Sensing he had reached new depths Saturday in the bottomless pit of frustration this baseball season has become, Milton Bradley left a voice mail with his hometown pastor in Carson, Calif.
“I just need to hear some inspirational words and a kind voice,” was Bradley’s message for the Rev. Michael J. Ealey, pastor of Prevailing in Christ Ministries church.
Ealey responded by sending a text message inspired by Philippians 4:13: Remember you can do all things through Christ.
When Charlena Rector, Bradley’s mother, spoke to her son Sunday after the Cubs had suspended him for the rest of the season, she says he repeated that verse and how much he believes in himself.
He might be the only one in Chicago who still does.
“Milton sounded fine,” Rector said in a 45-minute phone interview Monday from her home in Long Beach, Calif. “He was raised in a Christian home. He believes that God don’t make mistakes. ... And if that door in Chicago closes for him, he thinks another one will open. It always does.”
If Bradley would stop coming unhinged, he wouldn’t have to worry about blowing through so many doors around Major League Baseball.
The Cubs finally did what they should have done in June after the ugly confrontation between Bradley and manager Lou Piniella: They told Bradley not to let the door hit him on the way out.
It’s a little late for tough love, but better late than never.
“He has physical skills and mental toughness, but not that third ingredient—emotional toughness,” said Gregg Steinberg, a professor of sports psychology at Austin Peay State University who has observed Bradley from afar. “If you can’t handle that, it’s going to come out in different forms.”
With the Cubs, it usually came in the form of a bad outfielder in a worse mood. Why Jim Hendry didn’t have better foresight when he was in such a hurry to outbid himself for Bradley is a story for another day.
At least Hendry will be around to hear it.
As for Bradley, the Cubs’ overdue disciplinary action represents progress only if it means the organization rids itself of the right fielder rather than trying to rehabilitate him.
Whatever percentage the Cubs need to pay of the $21 million left on Bradley’s deal, they happily should foot the bill if a team will take the outfielder/designated pouter. No matter how much red ink Bradley may spill on new owner Tom Ricketts’ desk, it is addition by subtraction.
Listening to Bradley’s (ex-)Cubs teammates bury him, there is no equation in which Bradley in a Cubs uniform adds up to success in 2010. This is a divorce with irreconcilable differences.
Bradley’s mercurial behavior sounds familiar to Ken Munger, who coached Bradley in the early 1990s at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.
Munger recalled, for example, how pro scouts visited practice but Bradley ignored them, waiting at the opposite end of the field for a ride from his mom.
“The Cubs suspending Milton doesn’t really surprise me,” Munger said. “The Milton I knew was talented but immature. He was never able to resolve conflict.”
That won’t change. So Bradley’s address must.