Thursday, June 12, 2008

Matt Kemp : Surly :: Milton Bradley : ?

Since Matt Kemp is the player whose behavior has come under the microscope of late, SoSG thought we should take time to put this in historical perspective, juxtaposed against a different Dodgers player, Milton Bradley.

Bradley, as you may recall, had quite the combustible personality. Even before he was traded to the Dodgers in 2004, he had had a dugout squabble with Cleveland Indians coach Eric Wedge during spring training. Bradley's two-year tenure with the Dodgers was overshadowed by bottle-throwing incidents with fans and spontaneous eruptions to the press, so he was traded to Oakland in 2006, before being dished to San Diego in late 2007. With the Padres, he tore his ACL when coach Bud Black tried to restrain him from going after an umpire. Throughout his career, his baseball talents (he has 14 HR and 45 RBI this year, as the Rangers' DH, batting .333) have been overshadowed by his crazy temper.

And I admit, when watching Kemp strike out (with 66 Ks, he leads the team by a margin of over 20 Ks) and break his bat over his leg, or get into a skirmish with Yorvit Torrealba over an apparently unintentional and slight bump, it's easy to start thinking, "Wow, that Kemp is just like Bradley--and he was a headcase."

Except it's not a fair comparison. Sure, they both have similar career OPSs (.820 vs .819). But Bradley is 30. Kemp is 23. Kemp is still growing up. Bradley is certifiably nuts.

And just in time to remind us all of how insane his behavior was/is, Bradley went off last night, storming from the Texas Rangers' clubhouse to confront a Royals television announcer about what he interpreted were critical comments:

Milton Bradley stormed out of the Texas Rangers clubhouse after an 11-5 victory Wednesday night over Kansas City and bounded up four flights of stairs looking for Royals television announcer Ryan Lefebvre.

Bradley, who was the designated hitter, heard what he considered derogative remarks made by Lefebvre on a TV in the Rangers clubhouse.

General manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington were close behind and intercepted Bradley before he reached Lefebvre.

"I don't want to get necessarily into the details," Daniels said. "He was upset. Someone who doesn't know him was passing judgment on TV. It was obvious he was hurt by the comments."

Bradley never reached Lefebvre, although he was within about 20 feet of him in the TV booth before being led back down to the clubhouse.

"There was no incident," Daniels said.

Upon returning to the clubhouse, Bradley screamed at teammates [ed. note: what did his teammates do to provoke such verbal abuse?] and broke down in tears.

"I'm tired of people bringing me down," Bradley said. "It wears on you. I love you guys, all you guys. I'm strong, but I'm not that strong. All I want to do is play baseball and make a better life for my kid than I had."

Several of Bradley's teammates consoled him after he calmed down.

Lefebvre, who is the son of former major league manager Jim Lefebvre, said he met with Daniels and Washington about his on-the-air comments, but did not talk to Bradley. Lefebvre said the comments were intended to praise Josh Hamilton, who missed nearly four years of professional baseball with cocaine and alcohol additions, rather than tear down Bradley.

"It was a conversation about how Josh Hamilton has turned his life around and has been accountable for his mistakes," Lefebvre told The Associated Press. "Right now, it seems like the baseball world and fans are rooting for him. ... It doesn't seem like Milton Bradley has done the same thing in his life."


"We weren't singling out Milton Bradley," Lefebvre said. "We also spent a lot of time complimenting Milton Bradley, but that's not what he heard when he was in the clubhouse.

"We weren't tearing up Milton Bradley. I told [Washington and Daniels] this wasn't a Milton Bradley rip session, but just based on the pictures we've seen in this series of him walking to the dugout all the way to right field, dropping his bat, making gestures to the fans in right field and above the dugout and taunting them. He's the only person in baseball I know that does that type of stuff."

Ah, the good ol' days with Milton Bradley on the Dodgers. Remember those?

I'll take Matt Kemp. He looks just fine to me.

UPDATE 6/12 6.25p: Whoops, my bad! Bradley simply "wanted to introduce himself" to the Royals broadcaster. But of course! I'm sure Bradley was carrying a bouquet of balloons as well.


Alex Cora said...

Hey Sax, I think Bradley is at your front door after that "Bradley is certifiably nuts" comment. You had better watch your back!

Steve Sax said...

Maybe Matt Kemp will protect me.

That is, if Ned hasn't traded him already. (Don't even think about it, Neddie! Don't listen to Robothal!)

Mike Scioscia's tragic illness said...

Ahh, Milton Bradley. How I don't miss you, though I did enjoy calling you "Gameboy".

I made a list of his trangressions after he blew out his knee last year, looks like it's time to update it!

karina said...

I think there's a remarkable difference between Bradley and Kemp: Bradley is a volatile person and Matt Kemp just gets frustrated for some poor performance, which it means he actually cares, a la Big Z.
I don't condone some of his actions on field but i'll take a passionate player to an indifferent one, any day (someone recalls some Andruw Jones statements earlier in the season?)
Besides, we should show some love to Bradley, since we got Ethier for him, do you imagine our outfield with another mediocre and overpaid player? (not saying names, we all know them well) and no one can say Andre Ethier hasn't been an important part of the team, maybe he could have better numbers if he had seen more playing time last season.