You won't have Bradley to kick around anymore

Milton Bradley blames the fans (and the media). Jim Hendry blames Milton Bradley. Welcome to the cut-throat world of professional sports.

There are few things more precious to a narcissist than seeing other people fail – whether it's in the business world, on reality television, or on baseball fields.

Losing breeds excuses, finger-pointing, and eventually scapegoats.

Behold a narcissist's dream: the 2009 Chicago Cubs.

One day after outfielder Milton Bradley, batting .257 with 40 RBI, told a newspaper, "You understand why they haven't won in 100 years here," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry ended Bradley's season and surely any future seasons with the Cubs.

What he also did was make Bradley the official scapegoat for the Cubs' 2009 season, all the while cleverly pandering to his club's fan base.

Yes, the very person who made Bradley the centerpiece of his entire off-season gallery has officially, once and for all, pointed his finger at the $30 million outfielder in an attempt to distance himself from the one-time object of his affections.

And you thought Obama was a flip-flop.

Tyler Colvin, a much younger and more energetic outfielder recalled from Class AA Tennessee, will take Bradley's roster spot for the remainder of the season.

In an interview Sunday, Mr. Hendry repeatedly used the word ‘intolerable' to describe Bradley's hostility toward Cubs fans.

"Recently, it has become intolerable to hear Milton talk about our great fans the way he has," Hendry said. "We pride ourselves on having the greatest fans in baseball, so at this time we felt it was best to send him home for the rest of the season."

Added Hendry: "That's just something that is intolerable to me: to blame the fans and other things that were blamed."

And on and on it goes.

There is nothing in Hendry's comments -- nothing in his whole act of not-so-subtle finger-pointing and scapegoating -- that should come as a surprise.

In sports, general managers pander to their fan bases. It is the oldest trick in the book for a high-ranking front office member that knows he can be replaced, especially one who by now must surely suspect that he has lost some of the trust of said fan base.

In case you haven't noticed, the Chicago Cubs are once again back to September irrelevance. It has taken three long years, but it finally has happened.

All the while, the arch-rival Cardinals are one of the hottest teams in baseball, surging toward their sixth National League Central crown in the last nine years.

All of this leaves the Cubs as an afterthought. That is quite a tough pill to swallow for someone that assembled a team with the best record in the National League just a year earlier; a team that seemed poised for their deepest postseason run in ages.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Not all of it should fall on Bradley.

One player's attitude and/or failures should not define that of an entire ballclub. But Bradley is the easiest excuse readily available and Hendry, if little else, is smart enough to realize this. Otherwise, why use the same fans Bradley has been critical of to parlay a silly message that essentially just boils down to: ‘He started it!"

Now in his eighth full season as general manager, Hendry has constructed three postseason teams, more than any other Cubs GM one can think of without looking at a Google or Wikipedia cheat sheet.

But he has failed time and again to acquire a legitimate, bona-fide leadoff hitter.

He has failed to build an elite farm system.

He has doled out back-loaded contracts that may directly impact the Cubs future on the free agent market for the next several years.

He has not yet fielded a World Series team.

To his credit, he has acquired All-Star talent via trades and free agency. Aramis Ramirez and Ted Lilly speak to that.

He has done a decent job of removing bad clubhouse figures like Sammy Sosa, Kyle Farnsworth, Michael Barrett and now Bradley -- two of which he brought in in the first place, it should be noted.

He has a knack for finding the occasional hidden treasure and solid puzzle piece.

And he is great at trying to sell slick oil to Cubs fans everywhere.

"This is a great place to play," Hendry said Sunday. "Great ballpark, great city, greatest fans in the world."

That's cute. It also is completely irrelevant. It does not address why the Cubs are 10 games back in their division with 14 to play. At least part of that has to fall on the general manager's shoulders, even if Hendry doesn't seem willing to admit it.

"(I)t was so disconcerting to hear about negativity," Hendry said of Bradley.

Maybe so. But for all the Cubs' problems amidst another meaningless September and the issues facing them going forward, the negativity won't go away anytime soon, regardless of Hendry's sucking up to a fan base he seems eager to protect.

And so the next time the Cubs general manager goes looking for a scapegoat, just remember he won't have Bradley to kick around anymore.

Northsiders Report Top Stories