Milton is becoming a huge distraction

By Chris De Luca
Updated: August 28, 2009

CHICAGO — It didn’t matter what happened in the Cubs’ game Wednesday against the worst team in baseball. It didn’t matter that those same Washington Nationals humiliated the Cubs the night before. And it certainly didn’t matter that Milton Bradley had a 4-for-4 showing in that ugly loss.

What mattered were Bradley’s thoughts after that embarrassing display by the two-time defending division champs Tuesday.

“It’s hard to be comfortable when you don’t get a hit and get booed every time,” Bradley said of the Wrigley Field experience. ”When I go home and look in the mirror, I like what I see.”

“My family is there. I have people I can talk to who are very supportive, in spite of everything and all the adversity and the hatred you face on a daily basis.”

This matters because Bradley still doesn’t get it.

Here we are in the last days of August, and Bradley still wants to put himself before his team. He’s the victim even when he goes 4-for-4 with a rare home run.

This is the kind of talk that led manager Lou Piniella to call him a piece of (bleep) back in June. It’s the kind of talk that has alienated Bradley from his teammates. And it’s the kind of talk that will continue to alienate him from fans at Wrigley Field.

On last check, the Cubs are still scheduled to play exactly half of their games at Wrigley Field in 2010 and 2011 — the remaining years on Bradley’s foolhardy $30million contract.

”If everyone can just keep all the distractions and everything that comes with playing here and being a Cub out,” Bradley continued, ”and just focus on what you can do and what you can control, we’ll be fine.”

There are some players who would treasure the idea of calling Wrigley home. In fact, you probably could find 25 of them in the visiting clubhouse today. Ernie Banks embraced the Wrigley experience. So did Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Sammy Sosa and a whole slew of stars.

Bradley treats it like he’s being thrust into a war zone.

Which brings us to his other comments Tuesday.

There are nights when Bradley is better off boycotting reporters than becoming a sideshow act. Take this exchange. He was asked a lame ”question” and countered with a bizarre answer.

”Obviously, not the type of beginning you felt you were going to have here on the homestand.” (Insert your own question mark here.)

Bradley: ”No, we got a Rodney King beatdown tonight.”

Huh?

This caused a mild stir on the national blog scale. In the scheme of things, not a big deal. Bradley is just showing his Los Angeles roots. You could make a better case for running the questioner out of town for failing to, you know, ask an actual question.

But Bradley’s response makes you long for the days when he didn’t talk to reporters.

The Cubs are going nowhere this season and there are a million reasons why, but the biggest continues to be Bradley. To think, there was a time we were worried if he would be healthy enough to fulfill his contract. Now we can’t wait until he’s out of town.

The guy he replaced on the roster — Mark DeRosa — liked to talk to reporters. DeRosa spoke and took the pressure off his teammates. Bradley talks and brings a brighter spotlight to the clubhouse. Completely opposite strategies.

Forget Bradley’s pathetic power numbers and think about the damage he has caused behind the scenes.

Even the old-standby math for losers — if you can just pick up a game a week — doesn’t apply to the Cubs anymore. They have a soft schedule, one that almost mirrors the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. There are too many teams ahead of them in the wild card that will play each other enough times to make it all a wash for the Cubs.

The Cubs are as good as cooked. And if they somehow squeak by on the backs of the Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates, they still look like easy fodder for the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers and any other big hitters headed to the postseason.

Besides, another first-round playoff exit won’t remove the stench from this season.

As we look back on lost Cubs seasons over time, there are those symbols that stick out. Mark Prior’s eighth-inning meltdown in 2003. LaTroy Hawkins’ meltdowns down the stretch in 2004. Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez’s disappearing acts in the 2007 and ’08 playoffs.

When we look back on a lost 2009 Cubs season, we will see Bradley.