November 4, 2009

And you thought Parker Brothers invented the game “Risk”

How many times do you get to make a first impression? Stupid question, right? Well, apparently – Milton Bradley has had the opportunity to do this several times. Why else would anyone be interested in him? According to Ken Rosenthal, multiple teams are in contact the Cubs about outfielder Milton Bradley, with one source saying, "You would be shocked at the level of interest."

Let’s do the math. Milton Bradley has played for Montreal, Cleveland, the Dodgers, Oakland, San Diego, Texas, and the Cubs. That’s seven teams in ten seasons. I can understand the allure for the first couple teams, but what were the Cubs thinking when they signed him prior to the 2009 season?

Now, I don’t know Milton Bradley, but I have met Milton Bradley. He showed up at a bookstore in Long Beach last off season when his former teammate – Josh Hamilton was doing a book signing. Bradley was reserved, even cool. He signed autographs for fans surprised to see him, he smiled and didn’t say much and just hung out waiting for Hamilton. He seemed liked a nice guy. He seemed like a humble guy. Not what you would expect based on his persona.

I’ve also seen him after games at Angels Stadium, walking to the parking lot with his mom and stopping to sign autographs for fans; again – keeping it cool. My wife Cheryl and I have even commented to one another that he seems like a nice guy. It’s easy to see why some people might actually think he’s misunderstood and maybe, just maybe he’s not so bad.

Wrong. Remember the math class? Let’s ask the question why has he been so many places in such a brief period of time?

Which brings me to a discussion I’ve seen here and there on message board and heard on radio shows. There is some crazy trade proposals surfacing for the Hot Stove season. It has Milton Bradley coming to the Angels for Gary Matthews, Jr. Some people think the two teams could swap “bad” contracts and hope for the best.

Hello? Is anyone home? Tell you what - let me interview Milton before you go that route. I’ve got a plan.

On the night of the next full moon, I’ll invite him to dinner and we’ll go to a nice place away from the public spotlight and then I’ll put him to the test. First, I’ll have the server get his order wrong. Not just a little wrong – completely wrong and then have that person insist it’s exactly what Bradley ordered.

Next, I will have them spill some wine on Bradley and have them ask him if he’d like to pay for another glass. We’ll make sure there’s a well placed roach or two in his meal and when he complains, they’ll ask him to take his coat off so they can inspect it because this is the most likely source of the bug. As the restaurant staff go through his pockets, they’ll keep any cash or personal belongings they find.

During the meal, I’ll throw in a couple of “your mama” jokes, and have people continually interrupt him and ask him if he knows the Parker Brothers. I’ll ask him how it feels to be the fifth best baseball player to ever come out of Long Beach Poly (behind Tony Gwynn, Chris Gwynn, Randy Moffit, and Chase Utley).

When it’s time to leave, valet will bring him the wrong car and insist that this is the car he drove up in. They’ll eventually bring him his real car, but will let him know someone took it out for a joy ride and had a minor fender bender with it. On top of that, the accident was so upsetting the driver had to retch in the passenger seat. They’ll tell him they tried to clean it up, but the bleach seemed to do some damage to the leather seats.

As he leaves the restaurant, a motorcycle cop will pull him over. We’ll make sure he’s a Lou Piniella look-alike. He’ll tell him someone car jacked a vehicle just like his and that he fits the suspect’s description.

I’ll call him collect the next day to let him know that if he comes to the Angels, he won’t be able to bring his mom to the stadium to watch him play. I’ll then set him up to be interviewed by one of the regulars who call in every stinking day on the local Angels talk show because he thinks the show is his own personal forum. That would be sure to break him. Heck some of those people would make me snap.

I wonder what would happen? If by chance he keeps his cool through all of that, then and only then… no wait. I still can’t see it. Not even then would I want him in an Angels uniform. You can fool some of the GM’s some of the time, but you can’t fool this fan.

Let’s face it… somewhere along the line; Milton Bradley is going to make you regret he’s on your team. Unless of course the Yankees’ obnoxious announcer John Sterling says something derogatory about Bradley. In that case, the gloves are off and Bradley can do his thing. But seriously, I don’t think Dr. Phil can even help this guy (or Sterling for that matter).

Then again… there is one thing I would want Milton Bradley for and that’s the post season. Bradley is the kind of guy who isn’t afraid of the spotlight. Guys like Bradley play with a chip on their shoulder. He’s always got something to prove. He doesn’t care who’s on the mound. When he steps into the box, he’s not afraid. He wants to punish you. Guys like Bradley were made for the post season. We got a glimpse of that in 2006 when he hit a homerun from both sides of the plate against the Tigers. He was 9 for 18 in that ALCS.

Bradley isn't the kind of guy who gets that "deer in headlights" look. He's the thing you fear lurking in the dark. When your lights meet his eyes, you're liable to lose your lunch.

There's no questioning the talent. That’s why GM’s will call the Cubs. That’s why he’ll end up on someone’s roster. Watching Bradley in the post season could be a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, it’s getting to the post season with Bradley that would be the nightmare. For someone, it's going to be worth the gamble.

Parker Brothers may have invented the board game called "Risk" - but Milton Bradley took it to a whole new level.

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