Milton Bradley or Jim Thome, You Decide

If you have followed baseball much at all over the last several years it would be easy to conclude that Milton Bradley is Mr. Evil and Jim Thome is Mr. Good.

And under the heading of good things happening to good people, it was just revealed that the 41-year-old Thome, who didn’t want to retire from baseball, has just agreed to a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies that will pay him $1.2 million in 2012.

Bradley might be home in 2012 playing Monopoly, the board game invented by that other Milton Bradley who plays other games besides baseball, instead of playing the outfield for anybody in the majors.

In various polls over the last couple of years other players have voted Thome the nicest guy in the sport. When anyone can be found to go on the record about Bradley they make it sound as if they are being cornered into giving a political opinion that can cost them on election day.

Thome has been a first baseman or designated hitter during a career that has produced 604 home runs, eighth most in history. He has starred for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and the Phillies before. Only a week ago Thome made a speech in Cleveland where he expressed the desire to keep playing, but he admitted he wasn’t sure who would want him.

The fans wanted him to stay in Cleveland. Thome’s one great unfulfilled baseball dream is to be part of a World Series winner. Using the best-chance philosophy going with the Phillies certainly makes sense. It’s still surprising Philadelphia didn’t reach the Series this year.

After falling short the Phillies will very carefully seek some additional weapons–Thome is the first step–but the last-play-of-the-playoffs Achilles tendon injury suffered by slugger Ryan Howard was a twist the team didn’t need. Thome’s bat can be a stop-gap solution until Howard returns in the summer. It’s an opportunity to show what he has left in a pennant race.

As an aside, it will take only a handful of homers for Thome to move up on the all-time list, as well. Sammy Sosa is just ahead of him with 609. Good publicity. Good fan interest.

Why am I not surprised that free-agent Bradley hasn’t found a buyer yet? Who would want him on their team? Bradley has had more last-chances than a three-time parolee. I’m changed, he would say. It was just the old team. They didn’t understand me.

Bradley is only 32, by baseball standards still in his prime. He has a lifetime average of .271. Not bad. He can cover ground in the outfield when he wants to. But he has played for eight teams since 2000. A general manager might wonder why. Nobody understands Bradley, apparently. He has traveled around the country overstaying his welcome even when he has not stayed long. All along the way he has made millions of dollars because a foolish owner felt that he could offer a fresh environment that would inspire Bradley to tap his talent.

Bradley has had confrontations with umpires and broadcasters and managers. He finished his one year in Chicago by complaining publicly about the Cubs and getting suspended for the final weeks of the season. In May of 2010, then with the Mariners, Bradley took himself out of a game and then asked the Mariners for help. The general description of whatever bothered him never got beyond “a personal problem.”

In 2011, Bradley was arrested for making criminal threats against his wife. He was hitting just .218 with two homers five weeks into the 2011 season when Seattle designated Bradley for assignment, essentially telling him to help himself.

Milton Bradley could throw hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place into a deal and I wouldn’t take him on my team. Not even if I were paying with Monopoly money.

Tags: Chicago White Sox Cleveland Indians Jim Thome Milton Bradley Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard Sammy Sosa Seattle Mariners

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