracted by treatment of his 3 year old son at school, hearing the N-word from teachers, parents, and students.

While Bradley hasn’t publicly claimed acts of racism toward his son, what if it DID happen? How would YOU handle that type of situation? If you knew, every day, that your child may be subject to verbal abuse at school…would you be completely focused on your job? The argument that players are “professionals”, that because they command outrageously high salaries for playing a game for a living, doesn’t hold water in the real world. Ballplayers have emotions, too.

Team Chemistry? Poppycock. Overvalued. Some of the best championship teams in history had players who barely spoke, let alone got along. It’s the nature of the beast in a room of 25 highly paid egos and abilities. Look around your own workplace, or dorm room. Do YOU get along with everybody?

Let’s not forget that Milton Bradley wasn’t the lone reason for the Cubs’ disappointing 2009 season. The bullpen, starting rotation, and batting order all played a part in a down year. But maybe it was just that… a down year. A blip. An abberation.

Finally, look at the bigger picture, Cubs fans. Would you rather roll the dice on a motivated Bradley regaining past form and knocking in 100 runs with a killer OBP, oreat $20 million, take Pat Burrell or someone similar in the process, and trade them for a low-level prospect while Milton rediscovers his stroke somewhere else and helps another club reach the postseason?

Now, think about the $20 million as though YOU were responsible for it. As though you were the President of the Cubs. What would you do?

In the online short film “We Were Once a Fairytale”, director Spike Jonze
shows Kanye West throwing his celebrity weight around obnoxiously in a nightclub
VIP room. As the night goes on, Kanye’s behavior gets more and more outrageous.
Suddenly, the realization that he’s behaving like a petulant child hits Kanye, and he retreats to the bathroom, where he guts himself with a Bowie knife and pulls a monster out of his belly. West cuts the umbilical cord tethering the tiny beast to him, and gives the little monster a knife to commit hari-kari.

Pop some popcorn, Jim Hendry, and invite MB and his agent over to watch this genius piece of filmmaking. Then have a group hug, apologize to each other, and pledge to start fresh. Forgive, forget, and look to the future.

After all, it’s the holidays. And for Cubs fans, a re-energized Milton Bradley just might be the gift that keeps on giving.


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