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Thursday, January 8, 2009
Cubs, Bradley finalize deal

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Milton Bradley's talent is undeniable when he's healthy and that's why the Chicago Cubs gave him a $30 million, three-year contract to be their right fielder and a run producer in the middle of the lineup.

It's the other issues that have often overshadowed his on-field accomplishments -- tantrums and angry outbursts throughout a decade-long career with numerous teams.

Bradley said Thursday at a Wrigley Field news conference that he's matured, ready for another fresh start -- the Cubs are his seventh team and fifth in the last five years -- and hopeful he can provide what's been missing for a franchise starting its second century without a World Series title.

The Cubs sent trainer Mark O'Neal to work with Bradley and make sure he was totally healthy. They also did their checks on how he would fit into their clubhouse.

General manager Jim Hendry talked to former GMs, managers and players who've associated with Bradley over the years.

"What I found out was the perception of him not being a positive in the clubhouse couldn't have been farther from the truth," Hendry said.

Hendry and Bradley had dinner in early November and Hendry was convinced he'd found the left-handed bat -- Bradley is a switch-hitter -- that could balance the Cubs' lineup and perhaps get them past the first round of the playoffs, where they've been swept the last two seasons.

Bradley and Hendry seemed to click.

"In this game there is a lot of dishonesty, but he was a person I got nothing but honesty from," Bradley said. "There is a sense of urgency here. This town is hungry for a championship and I'm hungry for that."

Bradley, who will wear Sammy Sosa's old No. 21, is coming off a productive season with the Texas Rangers. On Thursday, he answered questions about his past mistakes that included run-ins with managers and teammates and bursts of anger.

"I did it. It's in the past. It's over with," Bradley said.

"I'm the ballplayer you see every day. I give my all. I pour everything I got into it. When I go home, I'm physically and mentally exhausted because I gave everything I had that day for my teammates to try to win a ballgame. A lot of guys make a lot more money that go back home every day and they're not really worried about it, don't really care, just keep collecting their check."

Bradley batted .321 with 22 homers for Texas while leading the American League with a .436 on-base percentage last season. He made the All-Star team while serving primarily as a designated hitter.

He'll be used mostly in right field even though he has played 100 games in the field only once in his career -- in 2004 with the Dodgers.

But at age 30, his anger issues are well-documented because they have been so public.

He slammed a plastic bottle at the feet of a fan in the right-field seats at Dodger Stadium in 2004 after someone threw it on the field, drawing a five-game suspension. With San Diego in the pennant chase in 2007, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee when he was spun to the ground by Padres manager Bud Black, who was trying to keep him from umpire Mike Winters. Bradley claimed he was baited by Winters, who was suspended for the final five days of the regular season and didn't work the postseason.

Bradley also got a four-game suspension for tossing a bag of balls onto the field after an ejection. And when he was with Cleveland, he had a dugout confrontation with Indians manager Eric Wedge during spring training in 2004 before getting traded to Los Angeles.

In 2005, Bradley criticized then-Dodgers teammate Jeff Kent, saying he couldn't deal with black players.

"I think you would be hard-pressed to find somebody that doesn't have something good to say about me -- Jeff Kent, Eric Wedge included," Bradley said.

"I've seen a lot of cute headlines about me, talking about everything. People that never met me speaking about me," Bradley said. "That's a thing I never do. I'm never going to judge somebody based on somebody else's perception or what I see on TV or read in the paper."

The Cubs, on the verge of being sold, have had a busy offseason after winning back-to-back NL Central titles.

They traded popular second baseman Mark DeRosa to Cleveland and dealt right-hander Jason Marquis to Colorado. They also declined to re-sign closer Kerry Wood. They have picked up outfielder Joey Gathright and infielder Aaron Miles as free agents and acquired reliever Kevin Gregg in a trade with the Marlins. The Cubs also obtained reliever Luis Vizcaino in the trade for Marquis.

Now they have added another potentially potent bat in Bradley, who comes with some baggage.

"This is a new chapter. I can turn the page and close a lot of that book that has been written and start a new one," he said.