Hendry's Folly

By George Ofman

The piece of S&%$#@T is gone. No need to waste a roll of toilet paper. And please, don't let the door smack you right in the rump on the way out.

The Milton Bradley Era on the North Side is over.

At least it better be.

"The last few days have become too much to tolerate for me" said a beleaguered Jim Hendry, who finally managed to accomplish something positive during the 2009 season. He suspended the man he lavished $30 million on. It may turn out to be less if the Cubs general manager rids himself of this massive mistake in the off-season.

But make no mistake about it. The man who deserves most of the blame in all of this is Hendry himself.

"Sometimes you just have to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself."

Ryan Dempster said that, referring to Bradley. He might as well have been talking about Hendry.

Hendry had to have been warned. What he was pursuing last year was dynamite in a uniform. Bradley's blowups had become legendary and as the GM learned too late, incendiary.

Why? Why did the man who created a 97-win team in 2008, a team that lead the National League in just about every offensive statistic, have to import the game's most divisive player? Hendry saw his Cubs die again the playoffs and his first reaction was to overreact. He wanted balance in his lineup. He wanted someone who could hit from the left side and with some power.

Milton Bradley?

Sorry, Attila the Hun wasn't available.

In order to get his man, Hendry traded arguably the team's most valuable player who also happened to be a fan favorite and very popular in the clubhouse.

How many times do you think he wishes he had Mark DeRosa back?

Meanwhile, DeRosa could wind up getting what he didn't get from the Cubs . . . a World Series ring.

Sometimes, the best deals you make are the ones you don't make. I think Monty Hall said that.

But Hendry wasn't going to be deterred. This is the same Hendry who not only signed Alfonso Soriano, but gave him a king's ransom. Check that, kings do not get paid this kind of money. And now, Hendry is paying for this one, too!.

Actually, he's not but some believe he should be - with his job.

Hendry had an extreme case of tunnel vision when pursuing Bradley last November. There were two other left-handed hitters on the free agent market: Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibanez. They both wanted big bucks. Abreu certainly possessed power. He had 241 career home runs but far more impressive was his RBI total, on-base percentage, stolen bases and games played. Abreu had averaged 97 RBI over the previous 11 seasons and his OBP was an extremely impressive .407. He also swiped 311 bases. Add to that an average of 157 games played during that span and you had the rightfielder the Cubs dreamed of.

But he wanted $45 million over 3 years, too steep for the then-34-year-old veteran. Abreu couldn't find a home until the Angels offered him just $5 million for this season alone. And all he's done for the playoff-bound Halos is hit .295 with a .394 OBP, slug 13 homers and drive in 96 runs. And oh, did I mention he has 29 stolen bases and has played in just about every game?

And Hendry decided on Milton Bradley.

Ibanez was 36 and had little experience in right field. But in seven previous seasons with the Royals and Mariners, he averaged 22 homers and 97 RBI while batting .290 with a healthy OBP in the .350s. The defending champion Phillies signed him to a three-year deal worth $27 million and all he's done this season is hit 31 homers and drive in 87 runs in just 122 games.

And Hendry decided in Milton Bradley.

Abreu and Ibanez were good citizens for the teams they played for.

Bradley was as poisonous as a prairie rattlesnake.

There is a funny thing about all of this is. I asked three scouts during last year's free agent period which one of the three they'd rather have: Bradley, Abreu or Ibanez. They all said Bradley. They felt he was the better hitter.

I'm thinking now I should have commissioned a tarot card reader.

Milton Bradley clearly would have been the death card.

It's taken this long for Hendry to figure out what many others knew 10 months ago: Don't sign this guy. Now he has to get rid of him and likely eat most of his salary.

And you wonder what prospective new owner Tom Ricketts thinks about all of this.

He'll likely keep Hendry.

It's a business decision he might think long and hard about before making.


See also:

* Milton Bradley Madness. Wherein our very own Jim Coffman called out the local sports media for buying the Cubs company line on the signing of Bradley.

"As for his temperament, well, when he has lost it, Bradley hasn't lost it because he was pissed off about losing," Coffman wrote last February. "He's lost it because he is still too immature to control himself in situations most pro athletes figure out how to shrug off in their first couple of years in the Bigs."

* Milton The Martyr. Wherein George Ofman wrote that Bradley was a bust not only as a player, but as a man.


George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

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