Update: As history unfolds, so must our recordings of it change. Here is the world famous Milton Bradley Timeline with an update for recent events:
I meant to say something intelligent and original about the recent Milton Bradley/Lou Pineilla fracas. But the more I tried to write, the more I found myself thinking back on just how this ridiculous and completely unsurprising situation came to be. What began a cursory glance at the wikipedia page of one of baseball’s most fascinating outfielders unraveled into the following:
1860: A restless printer/lithographer in Massachusetts invents a board game called The Checkered Game of Life and forms a company in his own name to release it. He accumulates vast wealth, and his name, Milton Bradley, comes to personify joy in the form of wholesome family fun. He will die an old and happy man, blissfully oblivious to the suffering his own name will one day cause a young man from Southern California.
1978: A healthy baby boy is born in Harbor City, CA just outside of Long Beach. The boy’s father goes behind his mother’s back to fill out the birth certificate, covertly passing his own name down. Thus is born Milton Obelle Bradley Junior. Said Junior’s duped mother of her husband’s deception: “He wanted a Junior, and made damn sure he got one.”
1996: Milton Bradley is drafted by the Montreal Expos out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Bradley graduated from Long Beach Poly with a 3.7 GPA, and was kicked off the baseball team only once (briefly, his sophomore season for “combativeness”).
2004: A busy year for our hero begins in February when he is sentenced to 3 days in jail for allegedly driving away from the police after being stopped for speeding. Mere weeks later, in March, he is pulled out of a Spring Training game by Cleveland manager Eric Wedge for failing to speed…down the base paths that is! The two exchange words after Bradley allegedly doesn’t run out a pop fly. He is promptly traded to Los Angeles.
2004 B: Bradley’s tenure with the hometown Dodgers finally gets interesting. On a cool June night, Bradley is ejected at home plate after words with the umpire. He screams a lot, is sort of restrained by gangly manager Jim Tracy, and finally lays his helmet, bat, and gloves in the batter’s box calmly and exits the field. All seems right in Chavez Ravine until a moment later, when our hero emerges from the dugout with a bag of baseballs, emptying balls onto the grass and haphazardly launching dozens into the outfield. Five tool player indeed.
2004 C: A fan in Dodger stadium throws a bottle at Milton in the outfield. So he picks it up, strolls over to the stands, and slams the bottle down in the front row, treating fans to a colorful lecture on the fourth amendment and his rights to privacy and not getting beer thrown at him.
2005: Our slightly less angry hero calls teammate Jeff Kent a racist. Nobody really doubts him, but the Dodgers opt to stick with the healthier, more productive Kent. Milton Obelle is dealt to Oakland over the winter for food blogger Andre Ethier. “We got along as best as we could,” said Bradley of his imperfect relationship with Kent, “It didn’t work for me.”
2007: Milton Bradley is now a Padre. In a fervent late-season argument with an umpire, Bradley is restrained by his manager Bud Black. Somehow their legs tangle, and Bradley spins awkwardly to the ground, tearing his ACL. But wait, there’s more! In a Zinedine Zidanian twist, Padres’ First Base coach Bobby Meacham claims that Bradley was baited by the umpire, who uttered ”the most disconcerting conversation I have heard from an umpire to a player.” Either way, the Padres’ playoff chances spiraled to the ground with their center fielder.
2008: Bradley has his best and healthiest year as a big leaguer. As a DH, he leads the American League in batting average and OPS, and makes his first All Star team. He even writes a poignant guest entry about family, faith, and baseball on the New York Times Bats blog. Oh yeah, he also chases down a Royals’ TV commentator after a game over some comments made about his behavior issues. Thankfully, our hero is intercepted before reaching his target, allowing him to redirect the beating toward AL pitchers.
2009: Milton signs a 3-year deal to play outfield for the Cubs. Immediately the Chicago media calls him names. One columnist goes so far as to suggest that the Bradley signing is a mistake, because a player who once accused a teammate of racism might not get along with too well the charmingly racist fans in the Wrigley Field bleachers. (No, don’t examine the racist fan base; question the Milton Bradley for the speculated possibility that he might be sensitive to racism.) He bats terribly and has a rocky relationship with equally charismatically destructive manager Lou Pineilla. Somewhat more surprisingly, Bradley is responsible for a Phil Jackson-esque moment of charming high road Zen. The exchange, courtesy of Saturday’s Chicago Sun Times:
According to sources, Piniella then shouted at Bradley, ”You’re not a player! You’re a piece of sh–!”
Bradley then said, ”I have too much respect for you to respond to that,” a source said.
2009 B: Hitting .257 in September, Milton Bradley is suspended from the Cubs for the duration of the season after blaming Cubs fans for the team’s failure to win a World Series (you would suspect a GM would be thankful for that sort of comment). The suspension leaves Bradley and the Cubs in a sort of purgatory, as it is clear the team does not want him back and he does not want to be back in Chicago. How will this glorious soap opera end? Fear not. Evidently a graduate of the Nothing is Fucked school, or completely unaware that the goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain, Hendry reassures Cubs fans: We don’t anticipate any problems. We’ll have it all worked out in the next few days.
*Editor’s Note: I made a slight edit to the title of the post. The old one was kind of pointlessly mean.