The Ballad of Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley

Last thursday former Expos, Indians, Dodgers, Athletics, Padres, Rangers, Cubs, and Mariners center fielder Milton Bradley was charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of assault. The charges are serious, he faces up to 13 years in prison, and his actions malicious as Bradley is accused of threatening and abusing his wife at least 5 times since 2011.

Bradley is 34. If he had reached his enormous potential, he would probably still be playing baseball right now. Bradley’s career was littered with uncontrolled emotional outbursts and unnecessary confrontations. Here are just a few of them:

  • August 2003: Pulled over for speeding, but refused the ticket and sped away. Pled innocent to speeding and fleeing charges. Spent three days in jail.
  • March 2004: Banned from Indians training camp after not running out a popup. He was traded to the Dodgers weeks later.
  • June 2004: Ejected from a game for arguing balls and strikes. Later emerged from the dugout and threw a ball bag on to the field.
  • September 2004: Suspended for remainder of season after he picked up a bottle thrown at him by a fan and threw it back into the crowd and screamed at the fan.
  • September 2007: Tore ACL while being held back by manager Bud Black after arguing with an umpire.

The list goes on, but I won’t bore you with the details. Throughout his career Bradley deservingly gained a label for being troublemaker. He moved around a lot, 8 teams in 11 years, and created incidents wherever he went. His bad attitude a result of an extremely difficult childhood, Bradley’s play dropped off a cliff after he signed a three year deal with the cubs in 2009.  Bradley came from a broken home and never really seemed to have any significant support system. There’s no way to rationalize or make excuses for Bradley, what he did was horrible, but his difficult upbringing undoubtedly played a role in his own struggles.

It’s important to consider that Bradley wasn’t a horrible person. After an altercation with a Royals announcer in 2008 Bradley spoke to the Rangers’ clubhouse in tears and said “All I want to do is play baseball and make a better life for my kid than I had, that’s it. I love you guys… I’m strong, but not thats strong.” He also worked with children’s charities in the LA area during his time with the Dodgers and founded two baseball academies near his Long Beach home. Bradley certainly felt obligated to help those less fortunate then himself, but deeply troubled he never found enough support to save him from himself.

The discussion in baseball recently has focused around how Major League Baseball looks down upon steroid and drug use, but doesn’t see the need to police  things like DUI’s, and wife beatings. Instead of debating over steroid use, the office of MLB should put more focus on actually helping players like Bradley and Jones. There are flawed human beings in every facet of society and baseball isn’t dealing with an epidemic, but the journey to the majors is a  taxing process on one’s emotion. Setting up stronger support systems for players that lack such a thing might help minimize tragic stories like Bradley’s.

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