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April 5, 2004
Dodgers Land Bradley, Hope He's Not Sheffield

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have underachieved for several years and haven't won a playoff game since Orel Hershiser beat the A's in 1988, finally pulled the trigger on a major trade for a big-time hitter ... but somehow this sounds familiar:

If all goes well, Milton Bradley will be that long-awaited impact hitter, stirring a dormant Dodger offense to life and displaying his supreme talent for the hometown fans. If not, he'll be the guy who displaced an entire outfield on the eve of the season opener, a volatile personality injected into the clubhouse of a manager whose contract expires at the end of the season.

New owner Frank McCourt promised a big bat before the season started, and new General Manager Paul DePodesta delivered with 24 hours to spare, but only after the Cleveland Indians basically fired Bradley for misbehavior. The Dodgers gambled on him Sunday, trading their best outfield prospect for one of the most explosive players in the game, in every sense of the word.

New GM DePodesta had just been derided over the weekend by the LA Times' T.J. Simers as The Lightweight GM for failing to make a trade or a free-agent signing for the big bat the Dodgers needed this season (well, OK, that they need every season), but that was more than a little unfair; after all, McCourt hired him after the free-agent frenzy and most of the trading had been completed. The previous GM had the chance to trade for Richie Sexson, who would have been a better fit -- more on that in a minute -- but refused to give up Franklin Gutierrez, who got a lot more expendable in the new regime.

So how does a guy like Milton Bradley become available on the eve of Opening Day, considering that he hit .321 last year with a .421 OBP? Well ...

The Indians had made Bradley their cleanup hitter, but after he failed to run out a popup last Wednesday and subsequently argued with Manager Eric Wedge, they announced they would trade him. ... In February he was sentenced to three days in jail after failing to pull over as ordered by Ohio police last year. In 2001 he was taken to a hospital after refusing to leave a restaurant when drunk.

Great. It sounds like they traded for another immature prima donna with clubhouse issues. Didn't we go down this road with Gary Sheffield, who hit well but spent most of his LA career whining about his pay and accusing management of racism for not renogotiating his contract after his first couple of seasons with the club? Instead of Sexson, who played first base and had no "citizenship" issues, now we get Bradley, whose presence requires a major reshuffling of the lineup. Dave Roberts, the speedster who leads off for LA, moves from center to left, Juan Encarnacion moves from left to right, and Shawn Green moves from right to first base.

On the night before the opener.

If this works, of course, DePodesta is a genius, but even if it doesn't, this was the best deal he could get. And that's a pretty poor reflection on the previous ownership of a club that had the second-highest payroll in the league last year.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 5, 2004 5:38 AM

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