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Just The Sports: Not Worth The Headache

Just The Sports

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Worth The Headache

All men are not created equal. Among us, the talented and the genius and the rich and the beautiful are allowed to take more liberties, given more freedoms, and get away with more antisocial behavior than their more average counterparts. The same rule applies to the world of professional athletes. Sports franchises are more than willing to employ and pay excellent money to criminals or disruptive influences in the locker room as long as the players are producing at a high level on the field and are helping the team to victories. However, there always comes a time with these players when their production on the field is outweighed by all the negative aspects that come with having them on the team. The latest in a long line of players whose cons eventually outweighed their pros is Milton Bradley, major league outfielder who was recently suspended for the rest of the season by the Chicago Cubs for detrimental conduct.

The Chicago Cubs can call it whatever they want, but the real reason they have suspended Milton Bradley and will seek to trade him in the off-season is simply buyer's remorse. They committed the cardinal sin of giving a player of Bradley's personality make-up a long-term contract (three years, $30 million contract) and now are seeking to correct the situation. When dealing with headaches, it is best to keep them on a series of one-year contracts for below market value compensation. By not doing so, they give the athlete reinforcement that his behavior will be accepted and that the team sees no reason for him to change, leading him to inevitably act out.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the contract was structured so that if they can trick a team into taking on Bradley and his onerous salary, they will have only been on the hook for $9 million of the $30 million; there was a signing bonus of $4 million and a 2009 salary of $5 million. Not only will they be getting rid of a player who is not worth the money, but they will be doing something almost every sports franchise wants to do in these economic climates. That is, the Cubs want to cut payroll and Milton Bradley has given them the perfect excuse to do so.

With his latest disparaging comments about the Chicago Cubs, he forced the Cubs to re-evaluate just how valuable a player he is and he did so at the worst time. This season marks the worst Bradley has had since 2004 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although his on-base percentage has been a very respectable .378, as a corner outfielder, his job is to provide power to the line-up and there he has failed miserably. His .397 slugging percentage ranks near the bottom of all qualified hitters, making him one of the more overpaid players in baseball for the paltry value he is providing. Even more troubling is his isolated power (slugging average minus batting average) of .140, his lowest such total since 2002. Isolated power is a reliable indicator of much of a true power hitter a player is because it only counts extra base hits; it also allows one to observe the start of a decline in a player's production. Bradley's precipitous drop in isolated power from 2008 to 2009 (.242 to .140) most likely foreshadows the fact his power is a thing of the past, making him and his albatross of a contract even more of a liability for the Cubs. They will never get their money's worth out of Bradley.

Truth be told, the Cubs should have never given Milton Bradley that much money, but they have a history of overpaying free agent players coming off of great statistics in contract years. Although he may get a lot of media attention, Bradley is nothing more than an okay player, deserving of okay player money, which is why several teams have given up on him in the past. If he were better, then he would have stayed with teams longer instead of playing for seven teams over ten seasons. The Cubs are just the seventh team to figure out the obvious; Milton Bradley's production is not worth the extra headaches of having him on the roster.



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