Let’s start out with Milton Bradley. A recent Los Angeles Times article sheds some light on what happened behind the scenes during Milton’s turbulent 2004. There’s some interesting tidbits in the article, including Bradley’s relationship with CC Sabathia:
Former Cleveland teammate and close friend C.C. Sabathia had a candid discussion with Bradley on Super Bowl Sunday, saying he was still angry because Bradley’s behavior prompted the trade to the Dodgers before last season.
The final incident in Bradley’s tumultuous 2 1/2 years in Cleveland came at the end of spring training when Manager Eric Wedge thought Bradley did not run out a pop-up.
“C.C. is like my brother and when he said, ‘You left me and I’m still upset,’ that was real,” Bradley said. “We wanted to turn Cleveland into a powerhouse, and I see now that my actions were wrong and hurt people.”
When the Dodgers traveled from Vero Beach, Fla., to Winter Haven to play the Indians in spring training, Bradley made sure he was one of the few regulars to make the two-hour bus ride.
“By trading me they made a big statement about the direction the organization was going,” he said. “I understand they had to do it. I needed to go to Winter Haven to talk to some people. I needed to go for closure.”
This obviously is a markedly different outlook than the one he had immediately after the trade. I guess it’s easy to be cynical with Bradley, considering all the other times he’s appeared contrite. But I still hope that Bradley can finally put aside his emotional issues and have a stellar career in baseball.
Next is Albert Belle. Justice B. Hill’s piece on Albert is right on the money; for all his well-documented flaws, Belle was the best player of the mid-90s Indians, and it’s not even close. Belle was one of the most feared hitters in baseball during the peak of his career; unfortunately, his ability as a player was often overshadowed by his persona. It never helps your image when you don’t talk to the media, and undoubtedly a lot of baseball writers took shots at Albert because he didn’t to them talk after games. Belle wouldn’t defend himself, so the only view of Belle the fans saw was the intense player on the field, and broken thermostats and rebuffed Trick or Treaters away from the diamond. Obviously there were players who were liked more, but Belle was simply the best player on those teams. Hill sums up his article thusly:
Hate him for his surliness; that would be just. But realize, too, that no player out of that class of talent in the 1990s produced as much when it mattered as Belle did.
I have no doubts that whenever Belle is up for the Hall of Fame, a lot of writers won’t vote for him because of who Albert Belle was; an intense, surly, sometimes confrontational superstar. I still remember him as a phenominal baseball player, whether I was watching him in Canton or in Cleveland. Unfortunately, separating the persona from the athlete isn’t something sportswriters do well.
Hey, let’s talk on-the-field issues!
- The Indians beat the White Sox 8-6 last night, no thanks to Ben Broussard and a kid sitting in the left field corner. Broussard frittered away a run because he didn’t step on the bag, while the kid interefered with Grady Sizemore’s fifth inning double. Aaron Boone would have scored from first if the ball wasn’t touched. Fortunately, neither run made a difference in the game, as the bullpen once again slammed the door shut, preserving a victory. Credit also has to go to Alex Cora, who made several exceptional plays in the field, as well as “bunting” a base hit through the left side, setting the stage for a three run sixth. Thus far, both Cora and Hernandez has been as advertised.
- Both Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez look to be back on track, but Aaron Boone still looks lost at the plate. Ryan Ludwick has gone 0-for-the-season so far, which is huge since Casey Blake is still out with a hamstring tweak. Well, there’s Juan Gonzalez and his hammy as well, but I guess there no point in mentioning him considering that Juan’s hamstring injuries are usually of the season-ending variety.
- Walking Willie Harris (lifetime .305 OBP) and Timo Perez (lifetime .306 OBP) to get to Paul Konerko is just asking for trouble, and that’s what Scott Elarton got.
- Grady Sizemore’s opposite-field double in the fifth illustrates his potential. I think he just needs more playing time.
- I really have no idea who gets sent down when Sabathia is activated for Sunday’s game. Neither Betancourt and Miller deserve a demotion, and I’d like to see Jason Davis to remain on the roster to provide some length to the bullpen. Maybe Scott Sauerbeck gets some tendinitis between now and then. I guess you’d rather have these decisions to make then the pitching moves the Indians had to make last year at this time.