Milton Being Milton

By Kevin Sherrington
Updated: June 13, 2008

“Here’s a guy [Josh Hamilton], with all the troubles he’s had, has shown that if you work at it, you can get your life back in order. And that would be a pretty good role model for Milton Bradley, who clearly has no control over himself, because it’s the same thing, year after year. This game, this country really, if you follow baseball, has really embraced Josh Hamilton, and I think they’ve wanted to do the same with Milton Bradley, but Milton Bradley has refused to allow himself to be put in that position.”

— Royals’ analyst Ryan Lefebvre.

TEXAS — A baseball player bounds out of the clubhouse after a game and up the stairs toward the press box, his general manager in pursuit.

Moments later, a sportswriter standing near a cop hears a request crackle over a walkie-talkie:

“We need a police officer on level four. A player is trying to get at an announcer.”

Or at least that’s the story from innocent bystanders late Wednesday night.

By Thursday afternoon, the player contends he was just in a hurry to introduce himself to one of the Royals’ broadcasters, Ryan Lefebvre.

“I’m Milton Bradley. This is who I am. Get to know me and ask me some questions.”

Just a polite invitation, that’s all. Fight? Out of character, Bradley says. Never been in a fight in my life.

Maybe. Still, while most players try to avoid media after a game, this one’s on his way up four flights of stairs. A player, mind you, whose own manager wrestled him to the ground last season to keep him from an umpire.

Considering the history, you’re excused for assuming Bradley wasn’t about to extend an olive branch.

Bottom line: No matter how Bradley or Texas Rangers officials try to explain away what happened Wednesday, the damage is done. Figuratively, if not literally.

Even if Bradley meant no harm to Lefebvre — who had a few incisive editorial opinions about Bradley that he wouldn’t make about any of the Royals, even Bradley, if he were leading the league in hitting for Kansas City — he may have hurt his club.

Before the latest in a notable history of confrontations on the field and off, Bradley’s value was never higher. He’s been healthy, productive and a good teammate, a trifecta he’d never managed. Bad health and a worse temper are reasons he’s playing for his sixth organization in nine seasons.

Here with the Rangers, however, he’s seemed happy. Given more interviews than Ron Washington can remember. Probably doesn’t hurt, either, that his manager and teammates believe in him.

But get this straight: Even before the Kansas City incident, Washington predicted that Bradley would blow up sometime.

The prediction prompted me to ask Washington, who recommended Bradley to Jon Daniels, if he sees any similarities with Carl Everett, another outfielder with a history of anger management issues.

“Milton’s a better player than Carl Everett,” Washington said.

The numbers back it up. But it wasn’t the point, either.

History: The first time I saw Everett in person was before a game in Houston, when he was still with the Astros, and he had a local TV anchor in a headlock. Everyone laughed, including the anchor, who called Everett one of his all-time favorites.

Another Houston reporter told me the book on Everett was that 95 percent of the time, he’s a great guy. The other five percent? Duck.

Everett never was a problem here. Not much of a factor, either. But he was productive enough in 74 games of the ’03 season that the Rangers pried Frankie Francisco, Josh Rupe and an outfielder from the White Sox in exchange.

Could Bradley bring the same type of return, if he hasn’t hurt his trade value already? The Rangers traded Kenny Lofton last season for Max Ramirez, who’s now one of the organization’s best hitting prospects. And Bradley is a far better player than Lofton was.

Because of his history of health and temper, Bradley isn’t the kind of player who gets long-term deals. But a team in need of a bat in the back half of a pennant race? He’s simply the best thing going.

He’s one of the primary reasons Josh Hamilton has had such a great season. Because of Bradley’s production, teams can’t pitch around Hamilton.

Along the way, Bradley has fulfilled all of Washington’s scouting reports: He’s hit, led and made the club better.

He’s also blown his top, just as Washington predicted. Unlike certain broadcasters, the manager knows his material. No introductions needed.