Cubs putting Bradley in the past
Hendry, former teammates refute comments to ESPN
MESA, Ariz. -- General manager Jim Hendry said Milton Bradley's implication that someone inside the Cubs organization sent him hate mail last year was "absolutely ridiculous" and the outfielder needs to "look in the mirror."
In an interview with ESPN, Bradley said he received hate mail while with the Cubs that wasn't stamped, suggesting it might have been sent by someone inside. Bradley felt he was a "prisoner in his own home," and said that unless you're "Superman or you're Andre Dawson, Ernie Banks or [in the] Hall of Fame, then it's going to be tough" for African-American players in Chicago.
Hendry said Bradley never said anything to anyone in the Cubs organization about getting hate mail from inside the organization until the interview, which aired Tuesday night.
"That's absolutely ridiculous," Hendry said Wednesday. "That couldn't be farther from the truth. I think it's time maybe Milton looks himself in the mirror. It is what it is, he just didn't swing the bat and didn't get the job done. His production, or lack of, was the only negative."
The Cubs wanted a left-handed bat for the middle of the order and signed Bradley to a three-year, $30 million contract in January 2009. He batted .257 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs and was suspended for the final 15 games of the regular season because of detrimental conduct. Last December, Bradley was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Carlos Silva.
If the problem is racial, Hendry said, why did both Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee say they want to end their careers with the Cubs? And, if there was a problem in Chicago, why would Kevin Millar and Marlon Byrd, who are both represented by the same agents as Bradley, the Levinson brothers, have signed with the Cubs?
"It's really unfortunate you get to that situation where you reflect the lack of production in the year you're here and try to use other things as excuses," Hendry said.
Bradley also said in the interview that he asked Cubs manager Lou Piniella to publicly apologize to him for a comment made last June at U.S. Cellular Field. Piniella made a derogatory comment to Bradley in the clubhouse and sent the outfielder home from a game between the Cubs and White Sox.
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"The next day, [Piniella] called me into his office and wanted to apologize," Bradley told ESPN. "I felt you put me on blast, called me out in front of everybody, you're going to apologize in front of everybody. He didn't choose to go that route, but I accepted his apology nonetheless, because as a Christian, that's what you do. I don't have time to hold grudges against people."
"I apologized to Milton," Piniella said Wednesday. "Listen, I did the best I could and I'm human like anybody else. I bent over backwards to make it as comfortable as I possibly could, and that's all I could do, nothing more, nothing less."
Piniella said he didn't read Bradley's comments and wanted to move on.
"The thing with Milton is that's behind us," Piniella said. "I'm concerned about this year's team. We've got good chemistry here and we're getting ready for a championship season, and that's all I'm concerned with. Anything in the past, we just have to go forward."
The Cubs' players also were eager to turn the page.
"If you think about 2009, you make it worse," Alfonso Soriano said. " is a new year."
"I try to forget the last pitch I threw," Ryan Dempster said.
"We've done our best to move on," Hendry said. "Obviously, we have a great bunch of guys here and a really quality thing going in our clubhouse and organization. We thought we helped Milton move on, too, by putting him in another place. That's how we approach it. It's time to go about our business.
"Obviously, it was a one-year situation, I brought him in to try to help us from the left side. Obviously, it was a mistake and he didn't get the job done, so you move on from your mistakes and make life better for both sides, and that's what we did."
During the ESPN interview, Bradley said his 3-year-old son was called a derogatory name in school, calling that "the last straw." Bradley also was taunted by someone at a restaurant. He had told Chicago beat writers about the incidents last year.
LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones also received hate mail when they played for the Cubs. Is it difficult for African-American players there?
"I don't know -- I'm Caucasian," Dempster said. "'D-Lee' seems to really like it there. He's really enjoyed Chicago and loves playing there. Some other guys I've played with have really had a good time playing there. I know Marlon is going to have a blast playing there. I think any time you struggle, it can be tough, no matter what color your skin is."
As far the Cubs were concerned, Bradley's days with the team ended on Sept. 20 in St. Louis when he was suspended for the remainder of the season because of detrimental conduct.
"We moved on a long time ago -- we moved on in St. Louis and knew that would be the end of Milton's days here," Hendry said. "I think we're all brought up in life to accept responsibilities when we fail and also to judge people by how they act and how they carry themselves when things don't go well. We're seeing a direct example of that in this case."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.