Friday was an eventful day at Wrigley Field. First, Piniella admitted that he had smoked dope once and it hadn't "done a damn thing" for him. Speaking with the same reporters, Bradley lamented his solitude in the clubhouse. Then he flew out, threw his helmet and punched the
water cooler, prompting Piniella to bench him and stoking a heated exchange between the two in the clubhouse. Bradley left the field in street clothes, and — voila! — the Milton Bradley Meltdown of 2009 was off and running. Piniella's days of dope seemed, like, so 1960s.
But, you see, Bradley's not the one to blame here. It doesn't matter that he's a grown man making $30 million over the next three years just to play baseball, chase seagulls and, otherwise, keep his mouth shut. It's hard for him to do that when no one in the clubhouse will talk to him, so he has to lash out to get everyone's attention:
"This isn't me," Bradley told the Tribune before his confrontation with Piniella. "I've always excelled at playing baseball, and to come here and suck like I have, it's just not a good feeling. And there's really not one guy who I can sit and talk to. I've been on teams where I have guys I know, or somebody I can just vent to."
Derrek Lee has a locker next to Bradley and they speak frequently. So why not vent to Lee?
"We just don't have that bond," he replied. "'D-Lee' is cool. He's quiet. But things change. I had a good rapport with [fired hitting coach Gerald Perry]. I trusted Gerald and I could talk to him, and he's gone. I think I clicked with [ex-Cub outfielder Joey] Gathright, and he's gone. So you just kind of feel like you're on an island, and trying to stay afloat."
Bradley said the Cubs are a "good group of guys," but he hasn't formed any real relationships yet.
"The teammates, they're there and they say all the right things," he said. "But it's just [small talk]."
Lee said the Cubs players have no issues with Bradley.
"When we're in the clubhouse, everyone gets along with Milton," Lee said. "I don't think there's a guy in here who says he doesn't get along with Milton. Guys get frustrated. We see it all the time."
Carlos Zambrano was so concerned about Bradley he followed him into the clubhouse after the incident with Piniella to see if Bradley was OK. Zambrano declined to discuss Bradley, though Alfonso Soriano pulled no punches.
Actually, the real culprit is Piniella himself. If only he visited California pharmacies more often, he would preside over a mellower clubhouse. The water cooler, at least, would be grateful.
Is Piniella's tough love the way to handle Bradley? [ChiTrib]
Bradley uncomfortable with fit on Cubs [ChiTrib]
Bradley's outburst ignites Mount Lou [ESPN]