THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Cubs contaminated: Milton Bradley, the Ebola of baseball

Mr. Bradley in action.
Flickr/SD Dirk

Last week's New Yorker turned me on to the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago– or more specifically, the IMSS gift shop. In addition to anatomical models of pimples, gelatin molds shaped like brains, and DNA beach floats, one can buy giant microbe plush toys– Ebola is only $8.

That's quite a bargain, considering that in Chicago the going rate for a deadly virus is $30 million– that's how much the Cubs paid for Milton Bradley this past off-season.

When you catch a virus, be it a cold or Ebola, you don't know right away; there's always an incubation period before the symptoms show up. You're ambushed by snotty toddler, feel fine for several days— then, bam!— you're laid out on the sofa with nothing but a vaporizer between you and asphyxiation. 

If you don't want Ebola, stay out of Kitum Cave and avoid monkeys. To avoid salmonella, cook your chicken. If you want your ball club to stay healthy, don't sign a guy who has been with seven teams in 10 seasons. The fact is that with the willing addition of the viral Milton Bradley, last year's playoff team has turned into this year's diseased loser. It's not that difficult to understand.

Unfortunately for the Cubs' health, GM Jim Hendry didn't wash his hands immediately after meeting Milton Bradley. If he had, maybe the Cubs wouldn't be 11 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central (as of Sunday, September 20). Maybe the team wouldn't be Wood and DeRosa-less. Maybe the team's spirits wouldn't be so low, or the runs so few. But maybes don't fly in September– a lesson the Cubs are learning.

On September 20, the Cubs suspended Milton Bradley indefinitely, basically shutting the barn door after the horse ran away. The incongruity is that after nearly an entire season of poor performances, public tantrums, racial slurs, and team confrontations, Bradley was suspended for comments he made to a newspaper reporter.

"I've never seen that before," third baseman Aramis Ramirez told the Chicago Tribune. "I've never seen a GM suspend a player for something... he said in the paper. But Jim [Hendry] has a point. If you don't want to be here, send him home."

But it's not that easy. Once a virus invades your cells, it's all over. Bradley may have hit .118 in April, had only three RBIs in June, and told the [Arlington Heights] Daily Herald, "You understand why they haven't won in 100 years here"– but getting rid of him would cost the Cubs around $21 million. Hendry can't just "send him home," no matter what Bradley does or says. It's way too late for that.

Imagine you had a deadly virus, and the $21 million in your pocket would get rid of it. Do you think you could get anyone to take the virus, even with all that money to sweeten the pot? If you had Ebola and were bleeding out for the entire world to see, could you convince anyone it was worth having the virus if $21 million came with it?

You see, Milton Bradley is not the common cold: he's Ebola Zaire– the T. rex of microbes, as the IMSS gift shop describes it– and not even $21 million is enough to persuade anyone he's innocuous. A mere whiff of Bradley, and any team that takes him could be toast before the month was out. Surely anyone with any sense will turn him away.

That's assuming front offices have some sense and are smart enough to see Bradley has nearly destroyed every team on which he's played. But that's setting the bar rather high. Just as there are still people who go exploring in Kitum Cave, obviously teams are still willing to take a risk with the Bradley virus. The Rangers did, the Padres did, the Indians did– and yes, the Cubs did. If Chicago does decide to turn Bradley's suspension into a trade, some team somewhere will be willing to risk a deadly hemorrhage for $21 million. 

It's enough to make you sick.


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.