Sports Outside the Beltway

Milton Bradley: Marked Man

Bill Jempty’s initial report from Monday seems to be merely the tip of the iceberg. Charges from Padres’ coach Bobby Meacham appear in yesterday’s San Diego Union-Tribune are adding a layer of intrigue to what appeared to be just Milton being Milton.

Then, shortly after Bradley arrived at first base via a single, he and Winters were exchanging barbs that, according to Padres first-base coach Bobby Meacham, were inflammatory on the umpire’s part.

Bradley said [first base umpire] Winters called him “a (expletive) piece of (expletive).”

Said Meacham: “In my 26 years of baseball, that was the most disconcerting conversation I have heard from an umpire to a player. The way Winters responded was bizarre. It was almost like he wanted to agitate the situation.

“I was appalled. That’s why the game stopped.”

Padres CEO, Sandy Alderson, who previously worked as Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball, understands fully the consequences of the actions alleged against Winters. He also insists on getting justice for his team.

“We’re not going to sit by and see an umpire baiting a player,” Padres CEO Sandy Alderson said in the clubhouse yesterday after the 7-3 Rockies victory at Petco Park. “Umpires are not supposed to react as emotionally as the players. They are there to control and manage the game. They are not the game.

“The only thing we can do is make sure the league takes a look at this and makes sure it was handled appropriately.”

Alderson said there was “overreaction” on the Padres’ part during a series of eighth-inning confrontations that resulted in the ejections of Bradley and Black.

But he called “provocative” three actions by the umpires.

Rockies first baseman Todd Helton can shed some light on the subject, by confirming one of the two sides of the story. His silence is to be expected. Players work, eat, sleep, and live in the glare of the public eye. Avoiding additional spotlights is reasonable. And a desire to avoid repercussions on the field from Winters or the Padres would hardly be out of the ordinary. But Helton ought to tell the truth about what he heard.

What makes the situation initially explainable is Bradley’s checkered history of causing problems along his career path. The Indians dealt him to the Dodgers, after they grew tired of his behavior. While in Los Angeles, Bradley called a LA Times reporter Jason Reid an Uncle Tom and a sellout. He also accused Jeff Kent, his then teammate, of discriminating against African American players. A charge Kent denied. Wearing out his welcome in LA, Bradley was dealt to the A’s who cut bait on the outfielder midseason and sent him to San Diego.

Winters meanwhile has 17 years of major league umpiring experience and has worked one All-Star Game, six Division Series, two League Championship Series and a pair of World Series. But an incident from 1998, as reported in today’s Union-Tribune makes the case that despite a sparkling record, Winters in no stranger to controversy.

In June 1998, the Giants’ Charlie Hayes snapped after hearing from Winters.

“He told me to go (expletive) myself,” Hayes told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The next one who says that to me, I’m hitting in the mouth.”


Reporters were denied access to Winters. After ejecting Hayes in 1998, Winters said Hayes “was popping off, and he continued to pop off after he popped up. He continued it long enough to where he was ejected. It was simple. I had enough.”

A scandal in officiating recently troubled the NBA. To avoid a similar circus, Major League Baseball needs to do something unusual. By being open in this process they can blunt criticism of a cover up and sort out what was said, by whom and in what order. Bradley, even with a checkered past, deserves fair treatment if he was baited. Fair treatment does not excuse his actions, for which he is paying a physical cost. Fair treatment is an acknowledgment of the truth, and if the allegations made by Bradley and Meacham are true, fair treatment is making sure that Winters is reprimanded accordingly.

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